Ban Nuclear Weapons: Endorse the Austrian Pledge

February 24th, 2015 - by admin

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – 2015-02-24 22:04:13

The Austrian Pledge:
The US Fails to Support Worldwide Push to Ban Nuclear Weapons. Why Won’t US Media Report This Story?

Ban the Bomb: Endorse the Austrian Pledge
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

“I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.”

“We welcome the pledge by the Austrian government . . . [and] urge all states to commence negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the earliest possible time, and subsequently to conclude the negotiations within two years.”

Please find below ICAN’s report on last year’s Vienna conference and civil society forum. We hope it will be useful in informing your government officials, parliamentarians, partners, donors and so on about this important event and the growing momentum for ban treaty negotiations.

Good luck in persuading your government to endorse the Austrian Pledge!


“Austria pledges to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders . . . to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.”
The Austrian Pledge


• “Many delegations stressed the need for security for all and underscored that the only way to guarantee this security is through the total elimination of nuclear weapons and their prohibition. They expressed support for the negotiation of a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons, constituting an effective measure towards nuclear disarmament, as required also by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”


• “Austria calls on all states parties to the Non- Proliferation Treaty to renew their commitment to the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under article VI, and to this end, to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, and Austria pledges to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.”

• “Austria pledges to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, states, international organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, parliamentarians and civil society in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.”

Read the full chair’s summary and Austrian Pledge at


• Delegates from 158 governments attended the Vienna conference, up from 146 in Nayarit and 128 in Oslo.

• Around 100 governments delivered national statements, with many calling for negotiations on a ban.

• The UN secretary-general and Pope Francis issued strong messages denouncing nuclear weapons.

• The perspectives of nuclear test survivors and the Red Cross movement featured prominently.

• Austria concluded with a pledge to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

• All governments have since been invited to join the Austrian Pledge to show their support for abolition.

(February 2015) — A commitment to act
From fact-based discussions to the start of negotiations

The landmark Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, hosted by Austria from 8 to 9 December 2014, concluded with an extraordinary pledge “to fill the legal gap” for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Nations must now commence negotiations on a treaty banning these weapons completely.

The Vienna conference was the third and most widely attended in a series of major diplomatic conferences held over the past two years to examine the grave risks and catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapon detonations.

Beginning in Oslo in March 2013 and continuing in Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014, this humanitarian-centered process has shed new light on the dangers of living in a world armed to the brink with thousands of nuclear weapons, and underscored the necessity and paramount urgency of eliminating this intolerable threat to humanity and the planet as a whole.

The compelling and bold pledge delivered by Austria at the conclusion of the conference is a resounding call to action, a tool with which governments and civil society can now transform this process from a fact-based dialogue to the start of diplomatic negotiations for a ban. Outlawing nuclear weapons is not a radical proposition: it enjoys widespread support among governments and the public, and is the logical and responsible course of action in light of the indiscriminate and unacceptable effects of any use of nuclear weapons.

Although Austria presented the “Austrian Pledge” solely in its national capacity, and not as a consensus outcome of the Vienna conference, the Austrian foreign ministry has since invited all other interested states to endorse it. ICAN is confident that, over the coming months, many will do so — and signal their intention to start negotiations in 2015 on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

As a global civil society coalition working to achieve such a treaty, ICAN stands firmly behind the Austrian Pledge and will mobilize our campaigners around the world to promote it to governments and the public alike.

Factual Conclusions
The Vienna conference built on the evidence-based findings of the Oslo and Nayarit conferences, and added a new legal dimension to the debate. Conclusions drawn from the panels, as reflected in the Austrian chair’s summary, included:

• The impact of any nuclear weapon detonation, irrespective of cause, would not be constrained by national borders, and could have regional and even global consequences.

• Nuclear weapon detonations cause destruction, death and displacement, as well as profound and long-term damage to the environment, the climate and human health. Indeed, they threaten the very survival of humankind.

• The scope, scale and inter-relationship of the humanitarian consequences caused by nuclear weapon detonations are catastrophic and more complex than commonly understood.

