In this country, the cities of Münster and Osnabrück will be a focal point when it comes to “peace”. What was concluded there in 1648 after many years of negotiations and went down in history as the Peace of Westphalia could only have happened because people from all over Europe came together and talked to each other to reach a consensus in the end. In times of nuclear armament, such a dialogue on the subject of “peace” always has a global dimension. This became clear once again during the panel discussion on the first day of the Federal Conference of the Mayors for Peace.

This was first held in Münster last week. Mayors for Peace is a worldwide network of cities within which the mayors of the associated towns and cities work for a peaceful coexistence. Under the leadership of Hiroshima, the members are particularly committed to a world without nuclear weapons. The above-mentioned kick-off event took the form of a panel discussion entitled “Between Vision and Reality: New Ways to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons”. Also present: the speaker, co-founder and board member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Sascha Hach, and Prof. Dr. Christian Hacke, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Contemporary History at the University of Bonn.

Can there be a world without nuclear weapons?

In the run-up to the panel discussion, Sascha Hach spoke on “ICAN and the chance for a new nuclear weapons policy”. Prof. Dr. Hacke took the counterpart and spoke on the topic “Why Global Zero Fails”.

Both lectures were inspiring and controversial, as it is meant to be. Sascha Hach explained the challenges that need to be faced to achieve a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although such bans on bio- and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions have existed for some time, nuclear weapons had not been banned until 2017. ICAN has been successful in its efforts to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons. Hach sums up: “You can make a difference if you participate. I don’t think there’s a more pressing time to get involved than now.”

The Doomsday Clock shows that this is not a hollow phrase. It is a symbolic atomic war clock and is also known as “the Last Judgement Clock”. Its task: to draw the public’s attention to the imminent danger of nuclear war. It’s currently two minutes to noon. In comparison, in 2012 it was still five minutes to noon.

Why we must assume instead that we will never live in a world without nuclear weapons, Prof. Dr. Hacke explained and put forward nine theses. He sees the use of such means as a possibility of stabilization and cites the opposing powers of India and Pakistan as an example. Their struggles have ceased since they were in mutual possession of nuclear weapons, he explains. He also argues that nuclear weapons are an opportunity for dialogue, as is currently the case with US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A small country and a global power speak to each other, which would have been unthinkable until a few weeks ago. Prof. Dr. Hacke is nonetheless very critical of the usage of nuclear weapons.

After the event I had the opportunity to talk to Sascha Hach about ICAN’s work. In the interview he shared his assessment of the current political situation.

Second day of the Federal Conference

On Friday, the Mayors for Peace held a non-public meeting in which about 38 representatives from all over Germany took part. As part of the opening address in the Friedenssaal by Lord Mayor Markus Lewe, Mayor Thomas Hermann from Hanover presented the city of Münster with one of 30 “Doves of Peace” by the artist Richard Hillinger. The dove will be on display in the Bürgerhalle in Münster over the next few weeks before continuing her journey around the world.

Prof. Quante from the Westphalian Wilhelms University spoke about the ambiguity of the concept of peace. Christoph Hallier from the Federal Foreign Office then informed and discussed questions of denuclearization of European safety policy. A Mayors for Peace signature list calling on all states to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017 was left out for the participants to sign at the end of the conference and handed over to the Federal Foreign Office.

The conference included a report by the Mayors for Peace Office in Hanover on current topics and projects as well as a guided tour of the LWL Museum of Art and Culture exhibition “Ways to Peace”. The conference provided ample opportunity for exchange and discussion, in which the peace initiatives from Münsterland and Enschede also participated with the aim of encouraging communities and cities to join the “Mayors for Peace” and to support them in an active struggle for a world without nuclear weapons. A special honor was the participation of Sascha Hach, who was also present on Friday.

Cover picture: Panel discussion with Prof. Dr. Christian Hacke, Sascha Hach and Julia Weigelt. Image rights: Daniela Sprung