Remarks by Thomas Nash, Director, Article 36

Side event at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty PrepCom, Geneva, 30 April 2013

Some people have criticised the nuclear weapons policy world for being a bit stuck in a cold war mentality, for not evolving, for not being open to new ideas.

That has not been our impression over the past couple of years that we have been engaging on nuclear weapons.

Our impression is that there’s a strong, effective civil society voice on nuclear weapons that has helped bring about a ban treaty on nuclear testing, promoted nuclear weapon free zones and is now building momentum for a ban on nuclear weapons.

We’ve been particularly encouraged by the growing engagement of states, civil society, international organisations with concepts such as:

– delegitimising and devaluing nuclear weapons

– refocusing the debate on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons

– creative thinking on a new international instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons

The strong involvement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement on these themes has been significant, as well as humanitarian actors within UN such as OCHA and UNDP.

The development of ICAN as a broad based civil society coalition with a clear focus on a treaty banning nuclear weapons has changed the landscape.

And, as we’ve seen from the humanitarian joint statements at the NPT and UNGA, as well as the Oslo Conference, it’s encouraging to see a wide, diverse group of states taking up the humanitarian framing and embracing calls to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.

We see a bright future for these communities working in partnership together to develop some more effective responses to the threat of nuclear weapon use and to move beyond what we see as an unsustainably dangerous status quo.

So today I want to highlight a couple of points from a recent contribution that Article 36 has made to this debate, a short paper called ‘Banning nuclear weapons’ which is online and we also have a few copies here.

The document has three sections

1. An overview of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons

2. An overview of existing mechanisms in place to prevent use, including NPT

3. A possible framing for a new international treaty to ban nuclear weapons

I’ll focus on the third point today, hopefully dovetailing with the excellent Reaching Critical Will report that Beatrice has just presented on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons as well as Paul’s comments on behalf of UNDP.

As a member of ICAN, Article 36 is calling for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons and with a strong partnership we believe such a treaty is possible in the next few years.

A process to ban nuclear weapons should be seen as states taking responsibility for disarmament and we expect it will be the non-nuclear weapon states taking the initiative. In this regard the Oslo Conference was important because it showed this is possible.

We see such a treaty as a step in a process – the ban would be an additional tool towards a nuclear weapon free world, elimination usually follows prohibition.

We have three complementary framings for a ban on nuclear weapons:

1. Fulfilling disarmament commitments – we want to see states fulfil their existing NPT obligations; we should not see a ban treaty as an alternative to the NPT, or a response to perceived shortcomings. It will be a concrete track in its own right, which is not dependent on NPT outcomes.

2. Building on the nuclear weapon free zones – a ban treaty can be conceived as building from the bottom up, coalescing existing zones and providing a way for states outside existing zones to stand in solidarity by joining a ban treaty. Mongolia is important in this regard as a single state nuclear weapon free zone.

3. Banning WMD – a number of weapons with unacceptable effects have been subject to banned under IHL; chemical and biological weapons have been banned and it is an anomaly that nuclear weapons have not been banned. That this anomaly has been allowed to continue is a failure of the international community that we think should be able to be corrected in the coming years.

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