• The use and testing of nuclear weapons have demonstrated their devastating immediate and long-term effects. Nuclear testing around the world has left a legacy of serious health and environmental harm. Radiation has contaminated the food chain and is still measurable in the atmosphere to this day.

• The risks of accidental, mistaken, unauthorized or intentional use of nuclear weapons are evident due to the vulnerability of nuclear command-and-control networks to human error and cyber-attacks, and the maintaining of nuclear arsenals on high levels of alert.

• Limiting the role of nuclear weapons to deterrence does not preclude the possibility of their use, nor does it address the risks stemming from accidental use. The only assurance against nuclear weapon detonations is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

• No state or international body could address in an adequate manner the immediate humanitarian emergency or long-term consequences caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in a populated area, nor provide adequate assistance to those affected.

• There is no comprehensive, universal legal norm prohibiting the possession, transfer, production or use of nuclear weapons. The mere existence of these weapons raises profound ethical and moral questions on a level transcending legal discussions.

As noted also in the chair’s summary, many delegations argued that humanitarian concerns should be at the core of all deliberations on nuclear disarmament, and affirmed that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.

They criticized other states for continuing to adhere to the doctrine of “nuclear deterrence”, and for expending vast, precious resources on upgrading their nuclear arsenals. Given the lack of progress in recent years towards nuclear disarmament, many delegations called for a diplomatic process to negotiate a legal instrument clearly prohibiting nuclear weapons, in order to advance the cause of abolition.

A legal deficit: time to fill the gap
“It is an anomaly that nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be subjected to a comprehensive, global prohibition,” South Africa remarked in its national statement in the general debate, before pledging to work for the establishment of “higher norms” against nuclear weapons.

As the only country to have developed its own nuclear arsenal and then dismantled it entirely, South Africa has become a leader in humanitarian-based efforts to advance nuclear disarmament. It assured participants that it is considering “follow-on activities and meetings”.

Many other delegations, as well as expert panelists, drew attention to this extraordinary deficit in international law. Indonesia, for example, pointed out: “The international community has been successful in banning the use of other weapons that, individually, can generate only a small percentage of a nuclear weapon’s overall destructive force.”

This includes not only chemical and biological weapons, but also anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. The Irish delegation questioned why nuclear weapons should somehow be deemed more “legitimate”, “necessary” or “justifiable” than other inherently indiscriminate, inhumane weapons of war.

An appropriate milestone
Setsuko Thurlow, a champion of the ban treaty approach, was 13 years old when the United States attacked her city of Hiroshima with a 15-kiloton atomic bomb on 6 August 1945, killing family members and classmates. In powerful testimony delivered in the opening session of the Vienna conference, she implored governments to work courageously “to establish a legally binding framework to ban nuclear weapons”.

Borrowing language from the chair’s summary of the Nayarit conference, she argued that the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to be commemorated in August 2015, are the “appropriate milestone” by which to achieve our goal. Several national delegations, and ICAN, repeated this message during the general debate.

In a video statement, ICAN supporter Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa, said: “I very much hope that next year [2015] will mark the beginning of negotiations for a ban. What better way to honour the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 70th anniversary year of the atomic bombings . . . Together, let us seize this historic opportunity.”

Compelling stories of test survivors
The Vienna conference drew attention not only to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in war, but also the impact of nuclear testing. Since the dawn of the atomic age in 1945, more than 2,000 nuclear test explosions have been carried out at some 60 sites globally.

The toll on human health and the environment has been staggering. The legacy of the tests underscores the need for concerted action to ensure that nuclear weapons are never detonated again — whether in war, by accident or as part of testing programmes.

The Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum, delivered a keynote address at the ICAN civil society forum eloquently and powerfully describing the suffering that his people have endured over many decades as a result of US nuclear testing. He recounted the unforgettable sound and bright light of the blasts conducted during his boyhood years.

