The announcement has been widely welcomed by international advocates for nuclear disarmament. “This is an historic breakthrough in global efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. A treaty banning nuclear weapons will be of enormous importance in establishing a clear, legal rejection of these weapons by the majority of the international community and has the potential to jump start the nuclear disarmament movement – even in the face of resistance from the nuclear-armed states,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which represents 440 organisations in almost 100 countries, including Ireland.
The Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND) has warmly welcomed the announcement, made by the Austrian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. "Nuclear weapons still have the capacity to wipe out life on earth as we know it, and even limited use would inflict catastrophic humanitarian harm and cause serious environmental damage," said Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, chairperson of Irish CND.
"This resolution opens the way for the first legally-binding step forward on nuclear disarmament in decades. A treaty banning nuclear weapons would play a very important role in stigmatising the production and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as their use or the threat of their use. It would send a clear signal internationally that the vast majority of states, who do not possess nuclear weapons, will no longer accept the possession and modernisation of these weapons of mass destruction by a handful of states.
"We are delighted that Ireland is one of the states sponsoring this resolution," he continued. "International peace and disarmament are areas in which Ireland has a long tradition of active engagement and leadership. It is reassuring to see that despite our economic woes in recent years, Ireland is still continuing to make its voice heard in working internationally for a world free of the unthinkable potential for destruction represented by nuclear weapons."
The proposal seeks to break decades of deadlock in nuclear disarmament, which has seen nuclear-armed states exploit a loophole in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to avoid the disarmament obligations implied by that treaty. Ireland's participation builds on a long tradition of leadership in nuclear disarmament, with the Non-Proliferation Treaty widely acknowledged as the brainchild of Irish diplomacy in the 1950s and 1960s.
The newly-published resolution builds on the report of the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament, which met for several sessions in Geneva this year and recommended, in accordance with the majority view at the Working Group meetings, that a resolution along these lines should be brought to the General Assembly.