(13 February 2014, Nayarit), As 146 states gather in Nayarit, Mexico for the start of a major international conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, the Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, announced today that Austria will host the next international conference of this initiative later in 2014.

Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said: “It’s clear from the high number of states here in Mexico that there is global concern over nuclear weapons. Civil society has been clear from the beginning that the only reasonable conclusion from discussions on the impact of nuclear weapons is that they must be prohibited and eliminated. The Vienna meeting is the place for states to act on that conclusion.”

There has been increased momentum over recent years to address the impasse on nuclear weapons. At the first global conference of this new initiative on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway in March 2013, international organisations concluded that there could be no adequate response if nuclear weapons were used either by design or accident.

The Austria conference will discuss how best to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again, by design, miscalculation, or accident. Discussions are expected to consider frameworks for how to address the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

The announcement of this next meeting in Vienna indicates a willingness amongst states to move from a discussion about the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons to a discussion about what must be done to make sure they are never used again. As Austrian President Heinz Fischer said during the High Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament last September “Nuclear weapons should be stigmatized, banned and eliminated before they abolish us.”

Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not yet subject to a comprehensive international ban. This legal anomaly must be addressed through a new international treaty, even if the nuclear-armed states refuse to participate at the beginning. ICAN is calling on states, when they meet in Vienna, to commit to start work on a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Nadja Schmidt of ICAN Austria said: “This is an opportunity for Austria to provide important global leadership and bring the world a step closer to genuine security in a world free of all weapons of mass destruction. Negotiating a treaty banning nuclear weapons would be a defining moment of the 21st century.  We applaud our Foreign Minister’s initiative and call for decisive action to launch this process when he hosts the world’s nations in Vienna later this year.

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Among civil society representatives addressing the Conference in Mexico are several atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki (“Hibakusha”). US climate scientist Professor Alan Robock, physician Dr. Ira Helfand, and Richard Moyes of Article 36 will present recent research on the effects of nuclear detonations on the planet’s climate, agriculture, human health and social and economic infrastructure.  Renowned author of “Command and Control” Eric Schlosser, former US military officer Bruce Blair, and Chatham House Research Director Dr. Patricia Lewis will address nuclear weapons risks, miscalculations and accidents.

 

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