Conference Ends with Growing Global Support for a Nuclear Weapons Ban
May 17, 2016
Beatrice Fihn / International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
The new United Nations working group on nuclear disarmament has completed its second and most substantive session in Geneva. 100 governments met for over two weeks. Many more contributed support through a joint working paper from the Humanitarian Pledge group (now numbering 127 States). Of course, the US and other nuclear umbrella states were unhappy, but "this meeting was all about the ban. And it was clear that governments are ready to do this."
Special to Environmentalist Against War
"Governments say a nuclear weapons ban is unlikely. Don't believe it. They said the same about a mine ban treaty."
-- Jody Williams Nobel laureate
"I can imagine a world without nuclear weapons, and I support ICAN."
-- Dalai Lama Nobel laureate
"If Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were alive today, they would be part of ICAN."
-- Martin Sheen Actor and activist
"We can do it together. With your help, our voice will be made still stronger. Imagine peace."
-- Yoko Ono Artist
"With your support, we can take ICAN its full distance -- all the way to zero nuclear weapons."
-- Desmond Tutu Nobel laureate
"I salute ICAN for working with such commitment and creativity."
-- Ban Ki-moon UN chief
"I am proud to support the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons."
-- Hans Blix Weapons inspector
"Because I cannot tolerate these appalling weapons, I whole-heartedly support ICAN."
-- Herbie Hancock Jazz musician
Conference Ends with Growing
Global Support for a Nuclear Weapons Ban
Beatrice Fihn / International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
(May 13, 2016) -- The OEWG just wrapped up and we are very excited about the progress here. So many great statements, huge surge in support for the ban treaty, and concrete proposals to adopt a mandate for negotiations in October. This meeting was all about the ban. And it was clear that governments are ready to do this.
Of course the nuclear umbrella states were unhappy, but their arguments sounded weaker and weaker throughout the days and were thoroughly dismantled by both civil society and supportive governments. Here's a brief article outlining our take on the OEWG. [See story below.]
The discussion was centered around the need to ban nuclear weapons. Our main aim for the upcoming August session is to get a recommendation in the report that states that the majority of governments recommend starting negotiations on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. This can hopefully then be used as the basis for a [UN General Assembly] resolution in October to launch negotiations.
Yesterday evening, we protested outside the permanent missions of four countries that have not yet embraced a treaty banning nuclear weapons -- Canada, Norway, Japan and Australia. About 30 campaigners took part. Japanese journalists attended the protests, and we hope to be featured on national TV in Japan next week. Here is a brief report about the protest.
ICAN Protests Outside Missions
Of Governments Reluctant to Support Ban
GENEVA (May 13, 2016) -- At the May session of the UN working group in Geneva, a small number of nations extolled the supposed "security value" of nuclear weapons and spoke out against a ban. ICAN protested at the diplomatic missions of some of these nations on 12 May.
Five campaigners wore nuclear bomb outfits and held banners reading "Ban me! I'm immoral!" and "Legal or illegal?" Around 20 other campaigners joined in the peaceful demonstrations.
One of the most outspoken defenders of the status quo is Canada, a member of NATO. It argued at the working group that there is no "legal gap" in the existing regime regarding nuclear weapons. The Canadian mission was the first stop on our route.
Norway -- also a member of NATO -- was the next stop. A majority of Norwegian parliamentarians have called on the government to support long term a prohibition on nuclear weapons. But the government says that now is not the right time for negotiations.
We then went to the Japanese and Australian missions, which are side by side. Australia has a caretaker government until 2 July, and officially neither supports nor opposes a ban at present. We called on it to embrace the ban.
We then went to the Japanese mission, where we chanted "Japan, support a ban!" Despite having suffered from the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, Japan argues that US nuclear weapons are essential for its defence.
Many Japanese media outlets attended the protests. Regrettably, the Japanese mission contacted the police, who held us for more than 40 minutes in the rain and threatened to fine us for our peaceful protests. Among the protesters were three atomic bomb survivors.
