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"Forget the Rest" blog


For immediate release June 15, 2017

Historic negotiations to ban nuclear weapons resume at United Nations today

Will negotiators finish by July 7? Will the treaty leave loopholes?

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 (office), 505-577-8563 (cell)

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Albuquerque, NM – Today most of the world’s countries have gathered again to complete negotiations of a treaty that will ban the possession and use of nuclear weapons, the “Convention to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,” a draft of which was released on May 22 by Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, President of the negotiating conference.

Negotiations began in late March pursuant to a General Assembly mandate passed last December. Elements of the treaty were extensively discussed in the spring and summer of 2016 by a special Open-Ended Working Group. Negotiations will conclude on July 7.

There was broad agreement on core issues in the first negotiating session among the 130 or so states attending, which augurs for success in the present, final session. Some thorny issues remain, of course. Amendments to the text can be accepted or rejected on the basis of a two-thirds majority vote of states present, which will help avoid deadlock.

Study Group director Greg Mello: “We are cautiously optimistic that the Conference will produce a final treaty. Extending negotiations past July 7 – which realistically means well into 2018 or beyond – is neither necessary nor desirable for this relatively straightforward Convention.

“These negotiations are unprecedented. They are momentous for humanity and civilization. The present opportunity, created by the work of thousands of people over many years, may not come again. No issue, even ones we have raised in our comments on the draft treaty text, should be allowed to get in the way.

The Study Group’s initial views on the draft text were submitted to the Conference in four working papers,[1] available on our web site as a single paper. We published a summary this morning (“To foster nuclear (and general) disarmament, a ban treaty should prohibit nuclear threats and preparations, and ban military alliances with nuclear states,”).

Mello: “Not just nuclear umbrella relationships but in the final analysis all military alliances with nuclear weapons states are incompatible with a treaty that prohibits nuclear threats, preparation for use of nuclear weapons, and nuclear use, as well as any assistance with these activities. NATO, for example, is inherently a nuclear alliance as long as three of its members wield nuclear weapons.

“This week, diplomats will grapple with these and many other issues. How far will they be able to go? How much of the nettle will they grasp? Stay tuned!”

Study Group executive director Greg Mello will be attending negotiations next week. Study Group staff have participated in negotiations and preparatory meetings since 2014.

Study Group director Ms. Ray Acheson, Executive Director of the Reaching Critical Will (RCW) project of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF), has been a leader of the ban effort since its inception. For several years she was closely assisted by Ms. Mia Gandenberger, also a Study Group director. Former Study Group intern Michael Spies is the lead UN staff member supporting the negotiating Conference.

Civil society advocacy for the nascent convention has been powerfully coordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Selected background on the development of the Convention can be found on our ban web page.

For hour-by-hour developments please see ICAN and RCW, perhaps especially via tweets. The open portions of negotiations are being broadcast live on UN TV.


[1] A/CONF.229/2017/NGO/WP.26 (“To Be Effective, Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Must Include Nuclear Threats, Extended Deterrence, and Military Alliances with Nuclear States (Part I)”); A/CONF.229/2017/NGO/WP.27 (“To Be Effective, Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Must Include Nuclear Threats, Extended Deterrence, and Military Alliances with Nuclear States (Part II); Nuclear States Must Remain Outside the Treaty”); A/CONF.229/2017/NGO/WP.28 (The Convention Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons Should Not Include Disarmament, Fissile Material, or Verification Protocols; Other Comments”); A/CONF.229/2017/NGO/WP.29 (“All nuclear weapon states maintain and operate facilities capable of prompt, complete national nuclear disarmament”).

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