News Archive
Mar 1, 2016 - Peace Boat attends new UN working group on nuclear disarmament
On February 21-26, 2016, a new UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) met for its fist session in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss how to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations in 2016.

The Working group was set up by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2015 with the mandate to build upon the conclusions of the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna; lay out the legal gaps in the current framework governing nuclear weapons; and develop "legal measures, legal provisions and norms" for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet comprehensively prohibited under international law.

All UN members, as well as international organizations and civil society, have been invited to take part in the discussions on the way forward. The new body has the backing of 138 states, and at its first meeting this majority of nations discussed the merit and feasibility of a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, and many seemed ready to start exploring the elements that such a treaty would include. Peace Boat was involved in related efforts from in advance of the working group meeting taking place, facilitating meetings in Tokyo with representatives of the Japan NGO Network for Nuclear Weapons Abolition and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling upon Japan to take an active role in the discussions, as well as organizing press conferences and writing op-eds in major newspapers to raise public awareness and interest in these proceedings. Peace Boat was also present in person in Geneva, represented by Switzerland-based international coordinator Jasna Bastic, together with many other civil society organizations - many of which are cooperating together as part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

While nuclear weapon possessing states chose not to participate in the OEWG, some nuclear-reliant states made their view clear that they do not consider there is a legal gap under international law. They also maintained that while the humanitarian concerns should inform nuclear disarmament efforts, they will continue to rely on nuclear weapons for their security as long as nuclear weapons exist.

Over two-thirds of UN member states support the humanitarian pledge, signalling a general acceptance of the legal gap. The Humanitarian Initiative has shown the important role that non-nuclear-weapon states can play in raising awareness about nuclear dangers and in building momentum for nuclear disarmament.

The body will hold further meetings in May and August 2016 and submit a report to the General Assembly in October 2016 on its substantive work and agreed recommendations.

Find panelists' presentations, as well as governmental statements here.

Read excellent reports and analyses by Reaching Critical Will here.

Documents for download