On May 11, after months of U.S. arm-twisting and a four-week review conference in New York, the nations of the world agreed to a South African proposal for a permanent extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). U.S. diplomats had threatened, cajoled, and lobbied for 18 months to block measures proposed by developing nations that would have required that the nuclear states take steps toward disarmament as part of the extension-steps already agreed to in the original NPT 25 years ago.
Terry Crawford-Browne is convenor of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction in South Africa, the only country to have developed and then abolished a nuclear arsenal. Crawford-Browne, a former international banker, is an adviser to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on arms issues. -The Editors
The whole world rejoiced with us in South Africa last year when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of a democratic and non-racial society. The transition from the violence of the apartheid era has been described as a miracle.
The previous government had deluded itself as being a regional superpower in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. In the "national interest," it had armed itself with nuclear bombs, missiles, fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery, and all manner of military paraphernalia that proved in the end utterly useless. The regime collapsed because of the nonviolent, mass democratic movement backed by international sanctions-and the ripples were felt around the world.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu commented, "We marched for peace in Cape Town, and the Berlin Wall fell down."
South Africa could and may become the bridge between the First and Third Worlds, rich and poor, and nuclear and non-nuclear nations. Negotiations over the renewal of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty provided a unique forum for South Africa to promote international human rights as a fundamental premise of foreign policy.