Nuclear weapons states on the defensive

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#771
02/11/2013
Article

Numerous recent nuclear disarmament initiatives have the nuclear weapons states and their allies squirming.

A joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons was delivered by New Zealand at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on October 21. Expressing deep concern for the catastrophic consequences that any use of nuclear weapons would entail, as well as for their uncontrollable destructive capability and indiscriminate nature, the New Zealand statement was signed by 123 other member states.[1]

Japan agreed to endorse the statement but only once the wording had been tempered. The statement does not discuss "outlawing" nuclear arms as a 2012 statement did. Norway and Denmark, which as members of NATO receive nuclear deterrence 'protection', also supported the statement. It was not backed by any of the nuclear weapons states.[2] Australia tried to undermine the New Zealand-led initiative with a weaker resolution, which was endorsed by just 17 states (while the US endorsed neither).[7] Australia actively supports the US nuclear weapons program.

Dutch peace group IKV Pax Christi has expressed deep disappointment at the nuclear weapons policy published on October 24 by Dutch Foreign Minister Timmermans. IKV Pax Christi notes that Timmermans ignores Dutch responsibility for facilitating the ongoing presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe including the presence of 20 nuclear weapons at the Dutch airbase Volkel, and he offers no concrete proposals to rid the Netherlands of nuclear weapons.[3]

The Latin American and Caribbean Leadership Network for Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation released a statement on October 18 urging leaders worldwide to firmly take the essential steps toward the elimination of Nuclear Weapons.[4]

On October 18, Ambassador Manuel Dengo (Costa Rica) introduced a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly as a follow-up to the successful UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) which met earlier this year in Geneva. The draft resolution, co-sponsored by another 17 countries, highlights the positive way in which the OEWG enabled governments and civil society to engage in a constructive manner to address various issues related to nuclear disarmament, calls on the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and other fora to take up the nuclear disarmament proposals in the OEWG report, and calls for a review of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations at the UN General Assembly in 2014 to decide whether further work should be undertaken by the OEWG to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.[5]

The OEWG was established by the UN General Assembly in November 2012 (and commenced its work in May 2013). The momentum developed by the OEWG led to the CD finally agreeing to establish an informal working group on nuclear disarmament in August 2013. The nuclear disarmament proposals in the OEWG report can now feed into this CD process. If successful, we could soon see the start of multilateral negotiations to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. If not, then the OEWG could restart again in 2014 to take the next steps toward such negotiations. NGOs involved in this work are calling on citizens around the world to lobby their national governments to support the draft UN resolution − for more information see www.openthedoor2013.org and www.baselpeaceoffice.org/oewg

A statement drafted by International Physicians for the Prevention of War and released at the 13th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates (nobelforpeace-summits.org) in Warsaw, calls for outlawing and eliminating nuclear weapons as a humanitarian imperative. In addition to IPPNW (the 1985 Peace Laureate), the statement has been endorsed by Peace Laureates the International Peace Bureau, the American Friends Service Committee, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Lech Walesa, the Dalai Lama, F. W. De Klerk, the Pugwash Conferences, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, and Muhammad Yunus. Other Laureates are expected to endorse the statement.[6]

On September 26, the overwhelming majority of countries condemned the continued existence of nuclear weapons and called for their banning and elimination at the first ever UN high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament. Ray Acheson and Beatrice Fihn from Reaching Critical Will wrote: "In an attempt to counter this rising wave of states free of nuclear weapons asserting their agency over the nuclear disarmament question, the nuclear-armed states complained about "distractions" from "existing processes". The nuclear-armed states, and some of their allies that still believe they "benefit" from nuclear weapons, argued that the step-by-step approach to disarmament is the "only" way forward. In a defensively worded joint statement by France, the United Kingdom, and United States, the three nuclear-armed states expressed "regret" that some states and civil society have decided to highlight the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons ... They argued that energy should instead be directed to existing processes and making progress on the step-by-step agenda. However, as the Philippines noted, the step-by-step process has become synonymous with foot dragging."[8]

'Don't Bank on the Bomb' is a global report into the financing of nuclear weapons, released by IKV Pax Christi and ICAN, which aims to increase the transparency of the finance sectors' investments. It details how 298 private and public financial institutions continue to invest almost US$314 billion into 27 companies involved in the production, maintenance and modernisation of nuclear weapons. The report is posted at: www.dontbankonthebomb.com

References:
[1] www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/press-release-nyc.pdf
[2] www.nti.org/gsn/article/japan-endorses-un-disarmament-statement/
[3] www.nonukes.nl/en/news/minister-timmermans-maintains-cold-war-nuclear-po...
[4] www.npsglobal.org/eng/images/stories/pdf/Time-for-nuclear-disarmament.pdf
[5] www.baselpeaceoffice.org/article/time-walk-through-door-nuclear-weapons-...
[6] http://peaceandhealthblog.com/2013/10/23/laureates-statement/
[7] www.crikey.com.au/2013/10/25/australias-weasel-statement-on-nukes/
[8] www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/others/hlm-nuclear-disarma...