In the month since the agreement on the Nuclear Ban treaty in New York coverage of this momentous event has been a little thin in the Scottish main stream media, but more thorough in the social media. You can read the full summary here so you can see if you missed any.
The Scottish CND Global Ban Treaty Working Group are organising a public meeting on on Wed, 23rd of Aug at 7 pm in the Rainbow Room of the Quaker Meeting House (38 Elmbank Crescent Glasgow G2 4PS).
The United Nations Treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was adopted in July in New York. A Scottish Civil Society Team, including Scottish CND, and other Scottish partners in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons attended and participated.
This will be a participative meeting, so following a report back from those involved, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and raise issues.
Getting to Glasgow is not an option for all of us. However, we will try our best to stream this event online either via independencelive.net or our Facebook page. In addition, similar events will be organised in other areas.
Anyone who is interested is very welcome to attend this meeting.
Please pass the word round.
On the 20th of September, the treaty opens for signatures and becomes law when 50 UN Member States have signed. We still have lots to do so please keep checking our website regularly.
Download the leaflet for this meeting Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Meeting leaflet.
The already dangerous crisis in Korea has escalated further with the reckless rhetoric emanating from both the United States and the Democratic Republic of Korea. The wild threats issued by both sides only inflame an already explosive situation. If acted on they could lead directly to the death of tens of millions of people in both countries and beyond their borders. They must stop.
At a time of similar confrontation in 1994 the United States and the DPRK chose to enter into negotiations and they were able to work out an arrangement that met both nations’ security needs until the United States suspended the talks in 2002. There is an urgent need to resume direct negotiations without preconditions to defuse this dangerous crisis.
At the United Nations last month 122 nations pointed out the path forward by voting to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty recognized the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that will result from nuclear war and prohibited the possession of these weapons. The United States, the Democratic Republic of Korea, and all of the nuclear-armed states need to acknowledge the unacceptable danger posed by these weapons, and clearly illustrated by the current crisis. They need to understand that nuclear weapons do not enhance their security, but pose the greatest risk to their own security and the security of all peoples. And they need to negotiate the time bound, verifiable, and enforceable elimination of their arsenals.
There is a great opportunity to hear the author of this article, Tilman Ruff, at a public meeting on the evening of Friday 8th September at the Quaker Meeting House, Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh. Tilman is an Australian public health and infectious diseases physician and a leading advocate of the global health imperative to eradicate nuclear weapons. The article is in context at http://www.powertopersuade.org.au/blog/why-the-new-un-nuclear-weapons-ban-is-important-including-for-social-health-environmental-policy/28/7/2017 but it is pasted below for convenience.
WHY THE NEW UN NUCLEAR WEAPONS BAN IS IMPORTANT, INCLUDING FOR SOCIAL, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
You could be forgiven for not having heard much about it, but a big and important thing happened in New York on 7 July. In Conference Room 1 at the United Nations, at 10:47 am, representatives of 122 governments voted to adopt the text of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
There was only one state which voted against the treaty, the Netherlands, hosting US nuclear weapons on its soil and member of NATO, unreformed and unrepentant, but there because of the weight of public and parliamentary pressure. There was only one abstention, by Singapore, unexpected and apparently as a result of last-minute instructions from the capital, most likely as a result of US pressure. Regrettably, this was the first time that regional solidarity among the 10 states of ASEAN was broken during these negotiations and the lead-up to them.
A number of other states, particularly smaller and poorer countries more vulnerable to political and economic pressure from nuclear-armed bullies, simply stayed away or did not vote. This pressure, particularly from the US, France and Russia, escalated dramatically during the last week of the conference when it became clear that the adoption of a treaty was in sight.
The forthright ambassador of South Africa was the only one to publicly call out the “incredible pressure” brought to bear on African states in an attempt to discourage them from supporting the treaty.
A GLOBAL SHIFT
Nevertheless, the outcome could hardly have been more decisive, and the world is changed. Indeed as delegates began filling the conference room earlier and in larger numbers than at any other time during the negotiations, it was clear that the nuclear bullies had failed to derail this historic effort and that the treaty text would be agreed.