Though the tests ended in 1958, parts of the Marshall Islands remain uninhabitable to this day due to radioactive contamination. Abacca Anjain- Maddison, a former Marshallese senator, spoke in Vienna of the wounds inflicted on her people, and their ongoing displacement from their home atolls.

In April 2014 the Marshall Islands, a nation of just 50,000 people, initiated legal proceedings in the International Court of Justice against all nine nuclear-armed nations, in an effort to compel them to pursue negotiations for the total prohibition
and elimination of their nuclear armaments. These landmark cases will continue in 2015.

Sue Coleman-Haseldine, an Aboriginal woman of the Kokatha Mula nation of South Australia, described the impact of British nuclear tests and plutonium experiments on her homeland, carried out in the 1950s and ’60s with the full and active support of the Australian government of the day.

“Many people died and became sick in the immediate test areas,” she said. “There are many Aboriginal people who cannot go back to their ancestral lands, and their children and children’s children will never know the special religious places it contains.”

Michelle Thomas, from Utah in the United States, provided searing testimony on the effects of her government’s nuclear test programme on her health and that of others living in “downwind” communities. “At school, we learn that A stands for ‘atomic’, B stands for ‘bomb’, C stands for ‘cancer’ and D stands for ‘death’,” she said.

From Kazakhstan, Karipbek Kuyukov — born with no arms due to radiation exposure from Soviet- era nuclear tests conducted at the Semipalatinsk site — called on governments the world over to unite in efforts to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

The chair of the Vienna conference, in his closing remarks, said that the testimonies of nuclear test survivors, and of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “exemplified the unspeakable suffering caused to ordinary civilians by nuclear weapons”.

United Nations’ support
In a message to the conference, the UN secretary- general, Ban Ki-moon, praised the Austrian government for its leadership, commenting that the humanitarian initiative had “energized” civil society and governments alike.

“The more we understand about the humanitarian impacts, the more it becomes clear that we must pursue disarmament as an urgent imperative,” he told delegates. Nuclear weapons are neither “a rational response to growing international tensions” nor “a symbol of national prestige”.

The secretary-general was especially critical of nuclear-armed nations for continuing to pour funds into modernizing their nuclear arsenals while the world is failing to meet the challenges posed by poverty, climate change and extremism. He encouraged all governments to pursue “effective measures” to achieve nuclear disarmament.

It was the first time that the UN secretary-general had sent a message to one of the conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, reflecting the heightened global interest in this process.

Many United Nations agencies also contributed to the Vienna conference, including the UN Development Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the World Health Organization.

Strong Red Cross presence
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement continues to play a leading role in humanitarian-focused efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In Vienna it appealed to states to negotiate a legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons and provide for their total elimination.

“All other weapons of mass destruction, namely chemical and biological weapons, have been banned. Nuclear weapons — which have far worse consequences than those weapons — must now be specifically prohibited and eliminated as a matter of urgency,” it said.

First responders from the Austrian Red Cross greeted participants as they entered the conference venue — the historic Hofburg Palace — by simulating a nuclear emergency. Suited in bright yellow protective gear, with gas masks covering their faces, they tested delegates for radioactive contamination.

As at previous conferences in this process, the Red Cross emphasized the impossibility of administering an adequate humanitarian response in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation, no matter the size of the detonation or where in the world it may occur.

In 2011 the Red Cross movement adopted a landmark resolution dealing solely with the issue of nuclear weapons, followed in 2013 with a four-year action plan to advance negotiations on a ban. The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, addressed the opening session of the Vienna conference, and many representatives from national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies also participated.

Pope denounces deterrence
Pope Francis has put the full weight of the Catholic Church behind the global movement to ban nuclear weapons. In a message to the Vienna conference,
he urged governments and civil society “to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home”.

While the Holy See has long championed a nuclear-weapon-free world, the papal statement in Vienna went beyond previous declarations in that it condemned the policy of nuclear deterrence in unequivocal terms.

Deterrence, it said, “cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence”. During the conference, the Holy See also released a detailed policy document on nuclear disarmament, which stated: “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons, but the immorality of their possession, thereby clearing the road to abolition.”