Press briefing with Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas was in town, and we did a press briefing with him to get some attention to our work. Loads of journalists came, but obviously more interested in Michael Douglas and his thoughts on Donald Trump than the OEWG and banning nuclear weapons. You can find photos of the press event here.
It would be great if you all could follow up with relevant actors on what has happened here in Geneva. Write articles, publish blog posts, tweet, write briefings to parliamentarians, and other key actors. In particularly in umbrella states, it will be important to let key people know about the proposals for negotiations in 2017, and that your government should support it.
We have taken a number of great pictures during these past two weeks. You can find an album of the OEWG on Flickr. Big thanks to Isabella Vargas and Tim Wright for the great work.
A huge thanks to everyone for the great work you've done on this. It's really paid off, and governments are rallying behind the ban treaty (or sweating a lot from the pressure). We'll be back with more info later next week, but now it's time for a few drinks and a long weekend!!!
May Session Ends with Huge Support for Nuclear Weapons Ban
(May 13, 2016) -- The new UN working group on nuclear disarmament, the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG), completed its second and most substantive session in Geneva today. 100 governments participated over the course of two weeks at the United Nations and many more contributed their support through a joint working paper from the Humanitarian Pledge group (now numbering 127 States).
By the end of eighth and final day, it had become clear, beyond a doubt, that the proposal to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons was the overarching focus of the debate. Several governments noted in their concluding statements that there now seem to be two sides -- those who seek to preserve the status quo and those who want change.
Participating governments were undeterred by the continued boycott of the working group by the nine nuclear-armed states and made substantial progress towards the negotiations of a new nuclear weapons ban treaty by listing the specific elements that should be prohibited by a new treaty and the normative and practical implications that it would have once completed.
A small group of countries, mainly consisting of states who claim reliance on nuclear weapons for their national security, continued their long practice of relabeling a repetition of various stalled or failed proposals -- now dubbed "the progressive approach".
Despite the convincing presentations from experts on the huge risks inherent in the continued possession of nuclear weapons and the fallibility of "deterrence", several states took the floor to defend the nuclear weapons as being integral for their security.
These states were nevertheless unwilling to acknowledge the tension between this claim and their oft-repeated commitment to working towards world free from nuclear weapons.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of states at the OEWG were united around the proposal for a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons even without the participation of the nuclear weapon states. Given the strong support expressed in the OEWG over these past few weeks, it is clear that states are gearing up to start negotiations on such a treaty.
The OEWG will reconvene in August for a final session to negotiate a final report with recommendations for the United Nations General Assembly.
OPEN-ENDED WORKING GROUP
TAKING FORWARD MULTILATERAL NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT NEGOTIATIONS
Geneva, Palais des Nations
CLOSING BRIEF FOR THE CHAIR
Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador of Thailand
We are approaching the end of this two-week long series of plenary sessions of the open-ended working group. As per the indicative timetable contained in A/AC.286/WP.21/Rev.1, I have planned the meeting today to wrap-up our work and discuss the way ahead in preparation for the August meetings and the consideration and conclusion of the final report, which this group shall submit to the General Assembly pursuant to OP7 of resolution 70/33.
You will all agree that these were very intensive and productive sessions. We had a frank, robust and exhaustive discussions on all the main substantive items mandated by General Assembly in resolution 70/33.
As expected, the debate was not an easy one and if agreement could be observed on several important topics, there were also persisting differences in views and approached on others.
Notwithstanding the differences in national positions and priorities, however, I do appreciate the constructive and interactive debate and the abundance of ideas and suggestions expressed in your statements and the over sixty working papers submitted by States, civil society and academia.
This is very impressive -- it will take me a while to go through all of these papers again when preparing the final report. This is also an encouraging sign that despite the continuing stalemate in some traditional disarmament fora, this organization is strong and sufficiently flexible and creative thus providing an opportunity to move forward the multilateral nuclear disarmament agenda.
