The Second International Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, held in Nayarit, Mexico concluded on 14 February 2014 with an ambitious vision from the conference’s Chair, Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo, deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

The deputy Minister laid out a vision for a diplomatic process to prohibit nuclear weapons. In his summary presented to participating delegates from 146 states, as well as civil society and international organisations, Gomez Robledo stated:

.. in the past, weapons have been eliminated after they have been outlawed. We believe this is the path to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

The broad-based and comprehensive discussions on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons should lead to the commitment of States and civil society to reach new international standards and norms, through a legally binding instrument…

It is the view of the Chair that the Nayarit Conference has shown that time has come to initiate a diplomatic process conducive to this goal. Our belief is that this process should comprise a specific timeframe, the definition of the most appropriate fora, and a clear and substantive framework, making the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons the essence of disarmament efforts.

It is time to take action. The 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks is the appropriate milestone to achieve our goal. Nayarit is a point of no return.”

A new international treaty to ban nuclear weapons now appears closer than ever. The Vienna conference announced by Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz as the Nayarit conference opened, will be the next step in the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons that began with the outcome document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, continued with joint statements by Switzerland, South Africa and New Zealand and the international conferences in Norway and Mexico.

States have an opportunity in Vienna to set out their collective ambition for a diplomatic process to negotiate a new international treaty to ban nuclear weapons. The Chair’s summary from the Mexico conference identified the key areas that will need to be discussed, namely to:

– identify the optimal forum for treaty negotiations;

– lay out a specified timeframe to achieve a new treaty; and

– establish a clear basis for negotiations.

There is a lot of work ahead. States must work together in the run up to the Vienna conference and must be as ambitious as possible when they arrive in Vienna at the end of the year. The Austrian government has framed Vienna as a continuation of the discussion on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. It should also mark the start of a process to ban nuclear weapons. Civil society, through the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), will work day and night to make this happen. After Nayarit, there can be no doubt that an international ban on nuclear weapons should be the next step in the movement to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction.

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