Happy Birthday, UN! Don't Forget Your First Resolution -- to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons!
October 24, 2015 UNFOLD ZERO & The United Nations
On the 70th anniversary of the UN's birth, let us recall the words of UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon: "The only absolute guarantee that they are never used again is through their total elimination." In 2013, the Islamic Republish of Iran calling for the worldwide abolition of Nuclear Weapons. The resolution had the support of the Non-Aligned Movement. The resolution passed with 129 countries supporting it. The US and other nuclear powers did not endorse the resolution.
(October 20, 2015) -- "A world without nuclear weapons is essential for the accomplishment of the priority objectives of humanity, those being peace, security and development" said the member States of OPANAL (Organismo para la Proscripción de las Armas Nucleares en la América Latina y el Caribe) in a statement released on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
OPANAL was established in 1968 by the States Parties to the Treaty of Tlatelolco -- the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. The treaty, which is now supported by all countries in the region, has ensured the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region.
The Agency promotes full respect for the zone from the nuclear-armed States (some of them still have reservations relating to the protocols not to threaten, use or deploy weapons in the zone), and supports the global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
In 2013, OPANAL and the Tlatelolco received the Future Policy Award for the best global policy on disarmament.
Ambassador Luiz Filipe de Macedo Soares, Secretary General of OPANAL
In it's statement released on September 26, OPANAL demands "that nuclear weapons not be used again, under any circumstances by any actor," and that negotiations should begin immediately on a nuclear weapons convention -- "a universal and legally binding instrument prohibiting the possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and including provisions for their destruction in a transparent, irreversible and verifiable manner under a multilaterally agreed timetable."
Religious leaders and legislators present
nuclear abolition call to the United Nations UNFOLD Zero
(September 29, 2015) -- Leaders of the major religious faiths and interfaith networks, joined forces with parliamentarians and mayors from around the world to call on world leaders to "commit to nuclear abolition and to replace nuclear deterrence with shared security approaches to conflicts."
The call was made in a joint statement presented yesterday to Mogens Lykketoft, the President of the UN General Assembly, as world leaders gathered at the UN for the opening session of the UN on its 70th anniversary year.
The statement, calls specifically on world leaders to negotiate "a nuclear weapons convention or framework of agreements that eliminate nuclear weapons," a proposal advanced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and supported by over 130 countries.
The joint statement was adopted in Hiroshima on August 6th -- the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of that city, and is endorsed by religious leaders, mayors and parliamentarians from Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe.
"The experience of Hiroshima reminds us of why nuclear weapons must be abolished,' said Mr Kazumi Matsui, Mayor of Hiroshima and President of Mayors for Peace. 'As long as nuclear weapons exist, anyone could become a Hibakusha (nuclear victim) at any time.'
The joint statement was coordinated by Religions for Peace, Mayors for Peace and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. It was presented to the President of the UNGA by Saber Chowdhury (PNND Co-President and President of the Inter Parliamentary Union), Dr William Vendley (Secretary-General of Religions for Peace), Randy Rydell (Senior Adviser for Mayors for Peace) and Jonathan Granoff (PNND Council Member and President of the Global Security Institute).
The delegation also presented Mr Lykketoft with a nuclear abolition resolution adopted by the US Conference of Mayors in June this year.
'We join together to highlight the continuing risks of a nuclear catastrophe -- whether by accident, miscalculation or intent -- and the moral and security imperative to achieve nuclear abolition,' said Dr William Vendley, Secretary-General of Religions for Peace.
'Nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world's arsenals costing $100 billion annually -- funds that could instead be used to implement the Sustainable Development Goals,' said Mr Saber Chowdhury MP, Co-President of PNND and President of the Inter Parliamentary Union. 'We reaffirm UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's description of the abolition of nuclear weapons as a "common good of the highest order."
"In special ways mayors are responsible for protecting the safety and welfare of their citizens, as well as for preserving and promoting cultural and environmental values and heritages; parliamentarians for national policies and laws for the benefit of present and future generations; and religious leaders for advancing the shared moral principles and respect for the well-being of all people regardless of ethnicity, nationality or religion.
Together -- as mayors, parliamentarians and religious leaders -- we support the common good of nuclear abolition. We reject nuclear weapons, which threaten our humanity, contravene our moral principles, violate international law and thwart the safety and well-being of current and future generations."