Before sharing my perception of our work during the last two weeks, I would like to express my wholehearted gratitude and appreciation to Director-General Michael Moller, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and to Under Secretary-General Kim Won-soo, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs for their inspiring words of support and encouragement to our work and the cause of nuclear disarmament.
I was also particularly pleased to welcome special guest speaker Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, a Habakusha who has survived the bombing of Nagasaki and whose emotional testimony of the horror of the nuclear explosion touched our hearts.
My special gratitude goes again to all the panelists for their very competent and comprehensive presentations which have informed so well our deliberations as well as to all those who have taken their time and have prepared working papers or taken part in our deliberations.
Allow me now to present my wrap-up of the work of this group. Needless to say that this summary reflects my own views on some of the main points raised during the various phases of the Group's work over the past two weeks. It is not meant as an exhaustive summary nor does it attempt to give any weight to any of the points discussed in terms of the level of support enjoyed by any particular measure.
Transparency measures related to the risks associated with existing nuclear weapons
* Many participants emphasized the importance of the principle of transparency, which, along with the principles of irreversibility and verifiability, play an essential role in the nuclear disarmament process.
* In this regard, the importance of ensuring access to information reported by States possessing nuclear weapons to the public and to neighboring States was stressed. The need to protect sensitive national security information was also emphasized.
* The Group discussed specific types of information, including as contained in Annex 2 of the synthesis paper, that could be reported by the States possessing nuclear weapons to a reporting mechanism established within the framework of the United Nations.
* In addition to these measures, the Group also discussed information that could be reported by other States, including non-nuclear-weapon States.
* It was noted that many of these measures built upon deliberations held in the context of the NPT review process and at the 2015 Review Conference. Measures to reduce and eliminate the risk of accidental, mistaken, unauthorized or intentional nuclear weapon detonations
* The Group discussed a number of factors that contribute to the current and growing risk of a nuclear weapon detonation.
* It was stressed that only way to eliminate these risks is by achieving the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. It was acknowledged that the precise nature of the risks was difficult to assess given the lack of transparency in nuclear weapon programmes.
* There was a particular focus in many interventions on the risk posed by maintaining nuclear weapons at high levels of alert and on the effect that these postures have on the process of nuclear disarmament.
* The Group discussed measures to reduce risks and increase safety, pending the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, including as contained in Annex 3 of the synthesis paper.
* These included, inter alia, measures for reducing: stockpiles of nuclear weapons; their role in doctrines; and their operational readiness. They also included the abandonment of launch-on-warning postures as well as measures to build safety and security and to protect command and control systems.
* It was emphasized the pursuit of such measures should not imply support for any possession or use of nuclear weapons.
Additional measures to increase awareness and understanding of the complexity of and interrelationship between the wide range of humanitarian consequences that would result from any nuclear detonation
* The Group discussed the role of actors at all levels within the international community in enhancing public awareness. This included efforts by the United Nations system and civil society, including non-governmental organizations, academia, parliamentarians, the mass media and individuals.
* Considerable emphasis was placed on the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation education, especially on the need to promote critical thinking in the next generation.
* The importance of observing the relevant international days declared by the General Assembly, including the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, was mentioned.
* The Group discussed specific measures to increase awareness on humanitarian consequence, including as contained in Annex 4 of the synthesis paper.
* These included measures for, inter alia: promoting disarmament and non-proliferation education; promoting the role of atomic bomb survivors; and promoting understanding of the interconnected consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation on development, the environment, climate change, cultural heritage, human rights, children and its particular gendered impacts.
They also included measures to integrate nuclear disarmament into other policy areas, to elevate awareness at the highest levels of government and to reach out more effectively to youth.
Concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that will need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons
* The Group broadly considered the main features of and relationships between four distinct approaches or pathways for the pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons, including a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, a nuclear weapon ban treaty, a framework agreement and a progressive approach based upon building blocks. The features of a hybrid approach were also raised.
* The Group also considered possible measures and elements that could be pursued through one or more of the various approaches and contained in a legal instrument or set of instruments.
