Nuclear Summit Ends with 107 Countries Opposed to US Insistence on Atomic Weapons
May 26, 2015
The National Catholic Reporter & International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War & Austrian Ambassador Alexander Kmentt & Beatrice Fihn /ICAN
A month-long nuclear arms control conference ended in discord May 22nd at the United Nations in New York, but it might likely be remembered as the global gathering at which the majority of the world's nations unequivocally rejected nuclear weapons. At a diplomatic level, the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will likely be viewed as a failure; at a global consensus level, it could likely be seen as new moment of clarity and humanitarian resolve.
UN Nuke Review Conference Could Mark Turning Point
Thomas C. Fox / The National Catholic Reporter
(May. 23, 2015) -- A month-long nuclear arms control conference ended in discord May 22nd at the United Nations in New York, but it might likely be remembered as the global gathering at which the majority of the world's nations unequivocally rejected nuclear weapons. At a diplomatic level, the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will likely be viewed as a failure; at a global consensus level, it could likely be seen as new moment of clarity and humanitarian resolve.
From the outset of the conference, arms control advocates expressed modest hope for any nuclear disarmament breakthrough. US and Russia have grown more hostile with each other. A 2010 nuclear treaty conference review action program to establish the Middle East as a nuclear free zone never got off the ground.
By terms of the 1970 treaty, which requires reviews every five years, the five signatory nuclear holding nations are pledged to disarm in exchange for non-nuclear possessing giving up ambitions to arm themselves with weapons. It's been referred to as "the grand bargain."
For more than three decades disarmament efforts preceded, stockpiles were cut. But then efforts slowed. No further disarmament negotiations are taking place. Meanwhile, the world's stockpiles contain some 16,400 nuclear weapons, each weapon many times more powerful than those dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Adding to arms control pessimism, each of the nuclear holding nations is "modernization" its arsenals The United Sates, for example, plans to spend a costly $1trillion in the next three decades. Last month the Arms Control Association, which monitors nuclear weapons, reported the US is seeking 1,000-1,100 new, nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles, part of its much larger nuclear sustainment plan.
With the five nuclear signatory nations widely viewed as paying lip serve to serious nuclear disarmament, the non-nuclear nations, peace advocates, civil, religious and medical groups arrived in New York last month visible frustrated.
Their frustrations grew during the conference as nation after nation spoke about the "catastrophic" consequences of a single nuclear blast. The US, for its part, in document preparation on possible consequences, said it preferred the "severe" and not "catastrophic."
One of the most widely talked about statements made during the conference occurred on May 13.th On that day a frustrated South African Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty challenged the nuclear club nations, asking, "When will we ever get nuclear disarmament?"
South Africa, which is the only signatory nation to have given up its nuclear weapons, has special credibility at nuclear disarmament conferences. Asked Minty rhetorically: "Why is it that only the security of the five [nuclear possessing nations] requires nuclear weapons, whilst no one else needs nuclear weapons for their security?
If the truth is that no one's security needs nuclear weapons, then all of our security is enhanced by getting rid of nuclear weapons.
If this is indeed the case, what makes it so different for the five that they feel that they have to be exempted from this universal truth?" He said there is a difference between nuclear disarmament and nuclear reduction. "The concept of reduction," he said, "means that we do not need so many and therefore we will reduce some. The concept of nuclear disarmament means that we must carve out a path for the total elimination of nuclear weapons."
"If nuclear disarmament is the direction and in this so-called roadmap this is the path that NWS [Nuclear Weapon States] are taking, they need to tell us, what roadmap they are working on? How fast are they going on this road? At what rate they are traveling and how long will it take to reach the destination? Do they need some fuel from us to make them go faster or are they taking rest stops along the way, or are they simply lost?"
"If we are to look at the roadmap and claim that reductions are the way to nuclear disarmament, then when will we reach that destination? Is it so elusive that none of the NWS know when we will reach it? Or is that a secret that cannot be shared with us, despite its centrality to increasing our own security? He concluded, saying it is time for a "legally binding framework" to achieve nuclear disarmament.
