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93 Nations Take the "Humanitarian Pledge"

Posted by Martin Fleck on May 18, 2015

On the eve of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, 7,500 disarmament supporters from over 18 countries gathered in New York City for the Peace and Planet rally and march. At the conclusion of the march, organizers delivered petitions with over 8 million signatures to Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and Ambassador Taous Feroukhi (from Algeria), President of the NPT Review Conference. The petitions called on all nations to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Peace and Planet organizers delivered petitions with over 8 million signatures to Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs (speaking), and Ambassador Taous Feroukhi, President of the NPT Review Conference (in tan coat).

The NPT conference began on April 27 and concludes May 22. The NPT Treaty, which entered into force in 1970, constitutes a "grand bargain" wherein countries without nuclear weapons agreed not to get them, and in return, nuclear-armed countries agreed to share nuclear power technology and, in Article VI, to pursue "general and complete" disarmament. Unfortunately, the NPT does not specify a disarmament timeframe. Forty-five years later, nuclear weapons have-nots are impatient with the pace of disarmament and they are demanding change.

The last NPT Review Conference was in 2010, and since then, the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Initiative has taken hold, inspiring three huge international conferences that have re-framed the debate over nuclear weapons by assessing them in humanitarian—rather than security—terms. Along with our international affiliates International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, PSR is campaigning for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, as chemical and biological weapons have been banned. At the December, 2014 Vienna conference, host government Austria introduced the "Humanitarian Pledge" to close the legal loophole that has been exploited by the five nuclear-armed signatories to the NPT. PSR, IPPNW and ICAN all warmly welcomed Austria's initiative. 

The United States has been actively working to prevent nations from signing on to the Humanitarian Pledge. Nevertheless, 93 nations have signed on since the Vienna conference, many of them announcing their support this month, during the NPT Review Conference.

On May 8, outside UN headquarters in New York, ICAN director Beatrice Fihn looked on as Hiroshima hibakusha (survivor) Setsuko Thurlow delivered an ICAN letter to an official from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. The letter urges Norway to officially endorse the "Humanitarian Pledge."

Caught in the middle—between the nuclear-armed countries and those calling for complete disarmament—are the so-called "nuclear umbrella" states, also known as "the weasels." These countries, such as the NATO member countries, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, have eschewed nuclear weapons for themselves and often voice their desire for disarmament—but still consider themselves to be protected by American nuclear forces.

If the NPT Review Conference does not result in some new, meaningful disarmament commitment from the nuclear-armed states, then the signers of the Humanitarian Pledge will likely announce plans this year to proceed toward a legal instrument that prohibits nuclear weapons. Stay tuned!



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