* These measures included prohibitions addressing issues such as acquisition, stockpiling, possession, use or threat of use, research and development, testing, production of fissile materials, transfers, deployments, transit, visitation and over-flight and financing as well as any assistance, encouragement or inducement in any prohibited acts.
* These measures also included other provisions and arrangements addressing issue such as bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral nuclear arms reductions, the rights and needs of victims, decontamination, verification, processes for eliminating nuclear warheads and delivery systems, removing stockpiles of fissile materials, nuclear safety and security, institutional arrangements, compliance and dispute resolution, confidence-building and security assurances.
Other measures that could contribute to taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations
* Finally, the Group discussed other measures that could play an important role in the nuclear disarmament process, including trust and confidence-building measures to create conditions necessary to facilitate further major reductions in nuclear arsenals, as well as the consolidation and strengthening of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and the establishment of new zones.
* Various views were expressed on the balance between security and humanitarian consideration, the relationship between nuclear deterrence and nuclear disarmament, threat perceptions relating regional threats and tensions involving States possessing nuclear weapons and on the how to reconcile contending concepts of national security.
Before opening the floor for your reactions, I would like to also advise you on my intentions for the way forward towards the consideration and adoption of the final report of this group.
The discussions in February and May have emphasized important elements and measures towards the global zero. It is now my turn to do my homework and prepare the first draft of the final report. My intention is to prepare a factual report reflecting as much as possible the discussions held and proposals made. This first draft will be circulated to your attention no later than end of July -- early August.
For its consideration and adoption I have tentatively scheduled the remaining six formal plenary sessions, as follows:
* two sessions on Friday, 5 August,
* two sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, 16 and 17 August, in the afternoon, and
* two sessions on Friday, 19 August, for the final consideration and adoption of the report.
If deemed necessary and depending on the progress made, I have also planned the possibility of holding a few informal meetings between 8 and 19 August in conference room XXVI.
This schedule of activities has been coordinated with the Polish presidency of the CD and will not overlap with any activity in the Conference of Disarmament. I am grateful for the kind cooperation of the delegation of Poland in this regard.
The floor is now open for your comments and suggestions. I recognize...
[Chair to give the floor to delegations requesting it]
Is there any delegation that will like to take the floor at this stage?
[Chair to give the floor to delegations requesting it]
This does not seem to be the case. That concludes our work today and this week. Before concluding I would like to express once again my gratitude and appreciation to all the representatives of States, civil society and academia for your active participation in the work of this body, as well as to all the panelists and experts who have informed our activities.
We will resume our work on 5 August at 10h00 AM in conference room XIX with the consideration of the draft final report.
This meeting stands adjourned.
This week, the Open-Ended Working Group has moved into the heart of the discussion about what a new legal instrument would look like and what elements it would contain. We've had two days that have exceeded even the high standards we have set for supporters of the humanitarian initiative.
Never before have we heard such sustained and clearly-articulated support for a new legal instrument which prohibits nuclear weapons. The work that all of you have done in capitals and with your diplomatic missions has undoubtedly played a huge role in creating this groundswell of support for a ban.
While the form a ban treaty would take might differ a bit from country to country, the discussion about what elements should be included is the perfect prelude to the start of negotiations. Below is just a slice of the support that the need for the prohibition of nuclear weapons received.
There were many more statements delivered in support of a ban treaty. If you'd like to hear what your government said in full, you can listen to the full audio of the OEWG which is available at this link: [Click here]
Today, we will hear a presentation from Dr Nick Ritchie which will kick off the discussion on "legal pathways". In short, while the first two days of this week were intended to focus on what "elements" should be in a new treaty, today's session is expected to be where states that support the prohibition of nuclear weapons are expected to outline why a ban treaty is the most effective and feasible option available to states at this time.
