How to achieve a treaty banning nuclear weapons – Richard Moyes’ remarks to the ICAN Civil Society Forum, 3 March 2013

I’m Richard Moyes, from Article 36, an NGO that is part of ICAN UK and also on the International Steering Group of ICAN.  And I’m feeling very proud to be part of ICAN, and confident that we are going to make real progress this week.

I’m going to make a few comments about how we achieve a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and I will also reflect back on what was said by the panellists in the previous session.

I have three key things I want to discuss – issues that I think are important for where we are now.

The first is the need for us to focus on our goal.

Our goal is to prevent the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapon use from happening again. Not to delay it or postpone it – but to prevent it.  That means getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether.

To help us to get there we are working for a new legal treaty that will ban nuclear weapons.

So we have to focus on this goal.  This is important to ensure we work efficiently internally and also that we send a clear message externally.

We need to keep the humanitarian consequences as our starting point.

Yesterday we heard the testimony of survivors of nuclear weapon use and we were given a sense of the wider impact that such use would have on our society.

We need to make sure that people can’t look away from these facts.

And we want a treaty to address this problem.  But we also need to recognise that treaties don’t solve problems.   Treaties need to be implemented – they need to be made to work.  So we should not think of a treaty as the end – but rather as a tool to move us into a new phase of change.

And a treaty is achievable from where we are now.  We can do it without the nuclear armed states.  It is urgent that we stop giving the power to those states who we know do not want to change the rules on nuclear weapons.   We need to mobilise our friends.

We need to address the legal anomaly of nuclear weapons as the only weapons of mass destruction that are not subject to an explicit treaty prohibition.  If we look at that anomaly, and we look also at the broader rules and principles of international humanitarian law, it is clear that there is a legal problem to be addressed.  The coherence of the law compels us.

And we need to build on the commitments that states have already make through the establishment of the nuclear weapon free zones.   These provide building blocks towards an international ban.

So we need to focus on our goal.

And to get there we need to work with partners in a process.

Civil society can push states, we can encourage states, we can mobilise the public  – but it may be disappointing to you, it certainly is to me – that we can’t sign international legal treaties.

States make treaties.  And to make treaties we need more meetings – meetings in a process that follows rules suited to reaching the goal.  As John Borrie said – we don’t want to see people changing the goal to match the rules – we need meetings that follow rules that can get us to the goal.

We need to build leadership by a group of states that will drive that process.  And we need to work with them and with other partners in UN agencies and international organisations like the ICRC.  And that leadership will be based on us having the trust and confidence to work together effectively.

And that brings me onto my last point, which is thinking about how we work together.

Just as we need trust and confidence in our relationships with external partners, these are also the key building blocks of our work together.

Working in coalitions isn’t easy.  And we are a broad coalition – a campaign of lots of difference organisations, with different roles and different perspectives.  We don’t want to be too controlling, but as Anna MacDonald noted, it is also important to have a clear common message.  We will not always agree with each other but we will work through these differences because we are brought together by our focus on a common goal.

We don’t know the outcome of the government meeting that will take place next week.  We shouldn’t expect too much.

But it is looking at the humanitarian consequences of these weapons – so it has the right focus.

It is bringing together the right actors – states, international organisations and civil society who can work as partners in a process.

And it has brought us here for this forum.  And I feel confident that the relationships of trust and confidence that we build this week, here amongst ourselves, will make us a ‘strong force’ towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Thank you.

Posted in: Conference statements, Nuclear weapons,