The Nuclear Ban Treaty

John Burroughs
Lawyers Commitee on Nuclear Policy

 
Amb. Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa, which played an important role in the negotiations.UN Webcast, March 28, 2017.
Approved on July 7 by a vote of 122 to 1 (Netherlands, the only NATO state to participate), with one abstention (Singapore), the nuclear ban treaty will open for signature on September 20 at the United Nations and will enter into force when 50 states have signed and ratified it.

Continue reading “The Nuclear Ban Treaty”

Key Issues in Negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty

By John Burroughs
Arms Control Today, June 2017

The outlines of a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination, emerged in late March during the first week of negotiations among diplomats representing about 130 governments. During a second session, to take place from June 15 to July 7 at the United Nations, a text will be negotiated, based on the May 22 draft by the president of the negotiating conference, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica. She aims for conference approval of a text by the end of that session.

Read the whole article here

The Ban Treaty – Next Steps: Sign and Ratify

Dear friends of peace,

Dear colleagues,

A historical document was adopted by 122 states at the UN on July 7th: the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

For many years we have been working for and promoted such a treaty. As the South-African Ambassador said, we faced through the last years “an incredible amount of pressure”, we were accused of being “irrealistic” and divisive, but this treaty had to be achieved as a “moral duty”. Continue reading “The Ban Treaty – Next Steps: Sign and Ratify”

CISP Kazakhstan: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

On July 7, 2017 the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was approved at the UN Headquarters in New York City during the final session of negotiations on the development of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination  (hereinafter – the Conference, negotiations).

Continue reading “CISP Kazakhstan: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”

Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty adopted

History has been written.

The legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination has been adopted at the United Nations today. 122 countries voted for the treaty, the Netherlands voted against, Singapore abstained.

Civil society participation was so huge that another room had to be found for everybody to be able to listen to the conference. In the final session of the conference, the president of the Conference Ambassador Whyte asked if there is a consensus on the adoption of the treaty. The answer was standing ovations. Nevertheless, the Netherlands asked for voting.

The text of the treaty is available here: http://www.undocs.org/en/a/conf.229/2017/L.3/Rev.1

The conference may be followed on the conference website: https://www.un.org/disarmament/ptnw/

Voting Results: https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/A.Conf_.229.2017.L.3.Rev_.1.pdf

Pictures from the conference: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lucaswirl/albums/72157685879330596

In the following discussion (which is still on) delegates express the urgency of putting the treaty into force and achieve nuclear weapons abolition. Many states highlight the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the crime against humanity of nuclear weapons.

A more extensive report will follow.

Joseph Gerson Reports on IPB Ban Treaty Side Event

Friends,

I am ostensibly on vacation, but I am en route home after a quick trip to New York City where I chaired I side event at the U.N. on the impacts of the Ban Treaty. That is to say how our movements can build on the treaty whose text will be completed Friday. Continue reading “Joseph Gerson Reports on IPB Ban Treaty Side Event”

UNI Global Union statement to the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons (ban treaty), leading to their elimination.

  • UNI Global Union welcomes the draft for the ban treaty
  • It is a historical declaration on the way to a nuclear weapon free world

As the General Secretary of UNI Global Union which represents 20 million members in the service sectors worldwide, I urge all governments to work towards creating a credible and effective treaty which will lead to a world free from nuclear weapons.

Continue reading “UNI Global Union statement to the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons (ban treaty), leading to their elimination.”

Report on the second week at the UN negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons

New York 26-30 June 2017

The second week of the negotiations for a Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons started with the publication on June 27th of the second draft of the Treaty (now called a “Treaty” and no more a “Convention”.) The 130 states in the room are now actively negotiating long hours in small or big committees in order to keep open the possibility to finalize a good text by June 7th. Continue reading “Report on the second week at the UN negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons”

Sergio Duarte on the UN negotiations for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons leading to their total elimination

At an IPB side event on “How to find common ground for the ban treaty and how can civil society and peace movements contribute” at the UN negotiations for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, former UN High Level Representative for Disarmament, Sergio Duarte presented the following speech:

I am grateful to IPB for this opportunity to participate in this discussion on the current negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. I was asked to present a global view on the process and compare it with other disarmament processes. Given the constraints of time, let me make some quick comments on the results so far of the current negotiation process. There seems to be considerable convergence of views on many aspects of the future instrument.

I think it is fair to say that overall the conduct of business by President Elayne Whyte-Gómez has been quite satisfactory. The debate over the past week has been intense and constructive. The resulting second draft circulated yesterday seems to reflect accurately most of the proposals and observations made. I would make the following general remarks on the new draft:

  • The change of the order of the first few paragraphs of the Preamble gave prominence to the “elimination” of nuclear weapons and to the risks and consequences resulting from their existence and use. In mentioning the ethical imperative of nuclear disarmament, it quotes former UNSG Ban Ki-Moon about the “global public good” and adequately related it to “national and collective security interests”. All States are entitled to security, not just those that possess or are protected by nuclear weapons.
  • Stress was given to the suffering and harm resulting from the use and to the impact of tests (nuclear activities) on indigenous peoples;
  • The need to comply with the principles and rules of IHL is reaffirmed;
  • Mentions the principles of Charter of the UN regarding relations among States and recalls Resolution no. 1 of 1946;
  • Expresses concern about the slow pace of nuclear disarmament and the importance of a legally binding prohibition, as well as the need to achieve GCD;
  • Reaffirms the ICJ 1996 decision on the obligation to pursue negotiations;
  • Reaffirms the vital role of implementation of the NTP, recognizes the vital importance of the CTBT and the contribution of NWFZs;
  • Emphasizes the inalienable right of Parties to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes;
  • Recognizes the need to strengthen participation of women in nuclear disarmament;
  • Finally stresses the role of public conscience and the efforts of the Red Cross, international organizations, NGOs in furthering the principles of humanity evidenced in the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

There were constructive changes, but some of the operative paragraphs need further discussion.

