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Banning the Bomb—A Blog of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks
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Arms Control NOW

Authored by Alicia Sanders-Zakre on June 21, 2017

Alicia Sanders-Zakre will be tweeting and blogging throughout the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks at the United Nations. Follow her real-time updates at twitter.com/azakre.

Second Negotiating Session: June 15-July 7, 2017

Review of first draft ban treaty to conclude today
June 21, 2017

As participants in the negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons near the end of their review of the first draft text released on May 22, expect a stronger draft to emerge within the next couple of days.

A revised draft preamble was already released by the president of the negotiations on Tuesday evening.

Below is a summary of key revisions discussed during the review of the first draft text. A compilation of all revisions submitted to the president are available on the UN’s website.United Nations/Paolo Rivas

The Revisions

Title: Many states took issue with the labeling of the draft as a convention, arguing instead that it should be called a treaty to better reflect its intended scope as a simple prohibition.

Preamble: States put forth proposals to strengthen existing preamble elements, including a reference to international humanitarian law, eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and the gendered impact of nuclear weapons.

Others called for adding in new elements to the preamble, including references to relevant UN General Assembly disarmament resolutions, a reference to the 1996 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, the encouragement of education on nuclear risks, the role of women in disarmament and a reference to the right of all states to peaceful nuclear energy.

The new draft preamble released on Tuesday evening incorporated some of these suggestions, including an expanded reference to international humanitarian law and the role of women in disarmament.

General Obligations (Article 1): Over a dozen states advocated for the inclusion of a prohibition on the threat of use of nuclear weapons to explicitly delegitimize deterrence, although Austria, Malaysia and Switzerland countered that a threat of use prohibition is already implicitly included in the prohibition on use.

States disagreed about the inclusion of prohibitions on financing and transit of nuclear weapons. As during the March negotiations, Iran and Cuba were among those to call for their inclusion, while Brazil and Mexico expressed concern that verifying such prohibitions would prove difficult. Some states also requested the removal of the prohibition of testing from the treaty because it could undermine the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by restating the prohibitions in the CTBT without including a reference to the treaty’s monitoring system.

Safeguards and Nuclear Weapons States Accession (Articles 2-5): Many states, including Ireland, agreed that Article 3 should not reference INFCIRC/153 and should instead remain flexible to adapt to the strongest safeguards that become available in the future.

Chile, Switzerland and New Zealand argued that states should be required to adopt the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol as part of Article 3.

New Zealand, Austria, Ireland, Mexico and South Africa, among others, suggested that the treaty require nuclear weapons states to destroy their arsenals after signing the prohibition treaty. South Africa’s popular proposal on this topic would eliminate Article 3 and Annex A in favor of simpler safeguards language. At its core, South Africa’s new Articles 2 and 4 would require states to declare their nuclear weapons, commit to destroy them and then submit a final declaration upon elimination, subject to IAEA verification.

The Netherlands objected to Article 5 of the draft text on further effective measures on disarmament, claiming that it could pose a threat to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by creating an alternate forum to the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate disarmament proposals, although New Zealand and Argentina were among those to argue that would not be the intent of Article 5.

Core Prohibitions (Article 6): Egypt, Ecuador and Iran were among those to argue that the responsibility for assistance to victims of nuclear weapons detonations ought to be borne primarily by those states who conducted the detonations. Ireland, the Philippines and others called for strengthening the obligation for environmental remediation.

Implementation (Articles 7-10): Malaysia was among many to express concern about the cost of future meetings of states parties, as those who typically bear the majority of these costs are absent from this convention. Switzerland and others requested that the treaty allow for special meetings of states parties.

Institutional Arrangements (Articles 11-21): Many states agreed that amendments would need broader support than the draft text’s two-thirds approval requirement from states parties before being adopted.

States continued to disagree about the number of ratifications required for entry into force of the treaty, with Brazil and New Zealand maintaining the draft text’s 40 ratifications would be sufficient and Sweden advocating for a 65-state ratification minimum.