And just as well, because the General Assembly mandate for these negotiations ended on 7 July, so if agreement had not been possible to reach, it would have been an even longer and harder road to ban nuclear weapons than the current 71 year one since the very first resolution of the UN General Assembly, on 24 Jan 1946, called for the “elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons”. There was in fact an extraordinary degree of determination and goodwill in the room to get the job done, and a willingness to put aside national differences that is unprecedented in my 35 year experience of following these issues closely.
Finally, nuclear weapons are prohibited, filling a gaping wound in international law, which has seen the last and worst weapon of mass destruction, the only ones posing an acute existential threat to all humanity and to the biosphere that is our only home, as the only major class of indiscriminate and inhumane weapon not specifically prohibited by an international treaty. States that continue to possess nuclear weapons and claim some special right to wield these global suicide bombs are now pariahs: international outlaws.
One reason you may not have heard much about this landmark treaty to date is that the treaty negotiations were boycotted by the nine nuclear armed states, and the other states who fuel nuclear proliferation and obstruct nuclear disarmament by claiming that there are some circumstances in which they would want US nuclear weapons to be launched on their behalf. These are the 28 member states of NATO, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
HOW DID THE TREATY COME ABOUT?
The negotiating conference was convened “to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” All UN member states were able to and encouraged to participate. There were three main sets of factors that led to this mandate.
The first is the longest unfinished business of the UN to eliminate nuclear weapons being unacceptably delayed by all the nine nuclear-armed states failing over decades to fulfil their legally binding obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament.
Worse, all of them are doing the opposite – massively investing for the indefinite future in extensive refurbishment and renewal of their nuclear arsenals. The rest of the world, who almost without exception understand the gravity of the threat to all humanity posed by the nuclear sword of Damocles wielded by a few, have grown increasingly frustrated and impatient with discussions about nuclear weapons being dictated by the states wielding the weapons and with waiting for what meagre crumbs might fall from the nuclear disarmament table.
Secondly, in contrast to the paralysis in nuclear disarmament, there has been substantial progress in the prohibition and progressive elimination of the other major kinds of indiscriminate and inhumane weapons – biological and toxin weapons, chemical weapons, antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions.
In each case, the experience has been consistent. The first crucial step has been codifying in law that the relevant weapon has intrinsically unacceptable effects, should never be used under any circumstances and must be eliminated – as former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said, “There are no right hands for the wrong weapons”. These prohibitions have provided the basis and motivation for elimination regimes.
Thirdly, the last seven years have seen a growing humanitarian initiative regarding nuclear weapons. Renewed political space was created by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn in 2007; and then by President Barack Obama, for the idea of a world free of nuclear weapons.
Just prior to the 2010 Review Conference of the non-proliferation treaty, Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, articulated with renewed vigour and priority that, for the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons is an urgent humanitarian imperative. This resulted in the recognition by the RevCon of the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”.
On the back of this recognition, Norway, Mexico and Austria in 2013-4 organised the first ever intergovernmental conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The conclusions of these evidence-based conferences drove a growing movement of the vast majority of states through NPT and UN forums, and the Humanitarian Pledge initiated by Austria, for a humanitarian imperative to fill the existing legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
A UN Working Group on nuclear disarmament recommended to the 2016 UN General Assembly (UNGA) that a treaty prohibiting and providing for the elimination of nuclear weapons was the next best step that the world could now take. This led to the mandate for the ban treaty negotiations being supported by over 120 states at the UNGA in late 2016. Throughout these processes, and a new broad civil society campaign coalition, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) became the principal civil society partner for governments serious about disarmament. ICAN was founded by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), and launched in Melbourne in 2007 by IPPNW’s Australian affiliate, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War.
WHAT’S IN THE TREATY?
Drawing on other disarmament treaties, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons provides a categorical and comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons and any activities supporting their possession, deployment and possible use. Its preamble articulates deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences from any use of nuclear weapons, the consequent need to eliminate them completely, and that they should never be used again under any circumstances.
It notes that the risks posed by nuclear weapons threaten the security of all humanity and that therefore all states share the responsibility to prevent any use. It recognises that the consequences of nuclear weapons use cannot be adequately addressed, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socio-economic development, food security and the health of current and future generations.