The joint statement was also presented to the United Nations in Geneva -- the traditional location for disarmament negotiations -- at a special event on Sep 22 to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
Th event was organised by UNFOLD ZERO, hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations and cosponsored by the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the NGO Committee for Disarmament. It featured a screening of the movie "The Man Who Saved the World", a welcome speech by Ecuador Ambassador Maria Espinosa and a presentation by Marco Kalbusch, Secretary of the Conference on Disarmament and Head of the UNODA in Geneva. Iran Sponsors UN Resolution Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons PressTV Videos
(November 4, 2013) -- The United Nations General Assembly has met to discuss and vote on a resolution put forward by the Islamic Republish of Iran calling for the worldwide abolition of Nuclear Weapons. The resolution had the support of the Non-Aligned Movement. The resolution passed with 129 countries supporting it. UN Secretary-General's Message for September 26, 2015 UNFOLD ZERO & UN Ban Ki-moon. United Nations
(September 23, 2015) -- The year 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the first and last use of a nuclear weapon in war. The norm against the use of nuclear weapons -- the most destructive weapons ever created, with potentially unparalleled human costs -- has stood strong for seven decades.
But the only absolute guarantee that they are never used again is through their total elimination.
The international community has proclaimed the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, there are growing rifts between Member States about how and when to achieve it.
This was on stark display during the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in May of this year.
I call on all States to engage constructively to find a way forward.
The elimination of nuclear weapons would also free up vast amounts of resources that could be used to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The consequences of any further use of nuclear weapons, whether intentional or by mistake, would be horrific. When it comes to our common objective of nuclear disarmament, we must not delay -- we must act now. UNFOLD ZERO interviews UN General Assembly President
(September 20, 2015) -- Leaders of nuclear-armed States should use the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons to commence a process for the controlled elimination of nuclear weapons, says UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, in a video interview with UNFOLD ZERO.
Lykketoft, a former Foreign Minister of Denmark and a long-time member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, will preside over the UN General Assembly for the 70th year of its operations, a pivotal time for the organisation and for global peace and disarmament.
'We can celebrate the 26th September with the good news that we now have the Iran nuclear agreement,' says Lykketoft. 'That is one important step in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.'
'But on Sep 26, what I would really like to see is that the commitment that President Obama made in his Prague speech some years ago -- to embark on the road to the total elimination of nuclear weapons -- would be an effort supported by each and every one of the nuclear powers.'
Lykketoft called for immediate action to reduce nuclear tensions and take nuclear weapons arsenals off alert status. 'The risk of unintended or unwanted use of nuclear weapons is too high. Mechanisms must be developed to reduce these risks.'
Lykketoft commended the movie 'The Man Who Saved the World' as an important education tool to remind public and governments that this danger of nuclear war by accident is still very real. 'An incident like that in 1983 could happen again, and we cannot be sure that another courageous man like Stanislav Petrov will be at the screen and in control at that moment.'
'I really hope that those that are negotiating on disarmament -- indeed all those involved in international peace and security -- will have the opportunity to see the film.'
In the film, Stanislav Petrov travels to the US nearly 30 years after 1983 incident -- and notes the similar nuclear threat postures, and tensions between Russia and the West as in 1983. Lykketoft says how valuable the movie is in making these connections and inspiring people to act now. 'Grassroots efforts to put pressure on governments to re-engage in nuclear disarmament -- bilateral and multilateral -- are as vital now as when the UN was established 70 years ago.'
Lykketoft also calls for greater connection between the three core pillars of the UN -- development, human rights and peace & security. In particular, he calls on the more powerful countries to take the lead by reducing military spending, resolving conflicts peacefully and contributing more to development.
He notes that the United Nations General Assembly is a key institution for facilitating progress on these pillars. 'The General Assembly is the democratic, all-inclusive body of the United Nations. It provides moral authority and moral pressure on those who are the big military spenders to live up to their obligations to support sustainable development and reduce spending on an incredibly costly armament race.'
Mr Lykketoft will preside over an informal session of the UN General Assembly on Sep 29 to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
UN General Assembly to Re-open the Door to a Nuclear-weapon-free World? UNFOLD ZERO
(September 2, 2015) -- Member countries of the United Nations will meet for a month this October at the UN General Assembly First Committee to discuss and adopt resolutions on disarmament and international security issues. One initiative they will likely discuss is the proposal to establish a UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.
The proposal for such an initiative was discussed -- and generally agreed upon -- during the 2015 NPT Review Conference (see Final Draft Document of the 2015 NPT Review Conference page 20, item 154/19). It has also been supported by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- a body representing the 57 parliaments of OSCE member countries -- and by the Inter Parliamentary Union which represents over 160 parliaments.
The proposal follows up from an OEWG on nuclear disarmament that was established by the UN General Assembly in 2012 and ran for three working sessions (15 full days) in 2013.
UNFOLD ZERO supports the re-establishment of an OEWG and answers some of the questions about this proposal.
1. Is an OEWG just another talk-shop with no action?
No. The establishment by the UN of Open Ended Working Groups on specific issues is a fairly common practice in order to develop a legal instrument or instruments to address the issue concerned. Some OEWGs are given a direct mandate to negotiate a legal instrument.