At the height of the Cold War, the Holy See had given limited acceptance to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence as a temporary state of affairs. However, in more recent years, it expressed concern that deterrence was being used to legitimate the modernization and build-up of nuclear arsenals.

In his statement to the conference, the pope warned of the extraordinary, unchecked power of the military–industrial complex, urging concerted action by citizens around the world to defeat it. “The human family will have to become united in order to overcome powerful institutionalized interests that are invested in nuclear armaments,” he said.

He also scorned nuclear-armed nations for squandering resources on nuclear weapons, “which would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health, and the fight against extreme poverty”.

The Holy See’s clear denunciation of nuclear weapons should prompt at least some Western governments that currently subscribe to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, or “extended” nuclear deterrence, to question the morality of this position.

The pathway forward
In light of the tremendous success of the Vienna conference, the year ahead promises to be a watershed for global efforts to ban nuclear weapons. ICAN believes that treaty negotiations can and should begin in time for the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 2015.

The Austrian Pledge, once it is widely endorsed, will constitute a clear commitment by states to advance the goal of abolition. We have no doubt that some nations will refuse to participate in ban treaty negotiations, while others will do their utmost to undermine the process.

But forward we must go, for continued inaction is no option, as the Vienna conference so starkly proved: it would all but guarantee a repeat of the horrors of seven decades ago, or much worse. It is time to “fill the legal gap” — by pursuing with courage and conviction a treaty to outlaw these ultimate weapons of terror.

Widespread media coverage
The Vienna conference attracted much media attention — considerably more than the two previous conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

Many media outlets deemed the participation of the United States and United Kingdom to be an especially significant development, as both countries had earlier dismissed the humanitarian process as a “distraction”, choosing to boycott the Oslo and Nayarit conferences.

ICAN campaigners were interviewed for stories and had their opinion pieces featured online and in print. In all, more than 100 news items were published about the forum and conference. Several television segments were broadcast, mostly by Japanese news outlets, whose journalists were present throughout.

There was unique coverage in at least 17 countries. With approximately 22 articles in the United States, 16 in Austria and 10 in the United Kingdom, the media attention was unusually high for a conference on nuclear disarmament.

“Action to limit the risks of a deliberate or even accidental nuclear attack is ‘insufficient’, a pan-global group of political, military and diplomatic figures has warned,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported, while the AFP wrote: “The United States and Britain . . . for the first time attended a global conference discussing the risks posed by nuclear weapons, reversing their snubbing of previous rounds.”

Amnesty International backs a ban
On the first day of the Vienna conference, ICAN and Amnesty International hand-delivered a letter to the Austrian foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, congratulating him on his leadership and encouraging him to take the next step of pursuing negotiations on a nuclear weapon ban.

This was the first time that Amnesty International centrally had lent its support to the campaign for a ban; a number of national Amnesty chapters had previously participated in ICAN actions.

For several years, the organization has had in place a policy opposing “the use, possession, production and transfer of nuclear weapons, given their indiscriminate nature”. Nuclear weapons, in Amnesty’s view, threaten the most fundamental of all human rights — the right to life.

In the joint letter, we wrote that the humanitarian initiative “represented an important turning point”, with the conferences in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna having opened space for greater engagement from civil society, international organizations, and states.

“It is clear to us and to a growing number of states that the logical conclusion of these evidence-based gatherings will lead to a diplomatic process to prohibit nuclear weapons,” the letter read. This process should proceed “with all those states ready to participate”, and Austria is “well placed” to lead. Amnesty International played a leading role in the successful Control Arms campaign to achieve the Arms Trade Treaty, which entered into force just two weeks after the Vienna conference concluded. The joint letter signals Amnesty’s readiness to participate in a diplomatic process to ban nuclear weapons.

