THE 20th century has been called a century of war and revolutions. The 21st century appears to be following this reality.

With the dropping of the first atomic bombs by the Americans in 1945, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atomic age began.

The result of the effects on human beings of such bombs is now well documented, written and on film. It must be noted that as the years go by there are fewer and fewer personal accounts of the suffering and horror of those two days in August 1945 when the bombs were dropped.

The Soviet Union rushed to develop its own nuclear bombs in 1949, followed by the UK, France and China. So began the nuclear age. Now, over 77 years later, it remains intact. This is despite the existential, catastrophic, humanitarian consequences well documented, not only of its use but those resulting in many parts of the world from the tests needed for any nation to develop its own bombs.

Whilst international agreement has resulted in the majority of nation states not developing nuclear bombs, international agreement has not prevented the nuclear weapons states from increasing their arsenals as well as from developing new nuclear weapons.

Over 77 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are five nuclear weapons states – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK, permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus India and Pakistan together with North Korea and Israel. Whilst this can be viewed as fortunate since there are so few, it must be noted that Russia and the United States have arsenals of around 11,000 bombs – all bigger than the bombs of 1945 – and there are others threatening to develop nuclear bombs.

Recent events in Ukraine have brought into sharp focus the possibility of any nuclear weapons state actually using the bombs.

This weekend marks the second anniversary of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, signed by 122 states at the UN in 2017 and legally adopted in January 2021. Today 68 nations are fully committed to the UN ban treaty and a nuclear weapons free world.

The call must go out for – at the very least – a willingness of the nuclear weapons states to engage and listen to the hopes of the peoples of the world for a nuclear weapons free world. There will be another conference of the signatories to the UN Treaty at the end of this year and opportunities within the UN General Assembly.

Sylvia Boyes, Keighley

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