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Breaking news: One step closer to a ban treaty!

October 27, 2016

The UN First Committee approved a resolution this afternoon to mandate negotiations on a new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. Adopted by a strong majority vote—123-38-16—the resolution now goes to the General Assembly for a final vote before the end of the year.

“Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” specifies a 20-day negotiating conference open to all states, with meetings planned in March and June 2017. The goal of the conference, as set out in the resolution, is “to conclude as soon as possible a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

The debate on the resolution was contentious, with most non-nuclear-weapon states expressing dissatisfaction with the decades-long failure of the nuclear-armed states to fulfill their disarmament commitments and calling for more decisive action. The nuclear-armed states, which had boycotted the Open-Ended Working Group from which the resolution emerged, called the ban treaty impractical and destabilizing, and lobbied hard behind the scenes to increase the size of the no vote. The NATO states, as expected, voted against the resolution as a bloc, despite an overwhelming show of support in the EU Parliament on the day of the UN vote. By a 415-124 margin, with 74 abstentions, the EUP called on member states to support the negotiating conference and to participate in it constructively.

In the end, the Humanitarian Pledge states stood up to the intense pressure and voted to uphold the principle that nuclear weapons must be stigmatized, prohibited, and eliminated.

In a statement to the First Committee earlier in the month, ICAN praised the resolution and its sponsors for placing consequences at the center of the debate and for rejecting the strategic and political rationales offered by a few states for retaining nuclear weapons indefinitely.

Speaking on behalf of the campaign, Jasmin Nario Galace of The Philippines said “The ban treaty puts an end to the circular reasoning that has left disarmament in a holding pattern for far too long.

“Not only are the nuclear-armed states reneging on their disarmament commitments, they are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to re-equip their arsenals with new warheads, new delivery systems, and new nuclear infrastructure. The non-nuclear-armed states have said enough, with good cause.

“Along with civil society, they have rejected arguments for retaining nuclear weapons that place the strategic interests of a handful of states above the security interests of all states and all people. …The ban treaty is first and foremost about the security of all states threatened by the consequences of nuclear weapons.”

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