Indicators of success
Many factors demonstrated that ICAN’s advocacy work leading up to and during the Vienna conference was successful, including:

• An increase in the number and diversity of ICAN partner organizations around the world, and their high attendance in Vienna;

• The meaningful engagement for the first time of major organizations such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace International;

• A large number of nations participating in the Vienna conference — more than at the two previous humanitarian conferences;

• An increase in the level of interest in ICAN’s work and the idea of a ban treaty from media, think tanks and the general public;

• A significant increase in the number and clarity of calls by states for the start of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons;

• A pledge by the Austrian government to “fill the legal gap” for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

• A growing acceptance among governments that a treaty banning nuclear weapons can — and should — be pursued now.

Promoting the Austrian Pledge
ICAN’s activities over the coming months will focus on enlisting widespread support for the Austrian Pledge. Seven decades on from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, this must be the year to begin negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The forthcoming review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to be held in April and May 2015, will be an important opportunity to build on the success of the Vienna conference by affirming the need to “fill the legal gap” for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Austria has vowed to present the factual findings of the Vienna conference, together with the Austrian Pledge, to all NPT parties. This should form the basis for concerted action.

Article VI of the NPT obliges nuclear and non-nuclear states alike to pursue “effective measures” to achieve nuclear disarmament. The New Agenda Coalition, a cross- regional group of like-minded nations, has proposed a nuclear weapon ban treaty as a possible pathway to implement article VI. Such a treaty should be pursued now, despite continued resistance from nuclear-armed states and some of their allies.

A ban is the logical and necessary response to the increased global awareness of the unacceptable effects of nuclear weapons from a humanitarian standpoint. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for nuclear-armed states to live up to their decades-old legal obligations, or for the magical “conditions” to be right for nuclear disarmament.

While we wait, we get no closer to elimination. While we wait, the risks of the use of nuclear weapons remain. While we wait, the catastrophic and overwhelming consequences of such use do not diminish. This
is the year for action. ICAN looks forward to accompanying states along the road to a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Which Countries Called for a Ban in Vienna?

More countries than ever before called for the start of negotiations on a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons. Here is a selection of what they said.

“The discussions and conclusions [of the Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna conferences] should now feed a diplomatic process leading to the negotiation and conclusion of a legally binding instrument for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.”

“We join the call at the conference of Nayarit to begin as soon as possible a process that will lead us to the negotiation of a legally binding instrument.”

“We support an inclusive negotiating process with civil society for a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.”

“We also support the call by this conference to adopt, in the near future, an international legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

“The time has come to initiate a diplomatic process to negotiate a legally binding instrument that prohibits nuclear weapons . . .”

“Austria pledges to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders . . . to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.”

“I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all”

“Mali joins the present diplomatic process aimed at negotiating a treaty banning nuclear weapons . . .”

“It is time to begin, without delay, a diplomatic process to negotiate a legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons . . .”

“It is therefore with a sense of urgency that we engage in the discourse on nuclear disarmament and move towards a ban on these lethal weapons.”

“Senegal invites all states to join this emerging process to achieve an international legally binding convention banning nuclear weapons under all circumstances.”

“The international community needs to take immediate action to fully ban nuclear weapons . . .”

“We raise our voice and join the call for the initiation of a diplomatic process to negotiate a legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons, and . . . we pledge our support to the process.”

“Guinea-Bissau thinks that it is time to trigger a diplomatic process that should
be transparent and inclusive in order to negotiate a legal instrument constraining and banning nuclear weapons.”

“Uganda believes that the time has come for a diplomatic process to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.”

“In Oslo and Nayarit we had concrete proof that we have a real opportunity to prohibit nuclear weapons — the only ones that could end life on Earth.”

“These inhuman weapons are not legitimate. We need to create the conditions so that these weapons would be abrogated, or at least their use banned, through a convention that would complement the Non- Proliferation Treaty.”

“[Ecuador] shares the wish of most of the countries of the international community to begin a negotiating process to finally create a legally binding instrument prohibiting the production, development, acquisition, stockpiling, testing, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons . . .”

“Ghana joins the call for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.”

“The exchanges over these two days should lead to the launching of a diplomatic process aimed at negotiating and adopting a legal instrument banning nuclear weapons . . .”

