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We have a ban treaty draft

May 22, 2017

Cover letter from ban treaty conference president Elayne Whyte, who released the draft text today.

The Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was released today in Geneva by the president of the negotiating conference, Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica. The draft is based upon proposals made and discussed by participating states and civil society during the first negotiating session in March, and will be the starting point when negotiations resume in June.

In a cover letter accompanying the draft, Ambassador Whyte urged the negotiators to “work together, with a sense of urgency toward a successful Conference that will conclude by agreeing on a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.”

The preamble to the specific provisions, which describe the prohibitions and positive obligations established by the treaty, underscores the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons and the consequence need to make every effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances.”

That phrase “under any circumstances” is important, because it sets an early marker that the parties to the treaty reject the argument frequently made by nuclear-armed states and those in extended deterrence relationships with nuclear-armed states, that they must continue to rely on nuclear weapons and be prepared to use them, “if necessary,” for their own national security.

The draft language in the next paragraph spells out the basis for the prohibitions that follow:

The catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and for the health of future generations, and the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on maternal health and on girls.

This has been IPPNW’s message for almost 40 years, and the implicit reference to our evidence about nuclear famine and the climate effects of nuclear war in one of the first sentences of the draft is a clear indication of the impact this evidence has had on the entire process leading up to this moment. The recognition early in the draft of “the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) as well as those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons” is appropriate and essential. Provisions in the operative sections of the draft treaty assert the rights of those victims, including their right to medical, social, and economic assistance.

Article 1 of the draft treaty lists prohibitions against development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. There are also specific prohibitions against nuclear testing; the use of nuclear weapons; the transfer or receipt of nuclear weapons, directly or indirectly, “to any recipient”; and assisting anyone to engage in any prohibited activities.

Additional articles in the draft deal with implementation measures, such as verification procedures for states that join the treaty once they have eliminated their nuclear weapons. Article 13 requires each state party to “encourage States not party to this Convention to ratify, accept, approve or accede to this Convention, with the goal of attracting the adherence of all States to this Convention.” This is a clear indication that the ban treaty is viewed by the negotiators not only as a legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons, but also as a political tool intended to bring pressure upon the nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states to eliminate their outlawed weapons.

The draft stipulates that the treaty will be of unlimited duration, is not subject to reservations (although amendments are possible), and will enter into force once it has been ratified by 40 states.

The draft appears to capture most of the elements on which there was consensus or near-consensus during the March negotiating session. Debate will continue in June on some unresolved topics.

With a strong draft now in hand and three more weeks of negotiations beginning on June 15, during which the final treaty can be made even stronger in order to close the legal gap completely, it’s important that all governments now prove their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons by participating in this historic process to outlaw them.

  1. Kelly Daniels permalink
    May 31, 2017 5:25 am

    Non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use are surely more pressing? Are those that have these weapons signing up? Isn’t this splintering the anti-nuclear movement? The posturing of nuclear armed states has to be the focus currently. If they have the weapons, there must be an intent, however slight, that they will be used, not to mention the ongoing likelihood of an accident. It may be a step forward, but it’s not THE step forward.

  2. May 22, 2017 2:24 pm

    I am very happy, that this draft exists. It is now of dramatic importance to make sure, that the moral and real sanctions become according to the wished agreement with the years stronger and stronger to reduce atomic weapons more and more to zero…

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