UN Votes to Begin Negotiations on a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons


August 23, 2016 – UN member states in Geneva last week voted to adopt a report that recommended the General Assembly begin negotiations in 2017 on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The report by the Open Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament (OEWG) recommended a conference “open to all States, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”

The OEWG was established following a General Assembly resolution in Dec. 2015 and the calls for a complete ban on nuclear weapons are supported by 107 UN member states.

Nuclear weapons are the only weapon of mass destruction not banned by international treaty and proponents of a ban want a treaty to prohibit the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons.

While a majority of states want a ban, crucially, the nuclear weapons states along with NATO members and countries under a US defense umbrella are against a ban, citing their security.

All African, Latin American, Caribbean, and Pacific countries support a ban but support among Western and European countries is not nearly as strong, with many belonging to NATO. Among the Western and European countries to support a ban are Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Serbia and Ukraine.

There were 14 countries that were against the adoption of last week’s report: Australia, Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Slovenia, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Turkey, Lithuania, and South Korea.

In all, 138 countries voted to establish the working group last December.

Among the countries that abstained on last week’s vote are the Netherlands and Japan. The Netherlands hosts US nuclear weapons while Japan is under the nuclear umbrella.

Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, has long called for complete disarmament but has not yet come out in support of a complete ban. Other countries that have not outright called for a compete ban on nuclear weapons have suggested that a first step towards a complete ban should be a ban on the use of nuclear weapons.

The nine nuclear weapons states – Britain, France, China, US, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – did not participate in the OEWG.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz


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On This Day, 1959 – Khrushchev Becomes First Soviet Premier to Address U.N. General Assembly

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Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev greeted by United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld* (left) at UNHQ in New York City, Sept 18, 1959 (photo: UN Photo)

Sept 18, 2012 – On this day 53 years ago, Nikita Khrushchev became the first Soviet premier to address the U.N. General Assembly, where he presented a solution to the Berlin crisis, called for the admission of the People’s Republic of China, and pleaded for universal disarmament.

Khrushchev told the then 82-nation member General Assembly that tensions in Berlin could be ameliorated if the U.S. signed a peace treaty with East Germany and Allied troops were withdrawn from West Berlin, though he made no such reference to a similar withdrawal of Soviet troops from East Berlin, according to the book Khrushchev in America.

On PR China, he told delegates that Beijing’s exclusion from the U.N. directly contributed to the Cold War and its admission would reduce East – West tensions (PRC was admitted to the United Nations in 1971 and recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was withdrawn).

He concluded with a vigorous call for global disarmament.

“The new proposal of the Soviet Government is prompted by the sole desire to ensure truly lasting peace among nations,” he said.

“We say sincerely to all countries: In contrast to the ‘Let us arm!’ slogan, still current in some quarters, we put forward the slogan ‘Let us completely disarm!’ Let us rather compete in who builds more homes, schools and hospitals for the people; produces more grain, milk, meat, clothing and other consumer goods; and not in who has more hydrogen bombs and rockets. This will be welcomed by all the peoples of the world,” Khrushchev implored.

That was three years before the Cuban missile crisis.

Russia currently has an estimated stockpile of 10,000 nuclear warheads while the U.S. has about 8,000.

– Denis Fitzgerald 

*Exactly two years later, on Sept 18, 1961, Hammarskjöld would lose his life in a plane crash along with 15 others in then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)