“This conference in Vienna should lead to an action plan aimed at creating a legally binding instrument totally banning nuclear weapons . . .”

“We must immediately embark on concrete measures on how the legally binding international instrument that outlaws the use, production, deployment, stockpiling and transfer of nuclear weapons can be realized.”

“It is an anomaly that nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be subjected to a comprehensive, global prohibition. South Africa has no doubt that conferences like these . . . will contribute towards the establishment of higher norms against nuclear weapons.”

“Uruguay wishes to express its strong support for a legally binding instrument that would prohibit nuclear weapons . . .”
“These inhuman weapons are not legitimate. We need to create the conditions so that these weapons would be abrogated, or at least their use banned, through a convention that would complement the Non- Proliferation Treaty.”

“[Jordan] joins the UN’s calls for the early start of negotiations on a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons.”

“The role of the public is essential for the goal of banning nuclear weapons . . .”

“It’s time to start a serious diplomatic process to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons . . .”

“We reiterate that it is time for states to start working on a legal ban on nuclear weapons.”

“We welcome the call made at the Nayarit conference for a legally binding instrument to prohibit all nuclear weapons.”

“This is the time to outlaw nuclear weapons, before the world experiences a nuclear terror.”

“My delegation . . . supports the logical conclusion of the evidence-based gatherings in Oslo, Nayarit and now Vienna to launch a diplomatic process to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

“. . . it is high time to start a diplomatic process to outlaw nuclear weapons.”

“The growing recognition among governments of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is a positive development which cannot be ignored nor be denied. This must now be translated into meaningful action towards a treaty to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.”

“This conference in Vienna strengthens further our resolve to support
the growing trend to ban nuclear weapons.”

“We feel there is a growing sense that international legal standards and norms must be strengthened. We support further discussions in a concrete direction, including on the possibility of a legal instrument to address this deficit.”

“This awareness must translate into action on how we can immediately and effectively ban and eliminate the world’s remaining nuclear weapons.”

“The international community has been successful in banning the use of other weapons that, individually, can generate only a small percentage of a nuclear weapon’s overall destructive force . . . Based on such precedence, there is absolutely no comprehensible reason why a worse predicate cannot be attributed to nuclear weapons.”

“Timor-Leste joins the other countries in calling for dialogue and a diplomatic process that will ban nuclear weapons.”

“We hope to finalize this process by which states can begin negotiating a legally binding instrument on
the prohibition of nuclear weapons.”

Message: The Momentum of this Campaign is Unstoppable
Desmond Tutu

To my brothers and sisters in the ICAN movement, I extend my warmest greetings from South Africa. Although I could not be with you in Vienna for this important gathering, rest assured that I am right by your side in this noble effort to free the world from nuclear arms.

Our task, of course, is not an easy one. But nor was ending Apartheid in South Africa. Through perseverance, conviction and determination, we defeated the forces of injustice and hatred. We won because we stood on the right side of history; we stood for a just and moral cause. And you, too, stand on the right side of history.

I am confident that, before long, the voices in favor of total nuclear disarmament will drown out those who say that the world cannot change. The writing should already be on the wall for the nuclear powers. A treaty banning nuclear weapons is on its way. The momentum of this campaign is unstoppable.

You achieved much in Oslo and Nayarit. This Vienna conference, no doubt, will be another important milestone on the path to a ban. The vast majority of governments are demanding urgent action. No longer are the world’s peoples willing to be held hostage to these unspeakable weapons of terror.

My dear friend and comrade, the late Nelson Mandela, was an outspoken critic of nuclear arms. He regarded the dismantlement of South Africa’s nuclear arsenal as a necessary part of our transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. He implored all other nuclear powers to disarm as well. In his honor, and for the sake of humanity, let us all intensify our efforts to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end. We can — and must — succeed.

I wish you well over the coming days as you work hard to strengthen the international resolve to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons. I was delighted to learn that your next major gathering may well be here in South Africa. That would be most fitting, indeed. We will, of course, welcome you with open arms. These arms with which we embrace each other are the only arms we need!

