Taking advantage of the Madrid premiere of the documentary The Beginning of the End of Nuclear Weapons, we interviewed its director, Álvaro Orús, about the documentary and the current situation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The premiere will take place on the 23rd, at 7pm, at the Cine Doré in Madrid. After the screening, there will be a colloquium.

Pressenza: Álvaro, this documentary is having a great reception. We were able to see it at the premiere in Chile and at the New York premiere. It’s like the audience wakes up…

Álvaro Orús: Yes, because it seems that since the 1980s, when anti-nuclear pacifism became very strong, it would have fallen asleep and this issue has been far from being central to the press and public debates. However, the weapons are still there and so is the tremendous danger posed by their mere existence.

Q.– It tells the story of the nuclear bombs up to the signature of the TPAN…

A.O.- This is based on the fact that most countries in the world are not “protected” by nuclear weapons, but do share the risk of the harm they could cause. Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed by the great nuclear powers, obliges the signatories to make sincere progress towards disarmament, but this progress has been paralysed for decades. On the other hand, within the UN, a number of countries are tuning in and managing to push through bans on different types of weapons, such as anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, even without the support of the major powers. So, under these conditions, the IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) initiative is gaining successive support. The participation of health organisations (such as the Red Cross) and the survivors of Hiroshima bring a different humanitarian approach to the strategic approach to security that prevailed until then. When the initiative takes shape, the possessor countries try to boycott it, but this strengthens the will of the whole determined to change the rules of the game. The triumph of the 2017 vote (122 countries voted in favour) and the strengthening of prestige and diffusion conferred by the Nobel Prize give rise to the feeling that the NPT can succeed. After the votes come ratifications and a diplomatic, political, social, diffusion, financial effort… on all fronts, to help the NPT enter into force and so that the stigmatization of nuclear weapons ends in a real eradication.

Q.- It is a way of supporting the signature, ratification and entry into force of the Treaty. But there are treaties that have entered into force and yet they are not respected or some member abandon them as we are seeing…

A.O..- That’s right, the signing of the treaty, although it comes into force when it reaches 50 ratifications of the 122 signatory countries, only binds those who sign it. However, in the case we have mentioned of the ban on anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, a real eradication has been achieved without the big powers signing it. This is due to stigmatisation. These weapons go from being a factor of power and prestige to being illegal, typical of war criminals and nauseating businesses. That is why this problem is not solved only by the UN, it is necessary to raise awareness, denounce those who support and finance nuclear weapons, define themselves publicly by prohibition, force a social and political debate, and so on.

Q.- In Spain it is not an issue for ordinary people. What is the situation in our country with respect to the Treaty?

Spain has not signed in favour of the prohibition treaty, nor have the other NATO members. At least for now. It seems that at the time the acting president -Pedro Sánchez- promised that Spain would sign, but this commitment has not been carried out. Already a year ago, more than 90 MPs had signed their support for the ban campaign. We know that many elected officials from across the political spectrum in conscience support it. Many cities have also officially declared their adherence to the treaty and are urging the government to sign and hopefully more will be added.

Our conviction is that the vast majority of people in Spain are against the existence of nuclear weapons and we urge our politicians to echo the will of the people.

Here I would like to highlight these statements from the document “Spain and the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” published by ICAN:

“Spain has joined international treaties banning biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines and cluster bombs, treaties based on the inhumane and indiscriminate impact of these weapons on the civilian population.

“Spain does not possess nuclear weapons and, as a party to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), is prohibited from acquiring them. In addition, Spain has long maintained a policy against the stationing of US nuclear weapons on Spanish territory. In fact, in 1986, when the Spanish people voted whether to remain a NATO member or withdraw, the remaining vote was explicitly based on the continued validity of Spain’s ban on the deployment of nuclear weapons on Spanish soil. Although, subsequently, the validity of such a ban has been questioned, Spain has remained nuclear-weapon-free to this day. Therefore, Spain already complies with most of the prohibitions contained in the NPT”.

Q.- The documentary ends with a tone of hope

A.O.- The intention of the documentary is that the awareness of the problem does not become a heavy burden on the viewer but to give ways out, to show that the situation can change and in what concrete way each person can contribute to that change. Nuclear weapons are no longer justified. They are illegal, indiscriminate, terribly cruel and our sensibility no longer admits that these devices are pointing at people’s heads. But perhaps from combating one of humanity’s darkest facts and powers something new will emerge in the world order capable of opening up the future for us.


Translation Pressenza London