Canberra Commission

June 2002

After indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, followed by the tumult over France&Mac226;s nuclear tests in the Pacific, on 24 October 1995, then Prime Minister Paul Keating announced that the Australian Government would assemble "a group of knowledgeable and imaginative individuals from around the world" to "examine the problems of security in a nuclear weapons-free world and suggest practical steps towards the goal, including the ways of dealing with stability and security in the transitional period." Keating argued that France&Mac226;s tests were only "a symptom of the problem -- the deeper and more troubling problem of nuclear weapons in the world."

Thus the Canberra Commission (CC) was formed, consisting of 17 renowned international scientists, politicians, disarmament experts and military strategists. The CC met four times -- twice in Australia, once in the USA, and once in Austria -- and after a change of Government in Australia &Mac246; from Labor to Liberal-Coalition, the new Foreign Minister Alexander Downer submitted the group's final report to the UN General Assembly in September 1996.

The Commission posited that the case for elimination of nuclear weapons is based on three major arguments:

The Report and its Context*

"Throughout its deliberations and its final report, the Commission devoted considerable attention to the wider security environment, particularly verification issues. It sought to identify concrete actions that would maintain stability and security both during the transition period to global nuclear disarmament and after the goal is achieved."

The CC report begins by identifying six "immediate steps" needed for progress in nuclear disarmament:

The Commission also recommended three "reinforcing steps":

*Notes from Jayantha Dhanapala - Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations; member of the Canberra Commission - 18 May 2002 keynote luncheon, The Canberra Commission: Lessons Learned for a Future Commission, Waterloo, Canada.

For more information contact Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia

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