States set to vote on starting negotiations of treaty banning nuclear weapons
28 September 2016
GENEVA – On Wednesday, a group of states put forward a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly to start negotiations towards a new treaty that would prohibit nuclear weapons.
The states leading this initiative are Mexico, Austria, Ireland, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa. While a majority of states have expressed support for developing a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, fierce opposition to this resolution is expected from the nuclear-armed states. States will vote on the resolution during the period between 24 October and 2 November.
A copy of the resolution can be found here.
The resolution proposes two negotiating conferences over 20 days at the United Nations in New York to conclude a new international treaty that would prohibit nuclear weapons.
“This is an historic breakthrough in global efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. A treaty banning nuclear weapons will be of enormous importance in establishing a clear, legal rejection of these weapons by the majority of the international community – even without the support from the nuclear-armed states,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN.
ICAN will be participating at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee in New York and will be available for comment, analysis and information about the negotiation of this resolution.
Opposition from the nuclear-armed states
- Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN on email@example.com or +41 78 613 04 72
- Twitter: @BeaFihn
The nuclear-armed states are vigorously opposing a treaty banning nuclear weapons, calling it both dangerous and futile. For decades discussions on nuclear weapons have been dominated by the few nuclear-armed states - states that continue to stockpile and maintain over 16,000 warheads, and have blocked progress on furthering nuclear disarmament. An international prohibition supported by the majority of the world makes it harder for nuclear armed states and their allies to continue to justify the possession of nuclear weapons.
In private bilateral meetings, nuclear-armed states are fiercely pressuring non-nuclear weapon states to stop supporting a prohibition of nuclear weapons and to vote against a potential resolution. They have also strongly rebuked allies who, in response to domestic campaigns, have wavered on the issue of the prohibition.
“Within a single flash of light, Hiroshima became a place of desolation, with heaps of rubble, grotesquely wounded people and blackened corpses everywhere. And yet some governments continue to build their national security around these inhumane weapons and oppose efforts to prohibit them,” says Setsuko Thurlow, ICAN activist and survivor of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
In public, the nuclear-armed states are delivering statements rejecting the progress made by the majority of the world’s governments.
“These clear signals of agitation from nuclear armed states are evidence that they fear a prohibition on nuclear weapons could have stigmatizing and norm-setting effects that would seriously undermine their attempts to justify their nuclear arsenals,” says Beatrice Fihn.
- Statement by the United States rejecting the proposal to negotiate a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons;
- Statement by Russia warning about “pie in the sky thinking”, and raising concerns about the over 100 governments, international organisations and civil society committed to working for a prohibition on nuclear weapons, calling them “anti-nuclear radicals” working on “propaganda-based action” that would try to “force nuclear states to refute or reject their arsenals”.
- P5 joint statement at a meeting in Washington on 15th September 2016, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/09/261994.htm. In paragraph 5 they say that a ban treaty process will affect prospects for consensus agreements at other nuclear disarmament meetings, despite the fact that it’s mainly only nuclear weapon states that block consensus documents on this issue.
- Statement from the United States in 2015 warning that the prohibition of nuclear weapons could actually lead to their use.
- “Proposals such as a nuclear weapons ban […] risk creating a very unstable security environment, where misperceptions or miscalculations could escalate crises with unintended or unforeseen consequences, not excluding the possible use of a nuclear weapon.”
Key dates in October
3 October. UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and international Security starts at the UN in New York. This is the meeting where the resolution will be officially submitted.
3-11 October. Governments deliver general statements on disarmament and international security.
13-14 October. UN General Assembly’s First Committee holds thematic debate on nuclear disarmament, and Mexico is expected to formally introduce the resolution.
24 October-2 November. Resolutions will be voted upon.
ICAN will send an update closer to the voting with the latest draft and information about the time and place of the voting.
ICAN’s flickr account for media
ICAN’s flickr account for the UN General Assembly (3 October - 2 November)
History of the process
Over the past few years there has been growing momentum among states and civil society towards developing a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited. This shift has been prompted by a fundamental change in conversation over the actual effects of the weapons, with non-nuclear armed states leading the way in a discussion on the
The resolution is being put forward following three international conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in Oslo in March 2013, in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014 and in Vienna in December 2014. These conferences examined evidence on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the risk associated with existing arsenals and the legal framework governing nuclear weapons.
The conclusion from these three conferences were that nuclear weapons have unacceptable humanitarian consequences, the risk of a nuclear detonation is higher than at the end of the Cold War and there is a legal gap in the international legal system – a prohibition on nuclear weapons is missing.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate and support negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
ICAN has worked closely with governments on this process since the Oslo conference, and campaigns in about 100 countries to ensure that this treaty becomes a reality.