News Archive
May 7, 2016 - Peace Boat calls for nuclear weapons ban at UN talks in Geneva
ICAN's Campaigners Meeting

On April 30-May 1, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) held a campaigners meeting, with 130 participants from all continents.

During these two days, campaigners discussed strategies to translate the Humanitarian Initiative into the start of a diplomatic negotiating process towards a new legally binding instrument, which prohibits nuclear weapons, as well as elements such a ban should include.

Peace Boat, as a member of ICAN's international steering group, played an important role in the event, including presenting and moderating sessions, notably a workshop on strategy and tactical thinking around the process ahead in regards to states relying to nuclear deterrence.

UN Open Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Nuclear Disarmament

Since May 2, talks have begun at the UN on how to push the process forward. The OEWG, created in December 2015 by a UN General Assembly resolution, has the mandate to develop glegal measures, legal provisions and normsh for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

In the first week of this second session (the first having been held in February), the OEWG held a debate on questions of risk reduction, transparency, and increased understanding of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

An increasing number of governments have been responding with strong statements demanding that the debate now move forward. A majority of states are expressing support for a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons as the most promising and feasible next step. Some even made explicit proposals to hold a negotiating conference in 2017.

Civil society groups are also given the floor. Among them, on May 4, Hibakusha (victims of the A-bond in Hiroshima and Nagasaki) Setsuko Thurlow and Wada Masako made compelling appeals for a nuclear free world during their life-time, while Dr. Ira Helfand, Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) demonstrated that the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war invalidates any conceivable argument for the continued possession of these weapons.

Peace Boat executive committee member Akira Kawasaki also took the floor to deconstruct the criticism that the humanitarian approach does not take the security dimension sufficiently into account, and made the convincing case that "prohibiting nuclear weapons and thus establishing a universal legal norm against nuclear weaponsc [is] in the interests of security - in all of its human, national and global dimensions." (Video of statement available here).

On May 3, Peace Boat held a side-event, co-sponsored with Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, IPPNW, and Hibakusha Stories, on Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, from 1945 to Future Security, featuring a public conversation between Hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow, US physician and co-President of IPPNW Dr Ira Helfand and Ambassador Thomas Hajnoczi of Austria.

During the second week (May 9-13), the OEWG has been focusing its deliberation on the essential elements that would comprise effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that will need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons, as well as on possible pathways to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. A large number of delegations have made clear that they consider a ban treaty is the most effective and feasible option available to states at this time, and that such a treaty should prohibit not only the use and threat of use, but also their development, production, testing, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer and deployment.

On May 9, Peace Boat International Coordinator Celine Nahory delivered a speech welcoming the gmany strong calls to begin negotiations on a ban treaty. Such a treaty can - and must - be negotiated now, even without the participation of nuclear-armed states. It will constitute an important initial step towards elimination.h

The Chair of the Working Group, Ambassador Thani Thonphakdi, will attempt to draft a report summarizing the views expressed and making recommendations which, after a final session in August, will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in the fall.

For more information about the OEWG, visit the official UN page.
You can also find statements, presentations, as well as analyses on the websites of Reaching Critical Will and ICAN.

Documents for download