World Rejects Nuclear Weapons in 122-1 Vote at UN
At the United Nations in New York, a meeting convened by a December 2016 vote of the UN General Assembly has voted to make nuclear weapons illegal.
The decisive vote of 122 'yes' to 1 'no' vote took place this morning in the vast and packed Conference Room 1 just off the first sub-basement of the UN, after the Netherlands called for a vote. They were the sole 'NO' vote though Singapore abstained.
The vote was followed by prolonged cheers and clapping both from the many nongovernmental organisations present in the completely full Conference room 1 and in an overflow room, also completely full.
The President of the conference, Ambassador Elaine Whyte-Gomez of Costa Rica, could be seen with a number of other delegates, wiping away tears as the numbers flashed onto the electronic voting board.
As the vote was announced, she announced that there was a very long list of Governments that wished to speak about the decision. In fact as I write this release in the lunch-break that list has not been exhausted.
The vote followed three weeks of often agonizing negotiations, as well as two days of preliminary negotiations in March.
The Nuclear Prohibition Treaty arguably reinforces what is already implicit in both International Humanitarian Law and in article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), namely that nuclear weapons are illegal.
While it could be argued that nuclear weapons are already illegal this treaty for the first time provides an explicit multilateral legal instrument that outlaws them.
In taking the floor, country after country noted the historic nature of what was being done. Other weapons of mass destruction such as biological weapons and chemical weapons, as well as landmines, are illegal. Yet until today, a specific instrument outlawing nuclear weapons has not been in existence. Now, there is one. Governments also noted the critical role of civil society in bringing about this result, as well as its existential necessity.
People for Nuclear Disarmament's nuclear weapons campaigner John Hallam, who has been present for the full three weeks of the negotiation as well as participating in some of the conferences leading up to it, noted that:
" Nuclear weapons remain the only weapon that can destroy both civilization and much of the biosphere in less than a couple of hours and can do so by mistake - a mistake that has nearly taken place on upwards of a dozen terrifying occasions already."
"To eliminate nuclear weapons completely is an survival imperative that civilization cannot evade. Its clear that the overwhelming majority of the worlds Governments understand that narrow considerations of so called 'national security' cannot override the imperative of the survival of civilization and of the human species, which nuclear weapons place in jeopardy. We call on all Governments without exception, including especially the Governments of the 'official' nuclear weapon states and other states that possess nuclear weapons, to do their moral duty to the rest of the planet and to join the treaty and eliminate their nuclear arsenals."
"Ultimately, if we completely fail to eliminate nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons will eliminate us. Nuclear abolition is not a 'feel-good some-century' ambition. It is an urgent survival imperative and needs to be prioritised as such. The majority of the worlds Governments have shown that they understand that very well. Now the states that have nuclear weapons must come on board"
"We call on all Governments without exception, no matter what kinds of military alliances they may be involved with, to join the Treaty and to make the necessary changes in their security policies."
People for Nuclear Disarmament
Joint Press Statement from the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations of the United States, United Kingdom and France following the adoption of a treaty banning nuclear weapons*
7 July 2017
France, the United Kingdom and the United States have not taken part in the negotiation of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it. Therefore, there will be no change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to nuclear weapons. For example, we would not accept any claim that this treaty reflects or in any way contributes to the development of customary international law. Importantly, other states possessing nuclear weapons and almost all other states relying on nuclear deterrence have also not taken part in the negotiations.
This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment. Accession to the ban treaty is incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years. A purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security. It will do the exact opposite by creating even more divisions at a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of
growing threats, including those from the DPRK’s ongoing proliferation efforts. This
treaty offers no solution to the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program,
nor does it address other security challenges that make nuclear deterrence necessary. A ban treaty also risks undermining the existing international security architecture which contributes to the maintenance of international peace and security.