Others are given a pre-negotiation mandate, i.e. to explore and develop the elements and options for a legal instrument in order to pave the way for actual negotiations. In either case, the object is not to establish a 'talk-shop' but to facilitate the achievement of an international instrument or instruments.
The OEWG established by the UN in 2008 to address the arms trade is a successful example of this. The UN resolution establishing the OEWG recognised that 'in view of the complexity of the issues of conventional arms transfers, further consideration of efforts within the United Nations to address the international trade in conventional arms is required' to achieve 'a balance that will provide benefit to all, with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations at the centre of such efforts.'
The OEWG was tasked to 'further consider those elements' [required for control of the arms trade] 'for their inclusion in an eventual legally binding treaty on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.'
By 2009 the OEWG had built sufficient agreement on the general elements for a legal instrument that the UN General Assembly was able to establish a negotiating conference (UNGA Resolution 64/48).
However, the UNGA recognised that additional work was required on the specific elements, and therefore tasked the OEWG to continue its work for two more years as a preparatory process for the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations. The process succeeded in the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty in 2013 (UNGA Resolution 67/234B).
An OEWG on nuclear disarmament could follow a similar path of deliberations moving into negotiations on a legal instrument (or instruments) to be adopted by a UN-established negotiating conference.
2. Did the proposal for an OEWG come from the nuclear armed States and their allies with the aim to block real progress on nuclear disarmament?
No. The proposal for an OEWG in 2016 is a follow-on from the OEWG that was established in 2012 at the initiative of Austria, Mexico and Norway -- the same three countries that hosted the International Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. It was not a proposal of the nuclear armed States or their allies. Indeed, as the First Committee Monitor reported: "The main opposition came from four nuclear weap¬on states, France, Russia, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US).
France, the UK, and the US made a joint EOV in which they said they see "little val¬ue in this initiative to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations outside of the established fora." ('Disarmament Machinery' by Beatrice Fihn, First Committee Monitor, 12 November 2012 p4).
Non-nuclear countries at the 2015 NPT Review Conference joined in supporting the continuation of work by an OEWG, most notably Sweden, whose Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, promoted the proposal publicly.
3. Does the OEWG have to work by consensus?
No. The Final Draft Document of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, in recommending the establishment of an OEWG, also recommended that the OEWG conduct its work on the basis of consensus. However, such a recommendation is to be expected from the NPT which generally operates by consensus.
The UNGA does not follow suit. Many of its decisions are taken by vote. The UNGA has even adopted disarmament and non-proliferation treaties by a vote. The CTBT is one example. With respect to the proposal for an OEWG, the NPT final draft document recognised that it is up to the UN General Assembly to 'determine the methods of work of its subsidiary bodies'.
Consensus procedures can be useful in order to develop disarmament measures that might be able to achieve universality. On the other hand, consensus procedures can also be used to block progress, as has happened in the Conference on Disarmament for the past 19 years. One option for the UNGA would be to establish an OEWG with the aim to 'strive for consensus', but not to be bound by consensus if it is not possible to achieve.
There are concerns that one or more of the nuclear weapon states or their less progressive allies will 'steal' the initiative for the 70th UNGA to establish an OEWG, and promote a version whose rules of procedure require consensus. This is underscores the importance of prompt, independent action by like-minded states to pre-empt such a bad-faith maneuver.
4. Would the OEWG repeat the work done in 2013?
No. The OEWG met for 15 full working days in 2013 and helped outline the elements required for a legal framework to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world, and the various negotiating options to achieve this. These options include a stand-alone treaty (such as a nuclear weapons convention or ban treaty), a framework agreement followed by subsequent implementation agreements, or a hybrid approach (a collection of agreements).
This work was very useful and was fed back into other UN and treaty bodies, most notably the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Several NPT working papers, and also the Draft Report of the Chair of the First Committee, referred to the options developed in OEWG in 2013. The OEWG in 2016 would not need to repeat this, but could use it as a starting point for further deliberations to pave the way for actual negotiations.
5. What specifically could the OEWG do in 2016?
Firstly, the OEWG could elaborate on the various disarmament measures in order to determine which ones could be achieved in the short term and in what manner negotiations could commence. The paper Effective Measures: Builders and Blockers by the International Law and Policy Institute (Norway) correctly points out that different measures can be negotiated by different groups, i.e. that not every measure needs to be negotiated by everyone.
Secondly, the OEWG could serve as a preparatory process for the High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament that the UN General Assembly has decided will be held no later than 2018. The Conference should aim to adopt one or more nuclear disarmament measures.
The OEWG in 2016 could identify which measures would be possible to be adopted in 2018. The OEWG in 2017 could be given the mandate to negotiate these measures. Possibilities could include a framework agreement, a ban treaty (adopted by non-nuclear States) or a universal treaty on the non-use of nuclear weapons.
