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 Nuclear Disorder or

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NGOs and Civil Society

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), representing sectors of civil society around the world, are working for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In resisting autocratic governmental arms control and disarmament machinery, NGOs strive to create democratic structures, working in coalition with people across the world and with like-minded governments. Governments have long called civil society the conscience of the international community. As the global majority, with regard to the reduction and elimination of weapons of mass destruction, we are also the voice of democracy.

Since man made and multiplied the bomb, ethical, moral and legal voices in society have called for the reduction and elimination of this suicidal, genocidal and ecocidal weapon. States sometimes make a rationalistic calculation that the acquisition and retention of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons is in their best interest. NGOs raise the costs of such policies and are key actors in compelling states to pursue alternative options. The participation of civil society is particularly important in nuclear weapon, nuclear sharing and nuclear capable states.

NGOs and civil society make a variety of vital contributions toward the reduction and elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Such initiatives include: sharing information and generating collaborative strategies in international forums that address nuclear weapons and other disarmament and security matters and connecting civil society to international disarmament processes; providing independent information and analysis about U.S. nuclear weapons in the context of related foreign and domestic policies and making the connection between weapons of mass destruction and war, bringing disarmament home to the anti-war movement; conducting legal and policy research, education and advocacy in support of nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation, and of rule-of-law based global security, in national and international settings; promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies through the publication of authoritative information, analysis and commentary on arms control proposals, negotiations and agreements, and related national security issues; and working across national boundaries, political systems, ethnicities and religions, for reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Ideas about gender – what is masculine or feminine, powerful or impotent – affect our efforts towards halting the proliferation of NBC weapons and bringing about effective disarmament. To address these challenges more effectively, it is essential to take into consideration how armament and disarmament policies and practices are influenced by ideas about masculinity. An understanding of this framing can play a crucial role in helping to break some of the persistent barriers to achieving disarmament and non-proliferation.

Ideas about strength, protection, rationality, security and control have a critical impact on governmental and intergovernmental policy. They also function at a large-scale societal level, where a certain notion of aggressive masculinity is equated with human nature, e.g., “disarmament would be nice, but it’s against human nature”. The research, development, production, stockpiling and deployment of weapons and delivery systems – without which war is impossible – are also equated with manliness, using gender-resonant language about the importance of “demonstrating our strength and resolve”.

The use of inspections rather than military attack, as the means to ensure that a state does not build and deploy NBC weapons , would be an example of a culturally feminised approach to achieve the political objective of non-proliferation. Civil society and feminist organizations in particular need to bring this analysis to official disarmament and nonproliferation theories and institutions, because they are entirely missing from the discourse.

Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, NGOs and civil society provide an alternative vision for the future. As responsible global citizens, we are calling for a new concept of security, based on the promise of adequate food, shelter, health care, education, clean water and air for all people everywhere, and on the resolution of international conflicts through multilateral institutions and nonviolent mechanisms. Together, we are leading the way to an international system based on collective and human security, and international law, instead of state-centric security based on the threat and use of force.

For more information:

NGO and Civil Society Resources Page