Historic vote to ban nuclear weapons

States vote to adopt a recommendation on banning nuclear weapons at the OEWG in Geneva, 19 August 2016. Credit: Ray Acheson.

By Ray Acheson, Director of WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will

On Friday, August 19, 2016, in Geneva, governments participating in the open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament (OEWG) adopted a clear recommendation for the commencement of negotiations in 2017 on a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons. The report under consideration was adopted by a vote of 68 to 22, with 9 abstentions, though the recommendation to start ban treaty negotiations was supported by at least 107 states during the OEWG session.

This is a historic moment, the “most significant contribution to nuclear disarmament in two decades,” as the ambassador from Mexico said during his closing remarks at the OEWG. For 71 years, the majority of countries have experienced the injustice and insecurity that nuclear weapons represent. Together with civil society from around the world, they have demanded nuclear disarmament, only to be frustrated by deadlock and hypocrisy and increased financial investments in nuclear weapons.

The scene looks different now. The collective opposition to the current state of affairs has found a united voice and a pathway to action. The battle is far from over—we anticipate that some states will continue to try to thwart progress at this year’s UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. But we are as close as we have ever been to launching a concerted, credible challenge to nuclear weapons, and we have the momentum and the moral authority to succeed.

A nuclear weapon ban treaty seeks to stigmatize nuclear weapons through their prohibition. It can be negotiated now, even if the nuclear-armed states refuse to participate. It would have a normative and practical effect on the possession, sharing, and financing of nuclear weapons. WILPF has provided a lot of the thinking around how such a treaty would be effective, and has been advocating for the ban as a Steering Group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) .

Read more about the historic vote in Geneva with Reaching Critical Will's report on the final OEWG meeting. Also find our other reports on the OEWG, as well as statements and documents from the 2016 session.

Contact: Ray Acheson, ray@reachingcriticalwill.org


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