Article 19 on the prohibition treaty’s relationship to other treaties will likely undergo significant revision. There was broad support for Malaysia’s proposal to model this article on Article 26, Paragraph 1 of the Arms Trade Treaty. The Netherlands posited that Article 19 should require states parties to the prohibition treaty to adhere to the NPT.

What’s Next

Discussion will conclude on Articles 11-21 today, after which the president of the negotiations will release a second draft treaty for review. The challenge now, stated Ambassador Gomez at the conclusion of Tuesday’s negotiations, is to consolidate the many proposed revisions and additions into one concise document.


A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
June 19, 2017

Spirits were high as rain poured down on protesters marching in support of the ongoing UN negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons in New York on Saturday.

Chanting “rain is better than nuclear fallout,” and singing “Down by the Riverside,” protestors spanning more than two city blocks marched from Bryant Park to the United Nations.

Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the negotiations, was among those attending the rally organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

The march follows a long history of women-led protests against nuclear weapons. These include a nationwide protest in 1961, where 500,000 people in 60 cities marched against nuclear testing and the famous 1982 march, which drew one million people to Central Park to demand a freeze to the nuclear arms race. The 1961 march was organized by Women’s Strike for Peace, which also helped to coordinate the 1982 march.

The role of women in disarmament has been a key theme throughout the nuclear ban treaty negotiations. As I tweeted on Friday, several states have called for a strengthened reference to the role of women in disarmament in the preamble of the nuclear prohibition treaty.

In a recent Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article, Elisabeth Eaves discusses the prominent role that women have played and continued to play in nuclear disarmament.

The rally featured exclusively female speakers and performers, including Kozue Akibayahsi, the president of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, Sharon Dolev, founder of the Israeli Disarmament Movement and Cora Weiss, a leader of the former Women’s Strike for Peace. Speakers had to cut their remarks short however, as the crowd dwindled as the storm relentlessly continued.

Over 170 other marches and rallies in support of the UN nuclear prohibition negotiations took place across the United States and internationally on Saturday, according to the Women’s League for International Peace and Freedom.


What to Expect As Round Two Of the Nuclear Ban Talks Begin
June 15, 2017

The historic nuclear prohibition treaty currently under negotiation could be “the missing piece in the puzzle” of nuclear disarmament architecture, claimed the representative from Brazil at the opening of the final negotiations on the treaty, which began this morning and will end July 7.

States repeatedly expressed support for the draft treaty of the Convention for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons circulated by the negotiation’s president on May 22, claiming it forms a strong basis for future negotiations, but also offered suggestions for revision of the preamble.

Over the course of the next few weeks, states will revise the initial draft with the goal of finalizing a treaty by the session’s end.

How Did We Get to this Point?

The events that have led to the possible conclusion of a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty have been years in the making. 

Following an October 2016 UN General Assembly First Committee resolution, nearly 130 states met in New York from March 27-31 for the first round of negotiations. The president of the negotiations, Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica, produced a draft treaty on May 22 based on these discussions. The May 22 draft treaty text reflects many of the shared opinions among negotiating states, and intentionally leaves out more controversial items to be considered for inclusion during the June 15-July 7 round of negotiations.

The initiative has faced considerable opposition from nuclear weapons states and many NATO members, who contend that it might undermine a landmark non-proliferation treaty, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and distract from other practical disarmament steps.

The prohibition treaty’s many supporters argue that the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear use merit urgent additional steps on disarmament, including a new treaty to strengthen the legal and normative basis against nuclear weapons possession and use and for a process leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The prohibition negotiations have the support of new UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, who, in a May 22 email, stated: “The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs supports these negotiations as a step towards the universally desired goal of a world free of nuclear weapons,” adding that “divisions among States will remain and continue to grow without demonstrable further progress toward the global elimination of nuclear weapons. The States possessing nuclear weapons continue to bear the largest burden for leading efforts in this regard. In today’s deteriorating international security situation, no one should be satisfied with the status quo.”

The Schedule

Today and tomorrow, participating states will express their general views on the draft text. On Saturday, June 17, members of civil society will convene for the Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb, starting at 12PM at Bryant Park. 

