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Global Nuclear Ban Talks Start on February 22: US/China/Russia/UK/China Sign Joint Letter Refusing to Attend


February 16, 2016
Beatrice Fihn / International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons

A new UN working group on nuclear disarmament will begin next week in Geneva, Switzerland and new legal measures and norms are on the agenda. 123 states have endorsed the humanitarian pledge and committed to "fill the legal gap" for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. All nine nuclear-armed nations have refused to attend. The US, China and Russia jointly signed a letter that called the approach of giving greater control to nuclear-free nations "divisive."

Special to Environmentalist Against War

Action Alert:
One Week to the New Nuclear Talks in Geneva

Beatrice Fihn / International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons

(February 15, 2016) -- A new UN working group on nuclear disarmament will begin next week in Geneva, Switzerland and new legal measures and norms are on the agenda. In this working group, states have a unique opportunity to start work on the elements and provisions a new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons should include.

123 states have endorsed the humanitarian pledge and committed to "fill the legal gap" for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

This working group is an excellent place for governments to start work on a ban on nuclear weapons. Tell your ambassador at the United Nations in Geneva that your country needs to attend these meetings and start working on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons. Email your Ambassador

ICAN will be present at all meetings of the working group, and will campaign for a ban on nuclear weapons. If you want to stay updated on the discussions, make sure to check out our website and follow us on twitter, on instagram, and Facebook.

THE LETTER
Dear Ambassador, I write to you because I am deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that nuclear weapons pose. Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate, inhumane and unacceptable weapons. They need to be prohibited by an international treaty.

On Monday 22 February, all governments have the possibility to participate in the Open-Ended Working Group on "taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations" in Geneva, Switzerland.

This working group is an excellent place for all governments to start discussing the legal measures needed to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

I urge you to participate fully in the working group and engage in discussions to negotiate a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Yours sincerely,

Copyright 2016 International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, All rights reserved. ICANW, 150 Route de Ferney, Geneva 1211, Switzerland



New UN Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament
International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons

(February 15, 2016) -- The United Nations General Assembly voted on 7 December 2015 to set up a working group that will develop "legal measures, legal provisions and norms" for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

This new UN body -- which has the backing of 138 nations -- is widely expected to focus its efforts on devising the elements for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons outright.

The working group will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, in February, May and August 2016. All UN member states have been invited to participate. In the interests of achieving real progress, the working group will not be bound by strict consensus rules. It will submit a report to the General Assembly in October 2016 on its substantive work and agreed recommendations.

International organizations and civil society organizations, including ICAN, have also been invited to participate. "It is time to begin the serious practical work of developing the elements for a treaty banning nuclear weapons," said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN. "The overwhelming majority of nations support this course of action."

In its preambular paragraphs, the Mexican-sponsored resolution that set up the working group acknowledged "the absence of concrete outcomes of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations within the UN framework for almost two decades". It stated that the "current international climate" -- of increased tensions among nuclear-armed nations -- made the elimination of nuclear weapons "all the more urgent".

+ Indicative timetable
February 22 to 26
May 2 to 4 and 9 to 13
Three days the week of 22 August

+ Provisional agenda
Panel I
Panel II

Open to All Nations
Five of the nine nuclear-armed nations -- China, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and France -- issued a joint statement in November 2015 explaining why they opposed the creation of the working group. "An instrument such as a ban" would "undermine the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] regime", they argued, but did not explain how. [See full letter below. -- EAW.]

They said that they could have supported an "appropriately mandated" working group bound by strict consensus rules. However, such an arrangement would have allowed them, collectively or individually, to block all proposed actions and decisions, including the appointment of a chair and adoption of an agenda.

The Mexican approach of giving greater control to nuclear-free nations is "divisive", they complained. Germany, which hosts US nuclear weapons on its territory, abstained from voting on the resolution, asserting that the working group is not "inclusive", even though it is open to the participation of all nations.

Japan and Australia, which believe it is acceptable to use nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, also abstained, offering vague explanations.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan argued that the working group would threaten the Conference on Disarmament -- a Geneva-based forum that has been stagnant for close to two decades and excludes two-thirds of the world's nations from its deliberations (mostly developing nations). They, too, abstained from voting on the resolution.

Time for Action
The General Assembly in December 2015 adopted a number of other important resolutions, with 139 nations pledging "to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons", 144 declaring it in the interests of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again "under any circumstances", and 132 describing nuclear weapons as "inherently immoral".

Following the success of the three major conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in 2013 and 2014, there is a growing expectation among governments and civil society that negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons should now begin.

The failure of the NPT review conference in May 2015 further underscored the need for real action. "We cannot delay indefinitely the prohibition of a weapon that is patently unacceptable on humanitarian grounds," said Ms Fihn. "We expect that certain nations will continue to oppose this course of action. But that must not prevent us from moving forward. We have outlawed other indiscriminate, inhumane weapons. Now we must outlaw the very worst weapons of all."


70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee
Cluster I - Nuclear Weapons

Explanation of vote by Ms. Alice Guitton, Ambassador, Pennanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disannament on behalf of People's Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and France

L.13/Rev.1 "Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations"

NEW YORK (November 2, 2015) -- Mr. Chairman, I am delivering an explanation of [the] vote on behalf of the People's Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and France on L.13/Rev.l "Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiation".

As NPT nuclear-weapon States, our five countries reaffirm the shared goal of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament as referenced in the preamble and provided for in Article VI of the NPT.

In this regard, we remain steadfast in our commitment to seeking a safer world for all and achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

We continue to pursue progressive and concrete steps towards this end in a way that promotes international stability, peace and security, and based on the principle of increased and undiminished security for all.

An instrument such as a ban without the support and participation of the nuclear-weapon States would not eliminate nuclear weapons, but would rather undermine the NPT regime which is indispensable to the maintenance of international peace and security. Significant achievements have already been made within this framework.

An incremental, step-by-step approach is the only practical option for making progress towards nuclear disarmament, taking into account all factors that could affect global strategic security and stability.

All States can help fulfill this goal by creating the necessary security environment through resolving regional tensions, tackling proliferation challenges, promoting collective security, and making progress in all areas of arms control and disarmament.

The NPT and the existing machinery set out in the Final Document of SSOD-1 have proven to be a solid framework to advance nuclear disarmament and provide all opportunities for launching a constructive and mutually respectful dialogue. However, we remain open to other channels of discussion, not excluding an appropriately-mandated OEWG, provided that they are conducive to a constructive dialogue.

Productive results can only be ensured through a consensus-based approach. To ensure such an approach is genuinely inclusive and fully anchored in the security context, States must agree in advance on the key parameters of the process ahead.

L.13/Rev .1 lacks all those vital components that would guarantee both a meaningful collaboration and a productive outcome as a result of concerted collective effort. This resolution attempts to promote nuclear disarmament whilst ignoring security considerations. We do not believe that such an approach can effectively lead to concrete progress.

Our five States, like many others present here, are concerned with this divisive approach, which in no way brings the international community closer to nuclear disarmament.

For these reasons, our five countries voted against this draft resolution, while reaffirming our commitment to continue our individual and collective efforts, including through the P5 process, to advance nuclear disarmament.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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