Dear friends, I very much hope that next year will mark the beginning of negotiations for a ban. What better way to honor the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 70th anniversary year of the atomic bombings. Only by eliminating nuclear weapons can we ensure that no one else ever suffers as they did. That must be our driving motivation. Together, let us seize this historic opportunity.

Desmond Tutu, a supporter of ICAN, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. This is the transcript of his video message to the civil society forum.

Analysis: ICAN Partners React Online to the Vienna Conference

Ray Acheson

“Nuclear deterrence took a hit at the Vienna conference, with most states reiterating long-held views that nuclear weapons bring insecurity and instability, not safety and protection . . . Yet despite the consistent and overwhelming objections to the concept and practice of nuclear deterrence, human society has still failed to establish law prohibiting and setting out a framework for the elimination of nuclear weapons in the same way it has for biological and chemical weapons. Why?

“It is not because nuclear weapons have some sort of inherent magical value that other weapons of mass destruction do not have. It has much more to do with the way nuclear weapons are positioned within the political–military–academic–industrial nexus than anything else.

“Any ‘magic’ these weapons are perceived to possess has been falsely granted to them by those who benefit from them materially or politically. But like all magic, the illusion can be unmasked and its power taken away.”

Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
Dr Rebecca Johnson

“Though these nuclear-armed governments [the United States, United Kingdom, India and Pakistan, as well as China in an unofficial capacity] were warmly welcomed [in Vienna], some of their statements were troubling, as they seemed unable to engage with the evidence demonstrating the security dangers and military uselessness of such weapons of mass suffering, choosing instead to underline their desperate reliance on nuclear weaponry for the foreseeable future.

“The United States shocked many — including its own allies — by following the powerful testimonies of two survivors of American nuclear testing, Michelle Thomas of Utah and Abacca Anjain-Maddison of the Marshall Islands, with a tone-deaf, standard text that just reiterated US nuclear policies and positions.

“A later US statement tried to regain some of the goodwill engendered by the Obama administration’s decision to participate in the Vienna conference, but still largely missed its mark.”

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
John Loretz

“The Austrian Pledge means that we can now begin the real work of bringing willing states together around a political process to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons . . .

“The chair’s summary is a powerful and persuasive document, spelling out in precise language all of the evidence and key conclusions of the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. And while it reflects the full range of views that were expressed during the discussions about how to deal with this evidence, it also indicates which of those views had substantial support.

“By the end of the conference, more than enough states had taken up ICAN’s call for a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons to make a start down that road . . . The Austrian Pledge completes the transition from learning about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons to acting upon the evidence and pursuing a ban treaty as the real ‘game changer’ that will deliver a world without nuclear weapons.”

Statement: Let Us Move Forward, Courageously, to a Ban
Setsuko Thurlow

To the government of Austria, on behalf of all survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would like to express my deep gratitude and respect for hosting this extremely important follow-up conference to the Oslo and Nayarit conferences. Deep thanks also to ICAN, whose inspiration has brought us together, and to the Red Cross and citizen groups from all over the world, working with governments to call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

It gives me great satisfaction that these conferences have renewed the focus on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear weapons — the fundamental issue, yet long neglected by the shifting of the world’s attention to the doctrine of deterrence in the name of national and international security.

As a 13-year-old schoolgirl I witnessed my city of Hiroshima blinded by the flash, flattened by the hurricane-like blast, burned in the heat of 4,000 degrees Celsius and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb.

A bright summer morning turned to dark twilight with smoke and dust rising in the mushroom cloud, dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water and receiving no medical care at all. The spreading firestorm and the foul stench of burnt flesh filled the air. Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building, about 1.8km from ground zero.

Most of my classmates in the same room were burned alive. I can still hear their voices calling their mothers and God for help. As I escaped with two other surviving girls, we saw a procession of ghostly figures slowly shuffling from the centre of the city — grotesquely wounded people, whose clothes were tattered, or who were made naked by the blast.

