Swedish FM attacks signatories of Humanitarian Initiative: ”Not serious states”

May 7, 2013

The Swedish Foreign Minister (and former Prime Minister) Carl Bildt has found himself in hot water after his curious comments on a radio show in response to questions over Sweden’s refusal to recognize the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons at the committee of state parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty this past April (NPT PrepCom).

The Swedish government has been criticized for neglecting to join 80 other countries – including its Scandinavian neighbours Norway, Denmark and Iceland – in signing a joint statement put forth by South Africa which recognized and called for an increased focus on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in nuclear disarmament discussions.

In an impromptu call to a morning radio show, Bildt fanned the flames by dismissing the statement as “no big deal” and the 80 co-sponsors as “not really serious states”, even going so far as to label the humanitarian arguments in favour of nuclear disarmament as a “side-track” that “no serious states engage in”.

This might come as a surprise to the supporters of the statement, which, in addition to Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Austria and Switzerland, encompassed almost all of Latin America, including Brazil and Mexico, and a majority of African states. The humanitarian approach has also been supported by such organizations as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the UN (OCHA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who all emphasized the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons at a government conference in Oslo in March.

Bildt’s apparent fixation on the “serious states” and the “serious approaches” to nuclear disarmament are indicative of his complicity in the stale approach to disarmament in which non-nuclear-armed states are sidelined and forced to wait and hope while the nuclear weapons agenda is fumbled over by the nuclear-armed states and their cohort.

What is perhaps not clear to Mr Bildt, but is to those who had their ear to the ground at the NPT PrepCom and have been watching the nuclear weapons debate over the last year, is that the ground is shifting. The widespread support for the joint statement reveals that more and more states are realizing that a different approach, in which non-nuclear armed states take the lead to propel the agenda towards a ban and the elimination of nuclear weapons, is urgently needed and is indeed gaining momentum.


The list of the 80 countries who signed the Humanitarian Initiative: Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Cuba, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Serbia, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Yemen, Zambia and South Africa.

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