The United Nations Secretary-General has warned that:  “Humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”

António Guterres made the remarks in New York to the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on 1 August. He added that the world needs the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons now more than ever.

“The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more. We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict.” António Guterres

There are almost 13,000 nuclear weapons now being held in arsenals around the world.

The UN chief explained, “Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used. We must work relentlessly towards this goal. This must start with new commitments to shrink the numbers of all kinds of nuclear weapons so that they no longer hang by a thread over humanity. And it means reinvigorating — and fully resourcing — our multilateral agreements and frameworks around disarmament and non-proliferation, including the important work of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

At the same time, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test and Iran “has either been unwilling or unable” to accept a deal to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at reining in its nuclear program, and Russia is “engaged in reckless, dangerous nuclear saber-rattling” in Ukraine.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said divisions in the world since the last review conference in 2015, which ended without a consensus document, have become greater, stressing that Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war has contributed “to worldwide concern that yet another catastrophe by nuclear weapon use is a real possibility.”

The United Nations (UN) has voted that a healthy environment is now a human right.

In a statement, the UN Environment Program said: “In a resolution passed Thursday (28 July 2022) at UN headquarters in New York City, the General Assembly said climate change and environmental degradation were some of the most pressing threats to humanity’s future. It called on states to step up efforts to ensure their people have access to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”

“The resolution is not legally binding on the 193 UN Member States. But advocates are hopeful it will have a trickle-down effect, prompting countries to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in national constitutions and regional treaties, and encouraging states to implement those laws. Supporters say that would give environmental campaigners more ammunition to challenge ecologically destructive policies and projects.”

161 Member States voted in favour of the motion, including South Africa. But, eight countries voted against the motion that recognising the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right. Those countries are Belarus, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Russia, and the Syrian Arab Republic.

The UN Environment Program maintains that this was a bold move and will assist activists. “Earlier this year, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean pledged more protections for so-called environmental defenders, including indigenous peoples campaigning against logging, mining and oil exploration in protected areas. In 2021, 227 environmental defenders were reportedly killed. And last year, New York state passed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing citizens a right to a “healthful environment.”

“Those changes come as environmental campaigners increasingly use the law to force countries to address pressing environmental problems like climate change.”

“These resolutions may seem abstract, but they are a catalyst for action, and they empower ordinary people to hold their governments accountable in a way that is very powerful,” said David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the environment, before the vote.