"This is not to say that such a framework could be agreed at this conference, nor implemented immediately. However, we need to discuss how to create that framework, because we are all in the same world and we suffer the same destiny as a result of the actions of some of us."
Twice during the conference, the names of 159 countries were read out as countries that had agreed nuclear weapons should never be used again, under any circumstances. During the conference the nuclear-armed nations repeatedly sought to legitimize their arsenals, arguing they remain necessary to avoid nuclear war, but the majority refused to go along with this thinking.
Non-nuclear-possessing nations repeatedly stated that nuclear arsenals can never be legitimate. As the divide grew deeper, the backbone of the majority of the world's nations -- those advocating some kind of new move or document to push the nuclear disarmament process forward -- seemed to stiffen.
As the final days, then final hours, of the conference grew near, it became clear there would be no consensus document. The nuclear-possessing signatory nations -- US, Russia, England, France and China -- resisted calls for aggressive new disarmament measures. Meanwhile, the non-nuclear-possessing nations began circulating a document calling for precisely such disarmament.
"Some states expect us to play by the rules they don't play by themselves," the South African ambassador said, echoing a the more popular view that the planet is experiencing what delegates called "nuclear colonialism."
By the end of the conference, momentum had grown substantially for a clear statement calling for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. It had been a grassroots insurrection under the noses of the seemingly hapless nuclear nations.
As the conference ended late Friday, 107 nations of the 159 at the conference had signed the document, called the "Humanitarian Pledge." The pledge traces its origins to three international conferences held in the past three years on the humanitarian effects of a nuclear exchange. Projected consequences alarmingly were found to be far more devastating than studies had found to that point.
Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), May 22nd said that since "the nuclear weapon states are not interested in making any new commitments to disarmament, so now it is up to the rest of the world to start a process to prohibit nuclear weapons by the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
The world will commemorate the 70th anniversary this August. She described the Humanitarian Pledge as reflecting "a fundamental shift in the international discourse on nuclear disarmament over the past five years," calling it, "the latest indication that governments are preparing for diplomatic action after the review conference." ICAN is a coalition of more than 400 non-governmental organizations in 95 countries.
Austria, in the final session said that exchanges of views witnessed during the review conference confirmed "a wide divide" between the nuclear and non-nuclear nations. It spoke of "a reality gap, a credibility gap, a confidence gap and a moral gap."
Austria has been a leading advocate to ban nuclear weapons. It introduced what it called "the Austrian pledge" to make nuclear weapons illegal. However, as nations continued to sign it soon took on its current name, "the Humanitarian Pledge."
The pledge calls on signatories "to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, states, international organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks."
Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which has tracked NFT review conferences since its first in 1975, at the close of the gathering the frustration most nations expressed at the slow pace of action on disarmament by the nuclear-armed states.
He specifically cited the costs of these modernization efforts and their associated "dangerous nuclear doctrines." He summarized the gathering saying it had highlighted "a widespread concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the need to act with greater urgency to eliminate nuclear dangers."
Outcome? What Outcome?
Xanthe Hall / International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
(May 25, 2015) -- After the NPT Review Conference was over, we couldn't get out of the building. The place was deserted. All those grim security men who had barred any shortcuts had gone home. Eventually we found a last door open at the other side of the building.
It was Friday evening of Memorial Weekend in New York. The subway was full of young faces, singing along to a boombox, on their way to parties. Life goes on and nothing had changed just because a few hundred people had spent the last four weeks in air-conditioned rooms, talking about nuclear weapons till they were blue in the face.
In the end there was no agreement. Hundreds of statements had been given, instructions had been delivered from the capitals, working papers and chairs' reports had been drafted, submitted, amended, rejected. All for nothing. Fierce divisions on how much the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons mean and should they compel action for disarmament, or should negotiations on a ban treaty begin?
And what are "effective measures" anyway? Are the conditions ripe for disarmament already or only for glossary of common terms? Now there are no answers to these questions. Not even an agreement to disagree. If you want to see it for yourself, take a look at the first 38 minutes of the final plenary.