From June 19-23, states will discuss the draft text thematically, with sessions devoted to the preamble, positive obligations, core prohibitions, implementation and institutional arrangements and universality and final provisions.

Key Issues

The following topics are among those likely to be discussed and revised during the upcoming week of negotiations. In an article in the June issue of Arms Control Today, John Burroughs provides a comprehensive overview of the issues in the draft text. 

Core Prohibitions (Article 1): The May 22 draft text calls for a prohibition on the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, use, testing, stationing, installation and deployment of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance with any prohibited activities.

Some states may argue for the inclusion of a prohibition on the threat of use, transit and financing of nuclear weapons in the final treaty, all of which were mentioned repeatedly in negotiations in March. The Women’s International League for Peace supported the inclusion of these prohibitions in a June briefing paper

Others, including Austria and Mexico, two leading treaty supporters who did not support the prohibition of testing in the first round of negotiations, may advocate for removing testing from the core prohibitions. Many would like to see a stronger affirmation that the nuclear prohibition treaty is not a substitute for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which includes an International Monitoring System to detect nuclear tests. 

A former senior U.S. nonproliferation and disarmament official, Jon Wolfsthal, in a May 22 blog post, noted that the prohibition of testing in the May 22 draft treaty creates an uncertain relationship with the CTBT. 

Safeguards (Article 3 and Annex): The safeguards provisions outlined in Article 3 and the attached annex will be likely be debated and revised during the second round of negotiations due to concerns experts have raised about the current phrasing.

Australian safeguards expert John Carlson in a May 26 article observed that the safeguards in the treaty should not be tied to INFCIRC/153, as it prevents the treaty from adopting stronger safeguards as they evolve over time. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons seconded this point in a June briefing paper

Sweden and Switzerland had called for requiring states-parties to the treaty to adopt the IAEA Additional Protocol in the first negotiations, and may continue to advocate for the inclusion of this stronger verification standard, although Brazil, a leading treaty negotiator, would likely oppose it.

Accession of Nuclear Weapons States (Articles 4, 5 and non-paper): There will likely be questions and proposals for clarification about the path for accession by nuclear weapons states to the treaty. Article 4 of the May 22 draft text, and the attached non-paper, seem to indicate that nuclear weapons states must eliminate their nuclear arsenals first and then sign the prohibition treaty and adopt verification provisions, following the model of South Africa’s accession to the NPT.

Pointing to some of the challenges with South Africa’s NPT accession, Zia Mian in an June Arms Control Today article argues that it would be much easier to verify the dismantlement of nuclear arsenals if states declared their arsenals when signing the treaty and then worked with the IAEA to verify dismantlement instead of disarming beforehand. 

The negotiating parties may also seek to clarify the aims and goals of Article 5. Some observers have interpreted Article 5 as an alternative and more flexible path to accession without specified verification provisions. Others see it as a way to negotiate other disarmament proposals outside of the Conference on Disarmament, as additional protocols to the treaty.

States will likely continue to debate and clarify these and other elements of the emerging treaty as negotiations continue.

The second day of negotiations will begin at 10 AM on Friday, June 16 and will be broadcast on UN Web TV. 


First Negotiating Session: March 27-31, 2017

Day 5—Institutional arrangements and looking ahead
March 31, 2017

The last day of the first week of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons consisted of a discussion of institutional arrangements and reviewed the program of work for the initial week of the second round of negotiations in June.

United Nations Building, New YorkInstitutional Arrangements: 

Entry into force

Almost all states expressed support for simple entry into force provisions, specifying that particular states should not have to ratify the treaty before its entry into force in order to avoid the barriers to ratification faced by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) due to its requirement for ratification by Annex 2 states. Many states did not precisely indicate how many states should be required to ratify the treaty before its entry into force although several, including Austria, suggested around 30 and Sweden proposed 80.

Reservations and withdrawal

Many states, including New Zealand and Ireland, agreed that states should not be able to have reservations to the treaty but should be able to withdraw, under certain conditions. Mexico called for two requirements for withdrawal from the treaty–that withdrawal does not occur during armed conflict and that states can only withdraw once 15 years have passed since the treaty entered into force. South Africa, among other states, suggested that the treaty should follow standard withdrawal and reservation provisions, consistent with the Vienna Convention.