  • Core prohibitions are very clear and unchanged from the previous daft;
  • The procedure for declarations by Parties are now clearer. The same can be said of the measures to eliminate nuclear weapons. Need to clarify some points, for example what “programmes” mean in this context);
  • There is more flexibility in the provisions regarding verification. (Perhaps greater clarity about the “competent international authority” is required);
  • Order of the articles on implementation and victim assistance reversed, without change;
  • No change in provisions on cooperation;
  • Article on meetings of States parties now list the matters that can be considered;
  • Several changes on articles on amendments; participation of civil society and their proposals are now included;
  • The article on relations with other agreements is better formulated now.

This brings me to the comparison with other disarmament processes. It must be stressed that no previous international agreement on nuclear weapons ever established a clear, legally binding obligation to disarm. Since the start of the nuclear age, all agreements have aimed at preventing proliferation. Progress was made in that direction, particularly with the NPT, the CTBT and the NWFZs.  Nuclear weapon States have been trying to interpret such agreements as legitimizing their exclusive possession of nuclear weapons. 71 years after the adoption of Resolution No. 1, the current negotiation, however, is the first serious attempt to establish a legally binding, irreversible and verified obligation to take effective measures to eliminate nuclear weapons. The NPT and customary international law require all nations – not just those that possess nuclear weapons – to negotiate for nuclear disarmament. The ban treaty will provide a solid foundation for future multilateral action.

I am sure that in the coming week there will be important comments and proposals and that different States and opinion groups will try to have their views reflected in the final product. In my view this final product must respond to the criteria needed for its effectiveness: it must be clear, simple, and provide for wide inclusiveness.

Regardless of the opposition and diffidence of the nuclear-armed nations, and although, as I said, further discussion is needed on some points, I have no doubt that we will adopt a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons by consensus on July 7.  We are perfectly aware that this Treaty will not immediately halt nuclear weapons development or diminish the threat that current nuclear weapon arsenals pose to all humanity but it is an important step in the right direction. It inscribes into positive international law a repudiation of nuclear weapons and establishes a clear path toward their elimination.

Once adopted, the impact and effectiveness of this Treaty will depend essentially from its wide acceptance by States and the continuing and active support of civil society, particularly in those States that possess nuclear weapons and their allies. This will take time and considerable effort. In any case, the Treaty is a powerful statement of the will of the majority international community and public opinion worldwide to outlaw the most cruel and indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction ever devised. We are all committed to its success and its universalization.

Download the speech here: IPB – Side event 28-06-2017_Sergio Duarte

To all Lawyers: Sign the letter on the abolition of nuclear weapons

The IALANA (International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms) wants to draw attention to the second round of the discussions on a nuclear weapons ban treaty in New York. The aim is to have a letter signed by lawyers that stresses the importance of such ban and urges states to participate and sign the treaty. The letter can be found and signed https://www.ialana.info/lawyers-letter/

LAWYERS’ LETTER ON THE ABOLITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Nuclear arms are the only weapons of mass effect and destruction not yet prohibited by an international convention, even though they are the most destructive and indiscriminate weapons ever created.

People are capable of good-faith, law-guided, problem solving at all levels of society: family, neighborhood, national, international. Cooperative global systems have been devised for the protection of human rights, protection of the environment and prevention of climate change, prohibition of specific weapons, and more. These skills must now be applied to the next obvious step: the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

As lawyers we underline that the abolition of nuclear arms is required by an international legal obligation set forth in Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and embedded in United Nations practice going back to the very first General Assembly resolution, in 1946. The International Court of Justice unanimously concluded in 1996 that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” That obligation is unconditional and universal.

We also emphasize that the use of nuclear weapons is presently incompatible with international humanitarian law regulating the conduct of warfare. Above all, due to their uncontrollable blast, heat, fire, and radiation effects, nuclear weapons cannot meet the requirement of distinguishing between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. Indeed, the catastrophic consequences of use of nuclear weapons vastly exceed the ordinary boundaries of armed conflict and adversely impact populations in neutral states, the natural environment necessary to sustain human life, and future generations. The use of nuclear weapons accordingly also violates international human rights law, most centrally the right to life. If a use of force is illegal under the UN Charter or humanitarian law, the threat to use such force is also illegal. However, the nuclear-armed states refuse to acknowledge these patent legal truths; hence the need to codify the illegality of use and threatened use of nuclear arms in a global prohibition.

The Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, including Albert Einstein, warned in 1947: “Through the release of atomic energy, our generation has brought into the world the most revolutionary force since prehistoric man’s discovery of fire. This basic power of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms.” Yet today we face this incendiary combination once again.

Faced with the ongoing and intensifying planetary danger and no longer willing to accept a two-tier world, this year about 130 countries have joined together at the United Nations to negotiate a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their elimination. The nuclear-armed states and their closest allies have refused to participate. Nonetheless, the nuclear ban treaty effort constitutes an important affirmation of the norms against nuclear weapons.

We call on all nations to participate in the negotiations and to join the treaty once adopted. It will be a major step towards negotiation of a comprehensive agreement on the achievement and permanent maintenance of a world free of nuclear arms.