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The nuclear weapons ban treaty is coming!

Posted by Martin Fleck on August 24, 2016

  • Three international Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons conferences
  • United Nations Working Group in Geneva issues its final report calling for Ban Treaty negotiations

Next up: United Nations First Committee meets in October
In 2017: First Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty conference

Last year, the United Nations First Committee--which is in charge of nuclear disarmament--responding to the very successful series of Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons conferences, created the "Open Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations" (OEWG), open to all UN members but blockable by none.

The OEWG met several times this year in Geneva. All nine of the nuclear-armed countries boycotted the entire OEWG process, though their wishes often surfaced in the statements and votes of nations "who include nuclear weapons in their security policies" -- in other words, the so-called "nuclear umbrella" countries such as Japan, South Korea and NATO countries like Canada and Germany. Representatives of PSR's international affiliate, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, presented at the OEWG in May.

On August 19, the OEWG concluded its work and issued a report back to the UN First Committee, including a recommendation backed by 107 nations that the General Assembly should convene a conference in 2017, "open to all States, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination." This was a major victory for IPPNW and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The next step in the process, this October, will be a General Assembly resolution to start negotiations.


"This is the most significant contribution to nuclear disarmament in over two decades." --  Mexico Ambassador Jorge Lomonaco

"The US needs a transformational change in our nuclear policy that embraces the international call to abolish these weapons that is embodied in the campaign for a Ban Treaty that will prohibit the possession of these weapons " -- Ira Helfand, MD, IPPNW co-president and co-chair of the PSR Security Committee

"In the view of the ICRC, it was the most significant and substantial discussion to date within the UN system on specific measures to achieve nuclear disarmament." -- Christine Beerli, Vice President of the International Committee of the Red Cross

"A majority of nations believe that nuclear weapons are unacceptable and must be prohibited. And now they are ready to negotiate a ban." -- Tim Wright, Asia-Pacific director of ICAN

"Although the ban treaty has not even begun to be negotiated, the mere prospect of it has shattered the status quo, divided a key group of states that depend on nuclear weapons for their security, and emboldened the non-nuclear-weapon states to take control." -- Richard Lennane, of the NGO Wildfire

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