They were bleeding, burned, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing, flesh and skin hanging from their bones, some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands, and some with their stomachs burst open, their intestines hanging out.

Within that single flash of light, my beloved Hiroshima became a place of desolation, with heaps of rubble, skeletons and blackened corpses everywhere. Of a population of 360,000 — largely non-combatant women, children and the elderly — most became victims of the indiscriminate massacre of the atomic bombing. As of now, over 250,000 victims have perished in Hiroshima from the effects of the blast, heat and radiation.

Today, 69 years later, people are still dying from the delayed effects of one atomic bomb, considered crude by today’s standard for mass destruction.

Through months and years of struggle for survival, rebuilding lives out of the ashes, we hibakusha, or “survivors”, became convinced that no human being should ever have to repeat our experience of the inhumane, immoral, and cruel atomic bombing, and that our mission is to warn the world about the reality of the nuclear threat and to help people understand the illegality and ultimate evil of nuclear weapons. We believe that humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist indefinitely.

Thus, we have a moral imperative to abolish nuclear arsenals, in order to ensure a safe, clean and just world for future generations. With this conviction we have been speaking out around the world for the past several decades for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Yet, hibakusha are increasingly frustrated, just as all of us here are, by the lack of tangible progress towards nuclear disarmament. This, in spite of our baring our souls with painful memories over the past 69 years to warn people about the hell on earth that we experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How much longer can we allow the nuclear- weapon states to continue threatening all life on earth?

At Nayarit we declared that the time has come for action to establish a legally binding framework to ban nuclear weapons. Here in Vienna let us move forward, courageously, by concretizing our vision, so that we can make the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the appropriate milestone to achieve our goal: to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Let us start this process, beginning here in Vienna with negotiations on a ban treaty.

Setsuko Thurlow, an ICAN supporter and member of Hibakusha Stories, spoke at the civil society forum and government conference. These are her remarks delivered at the latter.

Statement: Indiscriminate Weapons Get Banned
Nadja Schmidt

We have heard alarming evidence about the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. We have heard about the risks of detonations, either accidental or intentional. We have heard that no effective response is possible.

We have also heard the stories of people who have survived the use or testing of nuclear weapons. Their stories illustrate that nuclear weapons are unacceptable and should therefore be clearly prohibited.

What stands out from the session on legal frameworks is that we are currently lacking an instrument that explicitly characterizes nuclear weapons as unacceptable under international law. Our next step as supporters of the humanitarian initiative should be to explore the best way to address this legal deficit.

The chair of the Nayarit conference concluded that, in light of the devastating immediate and long- term effects of nuclear detonations, the time has come to start a diplomatic process to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.

This is not a radical proposal.

Indiscriminate weapons get banned. We have done it before with other weapon systems, including bio- logical and chemical weapons. An international prohibition is merely the logical outcome of an examination of the risks and consequences of nuclear weapon detonations. A new legal instrument prohibiting these weapons would constitute a long-overdue implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This is a meaningful proposal. It would establish a comprehensive set of prohibitions and provide a framework under which the elimination of nuclear weapons can be pursued. This is a feasible, achievable proposal. It can be negotiated now, and have normative and practical impacts.

We have heard some say that the calls for a new legal regime on nuclear weapons fail to take into ac- count security interests. But whose security are they talking about?

We believe that states should put a prohibition in place now. The 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks is the appropriate milestone to launch such a process.

This will take courage. We have confidence that the overwhelming majority of states will join this process, and we look forward to ac- companying you along the road to a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Nadja Schmidt is director of ICAN Austria. This is a shortened version of the statement she delivered on behalf of ICAN at the Vienna confer- ence on 9 December.

Article 36
Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration & Foreign Affairs Dick Smith Foods
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Janet Holmes a Court
Holy See
ICAN Norway
Irish Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Dr Alan McPhate

Allan Myers AO QC
Norwegian People’s Aid
Norwegian Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Religions for Peace Japan
Soka Gakkai International
Svenska Läkare mot Kärnvapen
Vienna Convention Bureau
Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom