Ban treaty recommendation on its way to UN First Committee
The world took one step closer to banning nuclear weapons today, when the UN Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament (OEWG) voted to recommend that the General Assembly mandate negotiations on a ban treaty to commence in 2017 when it meets in New York in October.
Despite a boycott of the OEWG deliberations by the nuclear-armed states and attempts to dilute or derail the outcome by a minority of nuclear-dependent states, the Humanitarian Pledge states and their allies from ICAN, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and others from civil society held firm to their demand for more effective measures to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.
The final vote—which was demanded by Australia in a last-minute attempt to block the ban treaty recommendation—was 68 yes, 22 no, 13 abstentions. When states that were not in the room for the vote are counted, the number of ban treaty supporters participating in the OEWG was 107. An additional 20 Humanitarian Pledge states were not present during the final week of the OEWG.
The OEWG recommendations confirm that a profound shift has taken place in nuclear weapons politics and diplomacy. The overwhelming majority of states has now affirmed that the medical, scientific, and humanitarian evidence about nuclear weapons requires that they be banned and eliminated—and with great urgency. They have rejected the notion that nuclear weapons can provide security for some states while posing an existential threat to all. Moreover, they have asserted real leadership in the absence of any from the nuclear-armed states and their dependents.
The next step is submission of a resolution to the UN First Committee, defining and authorizing a negotiating mandate and setting a timeline for bringing those negotiations to a conclusion.