Last week, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that sets up negotiations of a new legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
This is a huge success for all of us, thank you for all of your tweets, emails, donations and any other actions you have taken to support our work!
In this world of acronyms, resolution numbers, endless documents and paragraphs, it's not always easy to keep up to speed with what it all actually means.
Here are some of the questions we've received about the resolution:
What did the resolution actually decide?
The resolution "Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations" was adopted on 27th October by the UN General Assembly. 123 states voted in favor, 38 voted against and 16 abstained. You can see the detailed voting result here.
The resolution convenes a conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, which will take place in 2017.
It does not outline the content of the treaty, but recognizes the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the risks related to the existance of nuclear weapons as a reason for moving forward with a prohibition.
When will the negotiations take place?
The resolution stipulates that the negotiating conference will convene twice in 2017. The first meeting will be held on 27-31 March and the second meeting will be held on 15 June-7 July.
The resolution calls on states participating in the conference to "make their best endeavours to conclude as soon as possible a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons."
ICAN believes it's possible and will work hard to ensure that a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons can be adopted by the end of the negotiating conference in July.
Can states that voted no participate in the negotiations?
Yes! The resolution specify that negotiations will be open to all states, international organizations and civil society. It also encourages all member states of the United Nations to participate in the negotiations.
Several states that decided to vote no have indicated that this decision does not rule out their eventual participation in the treaty negotiations.
ICAN will work hard to ensure that as many states that voted no as possible participate in good faith in the negotiations and we are confident that some will.
What impact will this treaty really have if nuclear-armed states don't sign it?
A ban on nuclear weapons will establish an international norm against the possession of nuclear weapons, which will help to reduce the perceived value of such weapons. It will draw the line between those states that believe nuclear weapons are unacceptable and illegitimate, and those states that believe nuclear weapons are legitimate and able to provide security.
If nuclear weapons continue to be portrayed as a legitimate and a useful means to provide security, non-nuclear weapon states might aim to develop such weapons themselves.
Banning nuclear weapons is not the same as eliminating them. However, a ban will be a necessary starting point for disarmament to happen. While the dismantlement of all nuclear arsenals might be a long process, a clear international rejection of these weapons is going to be an essential component of future disarmament efforts.
A ban on nuclear weapons will make the maintenance and development of nuclear weapons less attractive and more difficult, both for existing nuclear weapons possessors and potential new ones. It will create better conditions for effective disarmament measures.
Previous experiences with for example biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions, shows that prohibition precedes elimination, even if not all states sign the treaty.
Does NATO membership prevent states from participating and signing this treaty?
There are no legal grounds for why a NATO country would not be able to work for a ban on nuclear weapons.
NATO member states have reserved the right to adopt independent national policies on nuclear weapons as long as the Alliance has existed. Some of these national positions already restrict participation in the nuclear weapons activities of the Alliance, without restricting these states from participating in the work of the Alliance more generally. States can also change their role in various planning groups, and have historically done so, including in the Nuclear Planning Group.
While NATO’s strategic concept from 2010 says that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance, the concept also declares that the alliance should work to create conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons. A ban on nuclear weapons will stigmatize and prohibit nuclear weapons, creating better conditions for nuclear disarmament. Working for nuclear disarmament is not just a reference in a strategic concept, this is also an obligation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty signed by all member states of NATO.
The 2010 NPT outcome document called for the reduction of reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines. By leading the work to stigmatize and prohibit nuclear weapons, NATO states can implement their national obligations by increasing the influence over NATOs next strategic concept and implement the commitments from 2010 to ”reduce the reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines”.
The facts that have emerged during the three humanitarian consequences, as well as the new discussion about the risks such weapons pose should be the start of a dialogue in all NATO states about what more NATO states can do to reach a world free of nuclear weapons.
Will ICAN participate in the negotiations?
You bet! We will work hard to make sure that the text of the treaty stays strong, that as many countries as possible participate and to ensure that people around the world can influence their governments.
Got more questions? Check out our frequently asked questions about a treaty banning nuclear weapons or send us an email on email@example.com