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Peace prize winner targets nuclear ban

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Nobel Peace Prize winner Gem Remuld says Australia must “get on the right side of history” and sign a treaty that will ban nuclear weapons.

The Australian Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) visited the Hunter Region to speak about the organisation’s goals towards world peace during a special event at NeW Space.

In 2017, an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations adopted a landmark global agreement to ban nuclear weapons after a decade of advocacy by ICAN and its partners.

This ban prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into legal force once 50 nations have signed and ratified it.

Ms Remuld says ICAN is “well on track” to achieve this target in the next two years, with 70 signatories and 22 states parties to date.

She describes the 2017 Nobel Prize for Peace, awarded to ICAN for its work on the treaty, as a huge honour.

However, she believes Australia is standing in the way of progress.

“It’s an important step for Australia to sign and ratify that treaty and get on the right side of history,” she tells Newcastle Weekly.

“The [current government] claims there is a role for nuclear weapons in our defence policy, which is outlawed by the treaty.

“There is no acceptable use of nuclear weapons and no-one has guaranteed that they won’t be used, either by accident or on purpose.”

Ms Remuld, who rallied against radioactive waste dumps in the Northern Territory as a student prior to her role with ICAN, is solely focused on changing Australia’s policy.

However, she labels the two biggest offenders, Russia and the United States, as “hypocritical” on nuclear weapons.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, nine countries possess about 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Russia and the United States maintain roughly 1,800 on high-alert status, ready to be launched within minutes of a warning.

“They both have the capacity to destroy the planet many times over,” Ms Remuld says.

“The US and Russia are comfortable demanding other countries to disarm and not acquire nuclear weapons.

“How can you call on other countries to do that when you yourself are threatening to use weapons of mass destruction?”

Ms Remuld says, ultimately, ICAN is a story about how it has been able to shift the debate around nuclear weapons from one of theoretical nuclear strategy to instead focus on people, cities and the environment.

“That was key to reframing the issue – that it was humanitarian,” she says.

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