Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Negotiations Begin at UN
March 17, 2017
At long last, negotiations begin this month for a nuclear weapons ban treaty. This treaty will finally confer on nuclear weapons the same legal status as chemical and biological weapons: illegal under international law. The United Nations conference—scheduled for March 27-31 and June 15-July 7—is the culmination of a world-wide, years-long campaign by the International Red Cross, PSR, IPPNW, and ICAN, such as the ICAN campaigners pictured. But this is also just the beginning of a long, careful process of eliminating nuclear arsenals worldwide. IPPNW is PSR's international affiliate, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. PSR is one of 440 Partner Organizations in ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
The United Nations First Committee voted October 27, 2016 to begin these negotiations, 123 for, 38 against, and 16 abstentions. PSR sent a delegation to UN headquarters in New York to work alongside ICAN campaigners on October 17 and 18, lining up "yes" votes. As expected, the United States and most of the nuclear-armed countries voted "no." This month, Arizonan David Spence, MD and New Yorker Alfred Meyer plan to represent PSR at the UN, and PSR will have several representatives at the UN in June-July.
Unless nuclear-armed states sign onto the ban treaty, it will not directly lead to elimination of nuclear arsenals. That will require extensive additional negotiations, verifiable multiparty treaties, and careful dismantling of the nuclear weapons themselves. But history will view passage of the Ban Treaty as the beginning of the end of the nuclear weapons era.
Show your support for urgent legislation in the U.S. that restrains presidential authority over launching a nuclear first strike.
Click here to sign PSR's petition calling on members of Congress to support the Lieu-Markey Bill.
Click here for PSR's 2-page outline about the Ban Treaty
Click here to download ICAN's booklet: Ban Nuclear Weapons 2017
Click here for PSR's press release on the occasion of the first day of negotiations.
And here is what people are saying about the ban treaty:
"It is time to acknowledge that these weapons are simply too dangerous to exist. The United States must seek to eliminate them as our highest national security priority. It should start by supporting the negotiations for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons that will begin at the United Nations.:"
-- Ira Helfand, MD, PSR Security Committee co-chair and Co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Letter to the Editor, New York Times, Feb 13
"Led by 123 nations representing a majority of the world's population a nuclear weapons ban treaty will be negotiated at the United Nations this next year. This treaty will ban nuclear weapons just as every other weapon of mass destruction, from chemical to biological weapons and landmines have been banned. Finally, the deadliest of these immoral weapons will be outlawed. From that point forth only pariah nations acting outside the realm of international law will continue to maintain nuclear arsenals."
-- PSR Board Member Robert Dodge, Op-Ed in Common Dreams 12/30/2016
"Somewhere along the way we got very focused on non-proliferation and trying to stop the testing, stop them producing fissile material, and we forgot to work on the fundamental delegitimization of nuclear weapons. We forgot to say that nuclear weapons are unacceptable. So that is what we're trying to do right now, and to work with the ban treaty to make sure that nuclear weapons are prohibited and that they start to be stigmatized, and that governments get to choose yes or no to nuclear weapons."
-- Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Podcast "UN Nuclear Weapons Ban with Beatrice Fihn and Susi Snyder," 2/28/2017
"The collective opposition to the current state of affairs has found a united voice and a pathway to action … A nuclear weapon ban treaty seeks to stigmatize nuclear weapons through their prohibition. It can be negotiated now, even if the nuclear-armed states refuse to participate. It would have a normative and practical effect on the possession, sharing, and financing of nuclear weapons."
-- Ray Acheson: "Historic Vote to Ban Nuclear Weapons," WILPFUS blog
"'A world without nuclear weapons' is a goal shared by all nations and echoed by world leaders, as well as the aspiration of millions of men and women. The future and the survival of the human family hinges on moving beyond this ideal and ensuring that it becomes a reality.
I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home."
-- Pope Francis, message to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Dec. 7, 2014
"A proper understanding of what nuclear weapons will do invalidates all arguments for continued possession of these weapons. . . . The only way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons is to ban and eliminate them."
-- Joint Statement by the World Medical Association, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the International Council of Nurses and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War -- representing more than 15 million health professionals worldwide, May 2016.
"On March 27, negotiations will commence at the United Nations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. As Nobel Peace Laureates we applaud the UN General Assembly for convening this negotiating conference, fully support its goals, and urge all nations to work for the speedy conclusion of this treaty in 2017 and for its rapid entry into force and implementation. . . . The danger of nuclear war is growing. The time for action is now. We must prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons."
-- Statement signed by 21 Nobel Peace Laureates at the 16th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Bogota, Columbia, February 5, 2017.
"Possessing the bomb, it is worth remembering, is not normal. Almost every nation in the world has made a legal undertaking never to acquire nuclear weapons. But for many years, these nations have taken a back seat in disarmament debates, waiting patiently, idly, hoping that the promise of Prague, and every other promise, would be realized. But no longer. The so-called humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons has emerged because of mounting frustration at the failure of nuclear-armed nations to fulfill their decades-old disarmament commitments under the NPT. It has emerged out of recognition that simply bemoaning their inaction, no matter how loudly, is not an effective strategy for achieving abolition.
"This flips the traditional arms-control approach on its head. The humanitarian initiative is about empowering and mobilizing the rest of the world to say "enough." It is about shifting the debate from "acceptable," "safe" numbers of nuclear warheads to their fundamental inhumanity and incompatibility with basic standards of civilized behaviour. It is about taking away from the nuclear-armed states the power to dictate the terms of the debate and to set the agenda—and refusing to perpetuate their exceptionalism."
--Tim Wright, Tim Wright, ICAN Asia-Pacific Director, speech at Symposium: The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction at New York Academy of Medicine, March 1, 2015 organized by the Helen Caldicott Foundation.
"A graph showing advancements in military technology through human history might show a slowly ascending curve—until the advent of nuclear weapons, at which time the curve would begin to exhibit a steep slope. Therefore one should expect worse weapons to come—unless a ban treaty can halt the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons, and unless the global community demonstrates the resolve to stop the rapid development of military technologies.
"Now is the time to show that resolve. The nuclear taboo has held since 1945, but if it's ever transgressed, humanity's ability to even contemplate issues such as disarmament will be very deeply compromised."
-- Mustafa Kibaroglu: Disarmament While the Chance Remains, 2/22/2017, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
"Nuclear weapons do not contribute to our security. Rather, they are the greatest threat to our survival. We cannot be comfortable or complacent that 'wise hands' will be in charge of these weapons. We need to move with speed and determination toward elimination before our luck runs out and they are used again."
-- Ira Helfand, MD, PSR press release