Skip to content

Banning the most destructive weapons of all

May 11, 2010

by Tim Wright

If there was a single message to come out of the NPT Review Conference on Friday, it was this: There are treaties outlawing anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, biological weapons and chemical weapons. Why should it not be possible to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons, the most destructive weapons of all?

In Main Committee I, Brazil joined the growing call for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, arguing that a successful Review Conference outcome is predicated on the definition of clear objectives on a number of points, including a commitment to the goal of concluding a Nuclear Weapons Convention “outlawing this category of weapons entirely, with a well-defined time frame, in line with the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions”.

Civil society presentations

On Friday, non-government organizations also had an opportunity to take part formally in proceedings at the Review Conference. The urgent need for a convention was the overarching theme of the presentations. The keynote speaker, Jody Williams — an ICAN supporter who shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her involvement in the successful campaign for a mine ban treaty — said this to diplomats: “It is time for all governments to come together — with the support of civil society around the world — to chart our course to a nuclear-free future by beginning the negotiation of a comprehensive treaty banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Now. Not in years or decades. Now.”

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, vice-chair of ICAN, also urged states parties to begin the process for a convention. “Our route, timing and even humanity’s survival will depend on whether we can commit ourselves to this journey now,” she said. “This NPT Review Conference needs to agree on the treaty destination and set in motion the preparatory process and plans to get there as quickly as humanly possible.”

Building the movement

Dozens of peace and anti-nuclear groups belonging to the Abolition 2000 network — whose goal is to ensure genuine human security for all peoples — met on Sunday to develop an action plan towards a peaceful, nuclear-free world. The groups adopted a declaration, which stated: “Building on the groundswell of international public opinion, we call on all governments to begin negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention to ban all nuclear weapons by 2020.”

Public opinion is already solidly on our side. Opinion polls conducted in 21 countries in 2008 revealed that, on average, 76% of people would be happy for their government to sign on to a Nuclear Weapons Convention, with just 16% opposed to the idea. An absolute majority of respondents in all of the nuclear-armed states expressed support for a convention, except in Pakistan, which had a plurality of people in favour. In the United States, 77% endorsed the idea; in Russia, 69%; in the United Kingdom, 81%; in France, 86%; and in China, 83%.

Clearly there is a popular mandate to act. So what are governments waiting for?

Tim Wright is the ICAN – NWC Project Coordinator

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: