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Terrific Victory at the United Nations

Posted by Martin Fleck on October 28, 2016

Martin Fleck and Bea Fihn

It was a decisive victory for nuclear disarmament advocates -- including PSR. On October 27, an overwhelming majority of UN member nations approved a resolution setting negotiations in motion for a treaty to legally prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their elimination. L.41 on October 27 in New York. The vote on the measure, called L.41 "Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations" was 123 for, 38 against, with 16 abstentions. The measure won with a 69% margin.

Momentum has been building toward this vote for several years in a process that has changed the international debate over nuclear weapons – shifting attention from the military planning of nuclear weapons states to a focus on the profound humanitarian impact use of these weapons would have. PSR and our international affiliates, IPPNW and ICAN have played a central role in pushing this initiative forward.

That's me at the UN on October 17, with ICAN Director Beatrice Fihn. PSR sent a delegation of 7 members to the UN to participate in lining up votes for L.41.

Not surprisingly, the nuclear-armed states have led the opposition to the ban movement. The United States and Russia, who own 93% of the world's nuclear weapons, both spoke out forcefully against L.41 and voted no. But democracy has come to the realm of disarmament, and the nuclear-armed states were rebuffed by the vote, with 69% of the nations voting "yes."

The ban treaty will stigmatize nuclear weapons and those who possess them. It is designed to put pressure on the nuclear-armed states to commence further negotiations for a detailed agreement setting forth a timeline for actually eliminating the weapons and detailed verification and enforcement mechanisms.

Here are some quotes:

 "The US faces a fundamental choice: We can proceed with plans to spend $1 trillion modernizing our nuclear arsenal with the intention of maintaining these weapons for decades to come, or we can join the growing international movement to ban and eliminate them." -- Ira Helfand, MD, PSR Security Committee co-chair and Co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

"Nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to our immediate survival. Their continued existence threatens us every moment of every day. It is a matter of sheer luck that a nuclear accident or nuclear war has been avoided and ultimately luck is not a security policy." -- Robert Dodge, MD, PSR Security Committee co-chair and President of PSR-Los Angeles

"Today's vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world's nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament," -- Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN.

"This is the most significant contribution to nuclear disarmament in over two decades."

-- Mexico Ambassador Jorge Lomonaco

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