UN adopts treaty banning nuclear weapons



Mon, 10 Jul 2017 - 08:16 GMT


Mon, 10 Jul 2017 - 08:16 GMT

The remains of the Prefectural Industry Promotion Building later known as the Genbaku Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial - UN Photo

The remains of the Prefectural Industry Promotion Building later known as the Genbaku Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial - UN Photo

CAIRO – 10 July 2017: On 7 July, the United Nations (U.N.) passed the first-ever treaty legally banning nuclear weapons. The conference took place in New York with 122 votes in favor of the legal binding instrument. The first multilateral treaty for nuclear disarmament has been negotiated for 20 years.

Only one country voted against the treaty; the Netherlands, which hosts U.S. nuclear weapons on its soil. In the meantime Singapore abstained.

A number of countries stayed out of the negotiations held in March for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, including the U.S., Russia, U.K., France, North Korea, China, India, and Pakistan as well as other nuclear-armed nations. The Netherlands was the only nuclear-alliance country to participate in the negotiations.

In a joint press statement, the delegations of the U.S., U.K. and France said they, “have not taken part in the negotiation of the treaty… and do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” They added “this initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment,” and “accession to the ban treaty is incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.”

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said following the treaty adoption, “the treaty represents an important step and contribution towards the common aspirations of a world without nuclear weapons.” He added, “the Secretary-General hopes that this new treaty will promote inclusive dialogue and renewed international cooperation aimed at achieving the long overdue objective of nuclear disarmament.”

Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica, who serves as the President of the conference that negotiated the treaty said, “we feel emotional because we are responding to the hopes and dreams of the present and future generations.” Her response came as a result of a mandate given by the UN Assembly.

She added that the Hibakusha, survivors of nuclear bombs, have been the driving force in the creation of the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty. The experiences they have been sharing “touch the human soul,” she said, adding that the negotiations were a “combination of reason and heart.”

She told a news conference at UN Headquarters that with the treaty the world is “one step closer” to a total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The ban treaty will be open for signature to all states at the UN Headquarters in New York on September 20, and requires 50 states to ratify it in order to enter into force and become binding as law.

The treaty falls under the international law and marks a turning point in the struggle against these genocidal weapons, in which the vast majority of governments and civil society have united to create law that can change policies and practices of nuclear deterrence and help facilitate nuclear disarmament. The treaty prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon-related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use or threat of use of these weapons. It could not be more timely accurate with North Korea testing its arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles, each capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

In 2007, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was launched in Melbourne, Australia. It is a coalition of non-governmental organizations working in one hundred countries to advocate for strong and effective nuclear weapon ban. The campaign founders were inspired by the tremendous success of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which a decade earlier had played an instrumental role in the negotiation of the anti-personnel mine ban convention, or Ottawa treaty.

Reaching this momentum towards a ban is a result of fierce and determined activism by civil society organizations for over seventy years. The ICAN campaign in cooperation with other civil society organizations worked to build a powerful global groundswell of public support for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The support came by engaging a diverse range of groups and working alongside the Red Cross and like-minded governments.

The newly adopted treaty is an amazing representation of this collective action. It has its imperfections, but it is a good start on the road to abolition, and it gives a glimpse of what is possible in this world.



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