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If students can do it, why not the diplomats?

May 12, 2010

by Tim Wright

Negotiations began yesterday on a Nuclear Weapons Convention — but not among governments, unfortunately. Thirty university students from Hamburg, Germany, took part in the first day of a simulation exercise organized by the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation. The students have found it to be a valuable learning experience, but it might also teach disillusioned diplomats lessons on how it can be done.

“Not good enough”

As Norway pointed out yesterday, the current rate of progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free world is just not good enough. “After 65 years with nuclear weapons and 40 years with the NPT, we cannot claim that we are where we should be with nuclear disarmament … We must establish a new international nuclear agenda with an action plan for nuclear disarmament with clear benchmarks and deadlines holding us all accountable.”

Norway argued that, if governments are to succeed in implementing Article VI of the NPT and achieve the complete elimination of nuclear forces, they will need to negotiate an additional legal instrument. “This is a topic which is becoming increasingly relevant and important,” it said. “We are likely to see more discussions on this matter in the time to come.”

A legal obligation

Indeed, yesterday in Main Committee I, the need for negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention once again featured prominently, with Egypt, Malaysia and Libya, among others, raising the call. New Zealand — which votes in favour of the annual UN General Assembly resolution on a convention — welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s “strong push in his five-point plan for progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons”.

Last year, 124 governments — roughly two-thirds of all UN member states — backed the General Assembly resolution, which is a follow-up to the International Court of Justice’s landmark advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The court held, unanimously, that governments have a legal obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

In addition to the legal obligation, they also have a moral responsibility to present and future generations to succeed.

Tim Wright is the ICAN – NWC Project Coordinator

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