Meetings of states parties

States generally agreed that states parties should meet annually and have a review conference every five years although Malaysia suggested that such frequent meetings would not be necessary until nuclear weapons states will have acceded to the treaty.

Accession of states

While some states, including Austria, put forth that nuclear weapons states should not be allowed to join the treaty without first eliminating their arsenals, many states supported and even called for nuclear weapons states to accede to the nuclear prohibition treaty before elimination, as long as they provided a plan to disarmament upon signature. 

Depository and secretariat

Many states called for the United Nations secretary-general to be the depository of the treaty. Brazil doubted the necessity of a secretariat for the treaty, but the Philippines countered the secretariat could play an important role in facilitating review conferences and assistance. 

Victim assistance

Several states, including Fiji, who referenced its own country’s suffering due to nuclear testing, called for institutional mechanisms to provide assistance to victims of nuclear use and testing. Mexico, among others, while indicating its support for the idea, expressed uncertainty about how to implement this provision.

Indicative timetable for June 15-23 

After the conclusion of the session on institutional arrangements, Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the conference, presented the draft indicative timetable for the first week of the second round of negotiations in June. Gomez told states that she would prepare and circulate a draft instrument likely in late May or early June for states to review. Expressing satisfaction with the contribution of civil society to the first round of negotiations, Gomez proposed incorporating the voices of academics and civil society members in a similar fashion in June.

As delegates left the conference room, members of civil society handed them paper cranes and thanked them for their participation.


Day 4—Perspectives from Civil Society and Academia
March 30, 2017

The penultimate day of the first week of negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons highlighted civil society members and academics who provided expertise and alternative opinions on divisive core provisions.

The day featured two panels each consisting of three representatives from civil society and academia who delivered remarks then took questions and comments from delegates.

Ray Acheson, of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, John Burroughs, representing the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms and Louis Maresca, of the International Committee of the Red Cross spoke on the first panel. In the afternoon, Richard Moyes of Article 36, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Zia Mian of Princeton University formed a second panel.

“The ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative,” stated Pope Francis in a message Tuesday to United Nations members negotiating a legally binding instrument on the prohibition of nuclear weapons (Photo: United Nations/ Cia Pak)Focusing on the preamble, panelists in the first session reiterated the consensus on including the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and also suggested adding a reference to the right to life.

Within widespread and comprehensive remarks, panelists in both sessions addressed three divisive prohibitions – on the threat of use, transit, and testing – and discussed options for verification and elimination.

Threat of use

Mian expressed support for the prohibition of the threat of use of nuclear weapons, explaining that the 1996 International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons did not outlaw the threat of use. Burroughs argued that if the use of nuclear weapons is illegal under international humanitarian law, the threat of use should be illegal too.

Transit

Acheson suggested that an international prohibition on the transit of nuclear weapons could be modeled after similar existing national legislation in New Zealand, Austria and the Philippines. Burroughs also supported a ban on transit, emphasizing that this treaty has the capacity to set a legal precedent for the future of nuclear disarmament, and thus prohibitions must be comprehensive.

Testing

Mukhatzhanova endorsed a ban of testing, as long as support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is also expressed. She suggested considering the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone as a model for nuclear weapon testing prohibitions. Maresca, on the other hand, stated that if prohibitions included development, there would be no need to include testing as a separate prohibition.

Verification and elimination

Mukhatzhanova provided three detailed options for disarmament verification with the accession of nuclear weapons states to the treaty in her remarks. Her first option, which she called "South Africa Plus" would require all states parties to declare they do not have nuclear weapons on their terrority, thereby requiring nuclear weapons states to eliminate their arsenals before acceding to the treaty. Another approach would be to have nuclear weapons states attach a clear elimination protocol upon signing. A third option would be the least specific, allowing the process of elimination of nuclear weapons to be subject to negotiation upon accession of nuclear weapons states.

Acheson acknowledged the emerging debate among states on whether nuclear prohibition verification should rely on existing verification mechanisms or create new verification instruments and asserted that new verification standards will be necessary once nuclear weapons states join the treaty and begin to eliminate their arsenals.

