Saturday, December 24, 2016

Historic UN vote defies nuclear threats from Trump and Putin

The United Nations General Assembly has approved the final stage of a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, by a majority of more than three to one. The proposal was originally introduced by Ireland, Austria, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria, and gained the approval of the General Assembly's First Committee, which deals with disarmament and security issues, in October. 

The historic vote, carried on the evening of 23rd December, offers the possibility of ending decades of stalemate in nuclear disarmament, coming at the end of a week which saw both Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president-elect Donald Trump speak of intensifying their countries' nuclear weapons capacities. 

Welcoming the vote, the Chairperson of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, stated, "A treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons would provide an important step towards the elimination of these horrific weapons of mass destruction. It would close the loopholes in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty which a small number of states have exploited to avoid their clear obligations in relation to nuclear disarmament under that treaty."

"The aggressive comments this week from two countries with huge nuclear arsenals show that they have little intention of complying with even their limited legal obligations to disarm under the Non-Proliferation Treaty," he continued. "We believe that this demonstrates the urgent necessity for other countries to seize the initiative from the aggressors and pursue a clear legally-binding treaty which will stigmatise and outlaw these horrific weapons of mass destruction. Even if nuclear-armed states do not participate in the negotiations, it would be grossly irresponsible for the rest of the world to do nothing." 

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons' Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn, stated, “Every nation has an interest in ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again, which can only be guaranteed through their complete elimination. We are calling on all governments to join next year’s negotiations and work to achieve a strong and effective treaty.” 

“We believe that, through its normative force, the nuclear weapon ban treaty will affect the behaviour of nuclear-armed nations even if they refuse to join it. It will also affect the behaviour of many of their allies that currently claim protection from nuclear weapons, including those in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their territory. It will contribute significantly towards achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world,” she said. 

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts. A number of recent studies have also demonstrated that the risks of accidental or intentional detonations of nuclear weapons have been dramatically underestimated or misunderstood.

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