US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller was second up in the final plenary to give an aggressive speech of rejection, naming Egypt as the scapegoat, and it was all over, bar the speeches. The only thing all the states had in common was their disappointment. One after another they regretted the lack of consensus, called it a sad day for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, gave others the blame.
But the one state that said nothing, and as a non-state party was not in a position to say anything, was Israel. And because this one state refused to agree to setting a date for a conference on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, the conference failed.
And yet something did happen at the NPT. Austria's Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, Disarmament Person of 2014, described it in his closing speech on behalf of 47 countries:
"At this Conference, we have witnessed a clear shifting of the parameters, the focus, the tone and the balance of the discussion and the engagement of all countries of the treaty on nuclear weapons. Non-nuclear weapon states are today more empowered to demand their security concerns be taken in consideration on an equal basis."
Up in the gallery, civil society clattered away on their computers and mobile phones, tweeting and blogging and skyping in a frenzy. They did not want such an insipid draft of a final document to survive the conference, rolling back the action plan of 2010, already weakened by inaction. No outcome is better than an outcome drafted by the P5. And in any case, what does it matter if there is or isn't a final document? They never get implemented anyway.
Every five years the same circus. With one big difference. This time 107 states endorsed the "Humanitarian Pledge" to work towards closing the legal gap. That means finding a legal instrument that would prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Civil society applauded this as the real outcome of the 2015 NPT Review Conference.
Now all that remains is for these states to begin a new process. What better year to begin than the 70th commemoration of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Up in the gallery, we remained glued to our seats, hoping that South Africa would save the day with an announcement that we are all invited to Pretoria.
But although the South African speech was by far the best of all the final speeches, they are keeping us waiting. The wheels of government turn slowly. Even with the support of the majority of states around the world to "close the legal gap".
France took the final word, to everyone's incredulity. A shame that South Africa's applauded words comparing the NPT to apartheid, that has degenerated into the rule of the minority, where the will of the few will prevail even when it doesn't make moral sense, were not the last and final ones of this cycle's Review Conference.
Instead, we were forced, once again, to hear him say that France has an excellent record on disarmament. Calling this a disconnect is an understatement. Cognitive dissonance might sum it up better. Or, quite simply, lying.
Now I am back in Berlin and, sitting with my neighbors in our beautiful garden by the pond, they ask me: What was that all about?
I find myself trying to capture the essence of a four-week long conference of 191 states with no outcome and see their eyes glaze over. It seems so far away from reality although it is just as real as the flowers around me.
The saving grace is the vision of a ban and knowing that, although the media sees only an attention-seeking Israel and a failing international community that succumbs to blackmail, what we -- civil society -- have achieved is the real outcome of the last four weeks.
As Costa Rica said in theirclosing statement: "The humanitarian conferences demonstrate that democracy has come to nuclear disarmament, even if democracy is yet to come to the NPT." The NPT cannot deliver, it needs a new democratic process for a ban treaty to implement itself.
Costa Rica finished their statement with these words, that we should take to our hearts:
"Despite what has happened at this Review Conference, there is no force can stop the steady march of those who believe in human security, democracy and international law. History honors only the brave, those who have the courage to think differently and dream of a better future for all. This is not the time to lament what has happened here, as lamentable as it may be. Now is the time to work for what is to come, the world we want and deserve. Let us all, boldly and finally, give peace a chance."
Xanthe Hall is the Disarmament Campaigner for IPPNW Deutschland.
IPPNW Germany, Körtestr. 10 | 10967 Berlin. firstname.lastname@example.org
ippnw.de | atomwaffenfrei.de | atomwaffenA-Z.info
2015 NPT Review Conference Joint Closing Statement
As Delivered by Austrian Ambassador Alexander Kmentt
UNITED NATIONS (May 22, 2015) -- I am taking the floor on behalf of Afghanistan, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Swaziland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam. \
Thank you, Madam President for your and the entire bureau's hard work to try to achieve an outcome for this Review Conference.