Tomorrow’s sessions will discuss both institutional arrangements and the intercessional period between the first week of negotiations and the second round beginning June 15.


Day 3—Prohibitions and Positive Obligations
March 29, 2017

The third day of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons continued statements on the treaty’s preamble and launched into a debate on the treaty’s core provisions.

States and civil society, including representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Western States Legal Foundation, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the African Council of Religious Leaders, provided statements on the preamble of the treaty in the morning session.

18_NEWS_NSS.jpgThe session then turned to discussion of the second topic, core prohibitions. The bulk of these interventions focused on prohibitions, but states also covered positive obligations and verification measures to be included in the operative clauses of the treaty.

Prohibitions

Most states agreed on a set of core prohibitions on nuclear weapons including: use; possession; acquisition; stockpiling; transfer, and deployment. Many states added that these prohibitions should not inhibit the research and development of peaceful nuclear energy.

However, states were divided on the inclusion of several other prohibitions, including threat of use, testing, and transit of nuclear weapons.

Threat of use

Several states argued that the threat of use of nuclear weapons should be prohibited in order to delegitimize the theory of deterrence and use of nuclear weapons in security doctrines. Austria advanced that Article 2.4 of the UN Charter already prohibits the threat of use of force, and including the threat of use of nuclear weapons in the nuclear prohibition treaty would be redundant.

Testing

Indonesia and Brazil were among several states to include the prohibition of nuclear testing in their list of prohibitions. Others countered that banning testing in the nuclear prohibition treaty is unnecessary, considering that the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) already prohibits nuclear explosive testing.

Transit

Although many states recommended prohibiting the transit of nuclear weapons, a few, including Malaysia, expressed skepticism about the feasibility of enforcement of this prohibition.

Positive obligations

Antigua and Barbados, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), were among many states to call for an obligation in the treaty to provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapon use and testing. Vietnam, among others, called for the treaty to obligate states parties to address the environmental damage of nuclear weapons.

Verification

States underlined the importance of including strict verification measures to enforce both prohibitions and positive obligations.

Several states recommended modeling verification measures on those in previous prohibition treaties, including nuclear weapons free zones and the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions. Others suggested relying on existing verification bodies, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help verify treaty provisions.

Sweden remarked that a provision requiring states parties to enter into legally binding commitments with the IAEA similar to the Additional Protocol would be “a cost effective and nonduplicative form of verification.” Sweden also proposed pursuing more comprehensive verification measures if and when nuclear weapons states join the treaty.

The afternoon session concluded with statements from several civil society organizations. Thursday’s sessions will feature open discussion on both the preamble and main provisions of the treaty.

Notable statements:


Day 2—Preparing the Preamble
March 28, 2017

The second day of negotiations on a legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons began with the remaining high-level opening statements, continued with the chilling story of a Hiroshima bomb survivor and concluded with the discussion of elements to be included in the preamble of the treaty.

Continued high-level statements

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, and to the memories of the bomb's direct and indirect victims. (Photo: Wikipedia)Although nuclear weapons states continued to boycott the negotiations, participating non-nuclear weapons states referenced them repeatedly throughout the opening statements.

Participating delegations chastised nuclear weapons states for both their absence at the conference and the lack of progress toward meeting their NPT-related disarmament commitments in the years leading up to the conference.

Brazil, for example, complained that nuclear weapons states considered that “nuclear disarmament obligations… are voluntary,” and the Philippines, among others, noted that the Conference on Disarmament has not adopted a program of work in 21 years.

Participating states also discussed nuclear weapons states in a more positive light, often calling for inclusivity in the final treaty document and inviting states not present at the negotiations to join in at the second session in June and July or to sign the new treaty at a later date.

Following high-level statements by UN member states, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima, told her first-person account of the atomic bombing of the city and people of Hiroshima.

“I want you to feel the presence of not only the future generations, who will benefit from your negotiations to ban nuclear weapons, but to also feel a cloud of witnesses from Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Thurlow said.

Topic 1: Preamble (principles and objectives)

Most states suggested that both the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and existing relevant disarmament and nonproliferation legal instruments should feature prominently in the preamble.

Ireland suggested succinctly that the preamble should “set the treaty in human and legal context.”

Humanitarian consequences  

Almost all states agreed that the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons use should be included in the preamble. Austria even suggested this should be the guiding principle of the treaty. The Netherlands, however, did not mention the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in its statement.

International law

The vast majority of states recommended that the preamble recognize existing legal measures prohibiting nuclear weapons, such as international humanitarian law, the UN Charter, the 1996 International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion and the first resolution adopted by the United Nations in 1946 calling for a commission to make proposals for “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.”

Most other states, including the Netherlands, suggested the preamble note that the treaty builds on, and does not contradict, existing nonproliferation instruments, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (specifically Article VI), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and nuclear weapons free zones.

Other elements of the preamble

Some states suggested additional preamble components including: the gendered impact of nuclear weapons; resource reallocation from nuclear weapons to peaceful purposes; the contribution of civil society to disarmament; the suffering of victims; the need for further concrete disarmament steps; the universality and nondiscrimination of the treaty; the elimination of nuclear weapons from security doctrines; and the right of states to peaceful nuclear energy.

The negotiations will continue at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 29 with a continued discussion on principles and objectives of the preamble.

Five notable statements of the day


Day 1—Beginning to Ban the Bomb
March 27, 2017

The first day of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons started with a protest.

(Left to right) French Deputy Ambassador Alexis Lamek, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft state their governments' oppostion to negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons (Photo: UN WebTV)The United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stood outside of the General Assembly at the opening of negotiations alongside the British and French ambassadors to the UN to explain why the United States and almost 40 other states would boycott the talks.

Haley claimed that she would like to see a world free of nuclear weapons, but didn’t consider the talks to be a realistic means to achieve that end.

Meanwhile, inside the General Assembly, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica, president of the conference, kicked off the opening session, expressing hope that a draft text on a new “legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination” would be prepared by the spring.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a civil society organization attending the negotiations, counted 115 states present at the opening session.

Notable individuals, including Peter Maurer of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Pope Francis, and Toshiki Fujimori, a Hiroshima bomb survivor, provided statements in support of the ban treaty before UN member states delivered their opening statements.

Of the UN member states participating in the negotiation, Ireland’s and Austria’s statements were among the strongest in support of the ban treaty, while Japan’s was the most critical.

Ambassador Nobushige Takamazawa of Japan announced that Japan would not participate further in ban treaty negotiations expressing support instead for what he called concrete, practical measures, like negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and increasing nuclear transparency through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference process.

Other high level statements focused on three main themes; the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, that a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would complement the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and suggestions about specific core prohibitions to be included in the ban treaty.

Humanitarian impact: Almost all states referenced the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear use. The ambassador from Colombia quoted Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1986 speech, “The Cataclysm of Damocles,” to illustrate the environmental impact of a nuclear strike. Representatives from both Peru and El Salvador were among many to call the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons “a crime against humanity.”

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Many nuclear ban treaty supporters, including Indonesia, argued that the nuclear weapons ban treaty would strengthen and not weaken existing legal instruments, especially the NPT.

Egypt, among others, claimed a nuclear weapons ban could help to implement Article VI of the NPT, which obliges all NPT states parties to support and pursue effective measures on nuclear disarmament. The Philippines, Cuba, and others also expressed support for all three pillars of the NPT, including the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Core prohibitions: Several states, including Mexico, Antigua and Barbados on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ecuador, and Cuba provided specific lists of prohibitions to be included in the nuclear ban treaty, including the prohibition of deployment, assistance in development, financing, transfer, import, stockpiling, threat of use and use of nuclear weapons. Cuba’s list of prohibitions was perhaps the most extensive and included banning design and research for modernization of nuclear weapons and all nuclear tests, including sub-critical tests.

Negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons continue tomorrow, Tuesday, March 28 at 10 a.m. EST in New York and will be broadcast on the UN website.

Author: 
Alicia Sanders-Zakre