Don't forget to check out RCW's awesome daily reports for highlights of action: There's also plenty of action taking place on Twitter at #OEWG
Selected Quotes (May 9 & 10)
"The African Group strongly supports the call for effective measures on nuclear disarmament, including the commencement of negotiations on an international instrument or set of instruments to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. The Group therefore strongly supports the call for banning nuclear weapons, the only WMD not prohibited by an international legal instrument."
It is our belief that the negotiation and conclusion of a legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons is necessary. [. . .] We do not share the view that such an instrument will in any way degrade the NPT or the CTBT. That instrument could include the elements identified in the Chairs synthesis paper and supported by several delegations during this session. These include development and production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, use, hosting, handling of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons materials. [. . .] We suggest that it should be provided in the proposed instrument that participation, signature, or ratification of nuclear armed powers while desirable, is not necessary for the negotiations and conclusion of the instrument.
For Nicaragua, filling the legal gap requires an open and inclusive process. As the CELAC states have reaffirmed in their most recent document presented to this session, [the process] would not depend on the participation of the nuclear armed states." Nicaragua considers that in order to create an effective and general prohibition on nuclear weapons, the international community would need to include a number of prohibitions, taking into account the catastrophic humanitarian impact that a use of nuclear weapons would entail.
In our view the determination of the essential elements is linked to the goals and scope of this global prohibition. In relation to the goals, we see a global prohibition as closing the legal gap and addressing the ambiguity in nuclear governance, as well as strengthening the rule of law in this area, including by building on the prohibitions in existing instruments such as the NPT, nuclear-weapon-free-zones and the CTBT. The global prohibition would also establish a universal norm against the possession and use of nuclear weapons, thereby stigmatizing such weapons and discouraging horizontal and vertical proliferation. A legally-binding instrument on prohibition of nuclear weapons would also serve as a catalyst for the elimination of such weapons. Indeed, it would encourage nuclear weapon states and nuclear umbrella states to stop relying on these types of weapons of mass destruction for their perceived security. Another notable impact of a global prohibition is that it would encourage financial institutions to divest their holdings in nuclear weapons companies.
We support the proposal contained in praragraphs 45 and 46 of your synthesis paper which contain the need to start at an early date multilateral negotiations of a legally binding instrument or instrument for the prohibition of nuclear weapons as a preliminary measure towards their total elimination.
It seems that all agree that for the implementation of Article VI of the NPT we need further legally binding isntruments including at a point of time - a legal norm prohibiting nuclear weapons.
As history as taught us, prohibition typically precedes elimination. We assert that the prohibition of nuclear weapons is a fundamental element to complement the nuclear nonprolifearion and disarmament regime. We assert as well that a prohibition would have a tremendous impact in the achievement of a world free from nuclear weapons. Among others, by serving as a catalyst towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, [. . .] to contritute to the understanding that the existence of nuclear weapons is unacceptable, by establishing a global norm which will stigmatise such weapons, and also by creating incentives towards its elimination by encouraging nuclear armed states and those under the extended umbrella to stop relying on the existence on these kinds of WMD. Whatever approach we choose, the prohibition is an essential element. It is a constant element in every pathway.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
My delegation believes that the prohibition of nuclear weapons would mark a substantial step in the right direction. Of course the details will need to be agreed to in the process of negotiations. But in general, weapons that have been prohibited increasingly become seen as illegitimate. We note the many useful working papers and proposals that have come out during this open-ended working group. My delegation welcomes the calls for a nuclear weapons ban treaty as the best means of packaging the elements and prohibitions that are needed to make progress in nuclear disarmament.
If launching a negotiation process on a single treaty that regulates prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons is not plausible, then this delegation is open to the idea of, as a first step, commencing negotiations on a treaty that categorically prohibits activities related to nuclear weapons which applies non-discriminatorily to nuclear weapons possessor states as well as non-nuclear possessor states.
The overwhelming majority of UN member states have indicated their readiness to work together to prohibit nuclear weapons. The question that we should ask is not whether a global ban on nuclear weapons is necessary, but rather how it can be negotiated and what provisions it should contain.
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
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