By the last day of the first session of the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty discussions in New York, there was an exuberant excitement in the room at the enormous significance of what is under way.
132 UN Member states participated in this meeting to agree the elements for a nuclear weapons ban treaty. This important treaty is a real step towards general and complete disarmament, leading to peace, security, and human rights. It is not an end itself, but an major tool.
When the nine states that possess nuclear weapons exhibited no good faith commitment to nuclear disarmament and chose to boycott the conference, their absence did not have the effect they had intended but allowed thoughtful deliberation and exchanges, and a useful example of how the United Nations can operate in terms of open, fluid conversation amongst states, international organisations, academics, and non-governmental organisations. This was particularly helpful around the discussions of positive obligations that states would commit to, such as ensuring the rights of victims and survivors of nuclear weapons activities, and identifying actions to address damage to affected environments and providing for international cooperation and assistance to meet the obligations of the treaty.
Member states showed their concerns that the devastating effect of nuclear weapons can never be contained by national borders or their governments and they listened respectfully to survivors describing the awful reality of nuclear weapons and tests, and the expert advice from organisations like the International Red Cross and Red Crescent.
All of the key points that ICAN hoped the states would raise were discussed and hopefully will be incorporated into the draft treaty that the chair will now compile for further discussions in the second session, which takes place from the 17th of June till the beginning of July.
Ensuring that the information is available for the diplomats, encouraging them to work together in groups to resist the financial pressure and threatened removal of military support by the nuclear weapons states, organising or participating in the many side events to help people to be well informed, and keeping track of who is there who is speaking and what they are saying is a lot of work. We need to ensure that civil society and parliamentarians who support the treaty are there, speaking out. Lots of people are pinning hopes on Scotland succeeding in disarming the UK, and it is essential that we share this news here – the mainstream media are not listening in the UK.
The conference is starting to change the norm and stigmatise and delegitimise nuclear weapons in the eyes of the world.
Article written by Janet Fenton, Vice-Chair of Scottish CND and an accredited civil society participant in the Treaty negotiations