Very normal people at a very normal conference

Dutch students participated in the ICAN civil society conference in Vienna on december 6th and 7nd and the Third Intergovernmental Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

Following is Alinta Geling’s blog on the ICAN conference.

They came in all forms and sizes, in all lengths and colours: the campaigners at the ICAN Civil Society Meeting that took place in Vienna. Men, women, young and old, from the East to West all united in one common belief: the world needs a ban on nuclear weapons, now.

There were academics and activists, believers and atheists, politicians and students, experts and idealists. What struck me most about this crowd? They were all very normal people. Just like you and me, you meet them every day. It is sometimes believed however, that these ordinary people pursue an out of the ordinary goal: they all want a ban on nuclear weapons. It is even considered so abnormal that some people do not even want to think or talk about. They believe a ban to be unrealistic, old-fashioned, irrelevant, distracting or even unsafe. Thinking and talking about it during the Civil Society Forum however, brought to the fore how obvious the goal actually is. It is just as normal as the people that pursue it. After all, no-one wants to disrupt the global climate, no one wants to cause widespread famine, no-one wants to destroy humanity. And with no-one, I not only include the participants of the Civil Society Meeting, but also any other normal or abnormal person, I include government officials, and even military people. It is simply because we are all human beings that we actually never would want to use nuclear weapons.

If no-one wants to be responsible for a nuclear war, why then not talk about a ban of nuclear weapons? How come then that our leaders have such huge difficulties actually banning these weapons? How did we construct a framework of complexity surrounding these weapons? How did the obvious become the complicated? In a fog of step-by-step approach, nuclear deterrence, and NATO responsibilities we seem to have lost vision of the obvious; a ban on nuclear weapons. At the ICAN Civil Society Forum I realised how it should not be so difficult to achieve a ban with so many normal people seeing its simplicity. There are no super natural skills needed to reach this goal, no help needed from superman, Ghandalf or the Incredibles. Nothing needed but normal human skills and logical thinking.

If there is anything that this civil society forum has brought to fore, is that a ban on nuclear weapons is actually a very normal goal, pursued by very normal people. Together all these normal people have a great power; a power to elucidate and demystify the seemingly complicated. That is what happened at the Civil Society Meeting. Voltaire, Churchill and Spiderman already understood that “with great power comes great responsibility”. The success of a nuclear ban will depend on those that are willing to show great power and take the responsibility to ban nuclear weapons. The ICAN Civil Society Meeting already showed that there is great power in civil society and that responsibility is being taken. It is now to the states to follow. “It is complicated” is no excuse. Only dedication is needed, dedication of very normal people for a very normal cause.