We entered the conference in a constructive spirit and based on a strong position backed not by only evidence on the consequences and risks of nuclear weapons gathered over this review cycle but also by an overwhelming majority of 159 countries. We wanted to enter into negotiations and try to deliver real and credible progress towards a world without nuclear weapons based on a heightened sense of urgency that we all share.
We regarded it as our responsibility to present this compelling evidence to this conference, as it should be at the centre of all deliberations, obligations and commitments with regard to nuclear disarmament.
We strived for a result that would not only be acceptable to all but that would actually advance the objectives of the treaty and strengthen the treaty itself. The collective membership of the treaty unfortunately did not achieve these objectives at this review conference.
We remain committed to the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime established by the NPT. We will continue to fulfill and implement all our obligations and commitments contained in the treaty and established by the review process.
At this Conference, we have witnessed a clear shifting of the parameters, the focus, the tone and the balance of the discussion and the engagement of all countries of the treaty on nuclear weapons.
Non-nuclear weapon states are today more empowered to demand their security concerns be taken in consideration on an equal basis.
It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances. The only absolute guarantee against delivery against the threat posed by nuclear weapons is their prohibition and their total elimination. Although the nuclear weapon states bear the ultimate responsibility to completely eliminate their nuclear arsenals, it is a shared responsibility of all states to prevent the humanitarian impact and effects related to these weapons of mass destruction.
The exchanges of views that we have witnessed during this review cycle demonstrate that there is a wide divide that presents itself in many fundamental aspects of what nuclear disarmament should mean. There is a reality gap, a credibility gap, a confidence gap and a moral gap.
After the discussions of the past weeks, we are now even more concerned about the existence of nuclear weapons and the apparent attempts to brush aside the facts, impact and risks of nuclear weapons.
Even the document before us shows the urgency to act upon the unacceptable humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, but then falls dramatically short of making credible progress on filling the legal gap in what should have been the forward-looking part.
We call on all states parties to the NPT 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 we pledge to cooperate to achieve this goal,
We pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, States, international organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.
Madame President, the discussions of the past weeks, the fact that credible progress could not be achieved and the humanitarian imperative only underscore that we must continue with urgency in our efforts.
NPT Update: 101 Nations Renounce Nuclear Weapons
Beatrice Fihn /ICAN
UNITED NATIONS (May 22, 2015) -- As the final day of the 2015 NPT Review Conference starts, I'm very happy to tell you that we got 101 states that have endorsed the humanitarian pledge!!! This is really fantastic and is all because of the hard work of campaigners around the world (and a heroic effort by Tim, Arielle, Daniel, Alice and all the others here in NY that has been harassing missions throughout these weeks, what super stars you are!).
Early in the morning in New York, the final draft of the whole outcome document came out after long negotiations. This disarmament part is very weak, weaker than in 2010, and completely fails to reflect the movement of HINW and a ban. This is a text that the nuclear weapon states are forcing on the rest of the world. You can read more about the draft text here. Right now, delegations are making up their mind if they are ready to adopt this or not.
The document is a "take-it-or-leave-it" draft -- meaning that, at 3pm New York time, delegations will say "yes" or "no" to this. If you are interested in following it, you can watch it on the webcast. We will also be running a Skype chat during the plenary, so email Daniela or Daniel if you want to join.
Once the Review Conference closes, we will send out a press release and some longer thoughts on what has happened here in New York. We will circulate this to the campaigners list, so please use and adapt for your national campaigning purposes.
It's been an exhausting four weeks, but we're almost there. No matter what happens at the closing session today, no matter what poor outcome document is agreed upon or not, the real outcome of the NPT Review Conference is the huge support for the Humanitarian Pledge.
Over one hundred states have committed to work on a new legally binding instrument to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. And as the Review Conference ends, we need to remember that we are in a really good position for starting a process to ban nuclear weapons already this year.
Thanks again for all your hard work on getting such an impressive number of states on to the pledge.
