The launch this week of SIPRI’s annual nuclear forces data highlights the growing trend towards massive investment in nuclear weapons modernisation programmes by all 9 nuclear weapons States, despite a reported 3% reduction of 460 weapons in the year.

The USA and Russia between them hold 93% of the world’s arsenal, with thousands on hair-trigger alert and ready to be launched within seconds of the order being given.  According to SIPRI, to take one example, the USA is due to spend up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

This terrifying statistic stands against another published by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in their report of 2013, prepared for a conference studying the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons.  Their latest climate and population models indicate that a limited nuclear war with the use of 100 warheads dropped on cities would lead to a nuclear winter that could end the lives of up to 2 billion human beings.

These worrying numbers have led civil society campaigns such as ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, to heavily promote a nuclear weapon ban treaty, bringing nuclear weapons into line with chemical and biological weapons as legally prohibited weapons of mass destruction.

After years of promoting efforts to get the UN to agree to such a treaty, this year in June the text of a treaty was approved after negotiations involving over 120 states, and the treaty will be opened for signing during the UN General Assembly in September this year.  With the signature and ratification of 50 States, the treaty comes into force.

All of this forms the backdrop to the IPPNW international congress starting on Monday the 4th of September in the UK city of York, titled “Health Through Peace”.

Across a series of expert-led panels, workshops and academic sessions, discussions will be held on ways to achieve health through peace – exploring topics from war and nuclear weapons, to the refugee crisis and climate change.

Pressenza will be there for the three days of the conference bringing news, photos and interviews.