Thirdly, the OEWG could establish a subsidiary body to outline the specific security roles and situations ascribed to nuclear deterrence, examine whether nuclear deterrence does play a role in these situations, and, if so, explore alternatives to nuclear deterrence to meet these security situations.
This subsidiary work, informally proposed by New Zealand and the Netherlands during the 2013 OEWG, would help move the nuclear armed States and those under extended nuclear deterrence relationships to reduce or relinquish their reliance on nuclear deterrence and enter into negotiations to prohibit and verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons.
It would be important for such a subsidiary body to work on the axiom (accepted premise) that nuclear weapons also create insecurity, pose risks of catastrophic consequences from their potential use, and that eliminating the reliance on nuclear deterrence is a security, legal and humanitarian imperative.
6. What can you do to support?
Call on your government to support a UN General Assembly resolution in 2015 reviving the OEWG. Suggest specific work for the OEWG as along the lines of our answer to question 5 above.
For additional background see OEWG: Re-open the door Will the United Nations ban nuclear targeting of populated areas? UNfoldZero
(February 16, 2015) -- With anti-nuclear countries joining the Security Council for the next two years, does the proposal for the UN to ban nuclear targeting of populated areas have a chance of success?
At the 3rd International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held in Vienna in December last year, Jonathan Granoff from UNFOLD ZERO proposed that the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council adopt resolutions affirming that the nuclear targeting of populated areas would be a violation of international law (See Jonathan Granoff presentation to the plenary).
"Other uses of nuclear weapons also violate international law," said Mr Granoff "but there should be no question that it is illegal to destroy a city, or to threaten to destroy a city. Until we can obtain a global convention to eliminate nuclear weapons, this step would make us all safer. It would downgrade the political status of, and military plans to use, these horrible devices."
The proposal follows up an initiative of Mayors for Peace. "There are over 6,000 cities already members of our campaign called Cities Are Not Targets! declaring it illegal to target cities with nuclear weapons," said Aaron Tovish, campaign director for Mayors for Peace and one of the coordinators of UNFOLD ZERO. "This initiative to have the bodies of the United Nations explicitly outlaw such conduct is of great value."
Nuclear weapon States do not make their nuclear targeting plans public. However, nuclear deterrence policy is based on the threat of massive retaliation which does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons against targets within or close to cities and other populated areas.
Inter Press Service interviewed U.S. Air Force Major General Charles Dunlap Jr., former Deputy Judge Advocate General on this issue. (The Judge Advocate General's office is responsible for determining the legality of all US military operations).
Dunlap argued that there is no authoritative prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons in IHL. "It sounds as if Mr. Granoff assumes that IHL applicable to the use of conventional weapons would automatically apply to the use of nuclear weapons. This is incorrect."
Alyn Ware of UNFOLD ZERO disputes the claim that IHL does not apply to nuclear weapons. "The International Court of Justice affirmed in 1996 that the laws of warfare, and in particular international humanitarian law, apply to nuclear weapons.
The Nuclear Weapon States accepted this, and reaffirmed in the final document of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference of 2010 'the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.' "
"IHL renders any use of nuclear weapons illegal. A nuclear weapon has a much larger blast impact than conventional weapons. The blast impact can't be contained to a specific military target," says Ware. "If a nuclear detonation is far away from populated areas, some might argue that such use could be consistent with IHL, even though there would still be widespread and long-term impact from radioactive fallout… but you can't even make this argument when a nuclear weapon is targeted on a military asset in or near a populated area."
The proposal to move the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to adopt such a resolution might not be that difficult. Already the UNGA has adopted resolutions affirming that any use of nuclear weapons would constitute a crime against humanity, the most recent of which was adopted in December 2014. However, these resolutions are not supported by all the nuclear-armed States, and in any case are only declaratory.
A Security Council resolution would be binding, but would be more difficult to achieve. The Security Council requires agreement by China, France, Russia, UK and US to adopt any resolutions. China and the US might agree to such a resolution -- China supports the UNGA resolution previously mentioned and the United States has affirmed the practice of the non-use of nuclear weapons (see From nuclear taboo to a prohibition (ban) on use: The next step to a nuclear-weapon-free world).
The US and China also participated in the 3rd International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Convincing the others to agree appears unlikely at this stage.
However, the proposal could be raised in a thematic session of the UN Security Council by one of the non-nuclear members of the UN Security Council. Indeed, the SC currently has a number of member countries that have taken leadership on nuclear abolition, any of which could initiate such a session -- Chile, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria and Venezuela. If such a session was held, it would throw a spot-light on the current nuclear targeting policies of the nuclear armed States, and generate global public opinion to end the macabre plans to annihilate cities with these tools of destruction.