NPT Update: 107 Nations Renounce Nuclear Weapons
Rebecca Johnson / International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
(May 23, 2015) -- As we listen to the final NPT plenary -- celebrating 107 nations who have taken the important step of joining the international humanitarian pledge -- the significantly positive outcome of this Conference, most of which just went through diplomatic motions -- I want to add to Dimity and Kathleen's heartfelt endorsement of the work of the ICAN and Reaching Critical Will (RCW) teams here at the NPT!
And great that those with longer memories than most have recalled the wonderful work of our WILPF colleague Felicity Ruby in creating RCW, which I was happy to support (as midwife/doula and initial fund-raiser).
Without the RCW team -- especially Ray, Gabrielle and Mia -- those who couldn't be in New York for the whole (often dreary, occasionally stimulating) 4 weeks would not have been able to keep properly informed.
And without the ICAN team, brilliantly anchored from before the RevCon by Tim, but including so much hard work from many more -- staff, ISG, regional and national campaigners . . . you all know who you are . . . and as this RevCon closes without consensus on a paper document, but with the humanitarian disarmament pledgers front and centre of the real life outcomes, I just want to say what a powerful, brilliant team we have to take us forward -- THANK YOU to everyone who made this happen!
Dr Rebecca E. Johnson, FRSA, is the Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy; International Steering Group, ICAN International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM); and Vice President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Re: Final Day of the NPT
Peter Mburu / IPPNW-Kenya
(May 24, 2015) -- Having followed closely from Nairobi, I wish to thank everyone in the team that made it to New York for all the updates for the duration of the RevCon and the entire global team for tireless efforts and the contributions that led to so many nations around the world taking the humanitarian disarmament pledge! Really, really good effort!
Dr Peter Mburu is the Deputy Chair of IPPNW-Kenya and ICAN Liaison
The Most Exciting RevCon in Decades
Kathleen Sullivan / Hibakusha Stories
(May 23, 2015) -- wrote:
Thanks for the update Bea! This is the most exciting RevCon in decades and no doubt this is due to the humanitarian initiative that everyone in our ICAN network has brought to birth.
So many people have been working so hard. Special gratitude for Reaching Critical Will: to all the team, past and present. Mia who has been chronicling daily activities in the plenary sessions and committees. Tim, Thomas and Susi are working from their own organizations under the RCW anti nuclear umbrella.
But especially a huge shout out for Ray Acheson. We've all benefited from her editorials: a daily dose of deep insight and intelligent motivation to get member states on board and to remind the NWS that we know who they are and how they are behaving ! Thank you Ray for your tireless commitment and vision! And to Felicity Ruby who created RCW as a WILPF project 15 years ago.
To all who read this note of gratitude, a bow of thanks to each of us. We are a part of history in the making: to ban nuclear weapons as a first step in their ultimate abolition, securing a future for our one shared, extraordinary planet earth. Here's to our collective and continued work together!
Kathleen Sullivan, Hibakusha Stories
I was so impressed by your campaign to get as many signatures as possible on the "Nuclear Ban". I have been to a score of NptRev and NPTPrepCom but never seen lobbying being so energetic and so successful. Thank you!
We had a great victory at this NPTRev! Now is the time to forge a coalition of dedicated countries working to keep the "Ban Majority" together and presenting a clear roadmap to a nuclear weapons free world.
Gunnar Westberg is with PRAETEREA CENSEO ARMA NVCLEARIA ESSE DELENDA
List of the 107 States that
Have Signed the Humanitarian Pledge
and agreed to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons
4. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Cabo Verde
18. Central African Republic
22. Cook Islands
23. Costa Rica
24. Côte d’Ivoire
29. Dominican Republic
32. El Salvador
61. Marshall Islands
70. Papua New Guinea
75. St. Kitts and Nevis
76. St. Lucia
77. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
79. São Tomé and Príncipe
80. San Marino
81. Saudi Arabia
85. Sierra Leone
88. South Africa
89. Sri Lanka
96. Trinidad and Tobago
100. United Arab Emirates
104. Viet Nam
(Last updated 22 May 2015)