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For immediate release Friday July 7, 2017

Historic Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons Adopted at United Nations

Opens for Signature September 20, 2017

Comprehensively bans nuclear weapons research, possession, use, deterrence, and all forms of assistance in these prohibited acts

Commits governments to criminalize all forms of nuclear weapons work, assistance, encouragement, etc.

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

Permanent link * Previous press releases

Albuquerque – This morning in New York, after years of preliminary discussions and negotiations that spanned several months, the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The Conference was led to this historic and successful conclusion by its President, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica.

It is the first true multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty ever successfully negotiated. All other extant multilateral treaties deal primarily or exclusively with preventing proliferation.

The vote, requested by the Netherlands, was 122 for adoption to 1 against (Netherlands), with 1 abstention (Singapore). At least 130 countries participated in the negotiations. 

Negotiations began in late March (“US, Allies, Stage Protest Outside UN General Assembly Hall as Nations Gather in Unprecedented Meeting to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” Mar 27, 2017) pursuant to a General Assembly mandate passed last December (“In Historic Vote, UN General Assembly Mandates 2017 Negotiations to Ban Research, Development, Testing, Stockpiling, Use of Nuclear Weapons,” Dec 23, 2016). Earlier, elements of the treaty were discussed at length by a special Open-Ended Working Group meeting in Geneva (“UN Disarmament Working Group Calls for 2017 Negotiations to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” Aug 19, 2016). These meetings were the result of years of efforts by civil society groups and leading states.

The draft Treaty prohibits signatory states from conducting or allowing a wide range of nuclear weapons activities, including: developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, and deploying; transferring to others or receiving from others; using or threatening to use nuclear weapons; allowing any stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territories; and assisting, encouraging, or inducing anyone in any of these prohibited acts.

The draft Treaty requires each signatory state to develop "legal,  administrative  and  other measures, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress" any of these prohibited activities.

The Treaty will be opened for signature on September 20, 2017, as the General Assembly begins its fall session.

The Treaty will enter in force 90 days after at least 50 countries have ratified it. 

The Treaty can be amended at regular or extraordinary meetings of signatory states by a two-thirds majority. 

The Treaty begins with a Preamble that reflects the moral, legal, and scientific concerns that brought nations together to produce this Treaty:

Basing themselves on the principles and rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the principle that the right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited, the rule of distinction, the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks, the rules on proportionality and precautions in attack, the prohibition on the use of weapons of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, and the rules for the protection of the natural environment,

Considering that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular the principles and rules of international humanitarian law,

Reaffirming that any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience,
Concerned by the slow pace of nuclear disarmament, the continued reliance on nuclear weapons in military and security concepts, doctrines and policies, and the waste of economic and human resources on programmes for the production, maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons...

Study Group Director Greg Mello: “We join so many others in congratulating Ambassador Gomez and the UN staff supporting her, and all the states who participated with such evident good faith, for this Treaty.

"The Treaty could not have been possible without the leadership of, and engagement by, literally hundreds of civil society organizations, ably coordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), underpinned by the untiring work of the Reaching Critical Will (RCW) program of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The ban campaign, the fruition of which we see today, really began and was co-led throughout by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Dozens of other organizations could be mentioned, without which this Treaty could never have been produced.

"Many people not involved in this process wonder how this Treaty could possibly affect nuclear armed states, which are unlikely to sign it. In its warning to NATO members last year, frantically urging a total boycott of these negotiations, the United States expressed its fear that a Treaty such as the one we now see would undercut European and Western Pacific nuclear alliances. The primary purpose of this Treaty is indeed to stigmatize and dismantle structures of nuclear deterrence, as Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has long required.

"It is difficult to overstate the accomplishment represented by this Treaty. It makes a sea-change in nuclear affairs, the effect of which will be felt only over time and with further yeoman efforts. It is a real milestone accomplishment in support of human civilization, an historic step in bringing the age of nuclear terror to an end.

"What follows now depends on many factors, but the new Treaty is a righteous 'thumb on the scale.'

"At American University on June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy called for 'a new effort to achieve world law -- a new context for world discussions,' to end the Cold War and build the institutions of peace.

"The new Treaty, which finally bans the Bomb is part of that new 'world law,' that 'new context.'

"'Our primary long range interest," Kennedy went on to say, 'is general and complete disarmament-- designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms.'

"That is our keen interest as well. 'It is no longer a choice, my friends,' said Dr. King, 'between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine.'"

Please see also the ICAN press release and that of IPPNW. Further background can be found at our web page devoted to these negotiations and their precursors, ICAN updates, and the detailed, analytically rich, and up-to-date resources provided by Reaching Critical Will.


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