For the first time in a nuclear disarmament instrument, tribute is paid to hibakusha (nuclear survivors), and it recognises the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls, and on Indigenous peoples, including of course the Aboriginal people subjected to British nuclear tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in the 1950s.
The treaty commits each State party never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise aquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons. It also prohibits the transfer, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; and to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any prohibited activity.
The treaty is carefully crafted to enable states that own nuclear weapons, owned them previously, or have them stationed on their territory, to accede to the treaty. It requires that nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons programs and facilities be eliminated under verifiable, irreversible and time-bound plans to be agreed with states parties.
The details of these elimination regimes clearly require the participation of the states that possess the weapons, but the treaty provides a clear framework and non-discriminatory principles for these regimes. It provides for the possibility of additional protocols to the treaty being developed. The treaty also provides for safeguards standards consistent with obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and that these may change – hopefully strengthen – in the future.
No state can reasonably argue that this treaty in any way undermines or contradicts the NPT, or that it could not join this treaty. Indeed these provisions to allow for the future joining of the treaty by states not in the negotiating room and with no current desire to do so was the most difficult part of the negotiations, reflecting the seriousness of the desire to craft not only a prohibition instrument, but one that provides for the elimination of nuclear weapons, as required by the conference’s negotiating mandate.
HUMANITARIAN AND HUMAN RIGHTS NORMS
One important aspect of the treaty is that it builds on the humanitarian and human rights based norms powerfully developed in the landmine and cluster munitions treaties, providing for needs-based assistance to victims and feasible clean-up of contaminated environments as core obligations for states joining the treaty.
This is the first treaty related to nuclear weapons which addresses these matters. It calls on states to provide assistance to people affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, without discrimination, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as providing for their social and economic inclusion.
The treaty also enshrines an obligation for states to take necessary and appropriate measures towards environmental remediation of areas contaminated by nuclear weapon use or testing. Clearly much of the harm caused by nuclear weapons cannot be undone in the way traumatic injuries may be able to be treated, and that discrete munitions can be removed, but these provisions should help ensure that the ongoing needs of survivors and for environmental monitoring and where possible clean-up are not forgotten.
States in a position to assist in these tasks are obliged to do so; and the responsibility of states that have used or tested nuclear weapons draws specific mention.
States parties will meet at least every two years to review and promote the implementation of the treaty. It will be possible for a two thirds majority of states parties to agree on amendments to the treaty. The treaty will be of unlimited duration, and its provisions must be accepted in toto by states joining; reservations by which states may specify particular provisions of the treaty they do not accept, will not be possible.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The treaty will open for signature on 20 September 2017, during the opening week of this year’s UN General Assembly session. It will enter into force 90 days after 50 governments have ratified it.
Given that the mandate for the negotiating conference and the conference’s adoption of the treaty text were both supported by over 120 states, it can be expected that more than 100 states will sign the treaty before the end of this year, and that it will enter into force by the middle of next year.
The next article will consider how this historic treaty can be best utilised by governments, parliamentarians and civil society in Australia and elsewhere to advance the elimination of nuclear weapons.
There has been a written question to the Defence Secretary as a follow up to Patrica Gibson’s question in the house last week. Apparently there are different kinds of multilateral disarmament and we’ve picked the wrong one!
Nuclear Weapons: Written question
Asked by Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his oral Answer of 10 July 2017, Official Report, column 23, to the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran, for what reasons it is Government policy that the nuclear ban treaty should not apply to the UK.
Answered by: Sir Michael Fallon
The UK will never sign, ratify or become party to the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. We do not believe that it will bring us closer to a world without nuclear weapons as it fails to address the key issues that must first be overcome to achieve lasting global nuclear disarmament. We consider that the best way to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach within existing international frameworks. The UK continues to work towards global nuclear disarmament through the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
As part of the action to highlight the Global Ban Treaty and Scotland’s position as a reluctant host of nuclear weapons there is currently a disarmament camp at Coulport. A number of people have been arrested, and two long term campaigners are in prison till 3rd August. Read about how that happened, and how you can support them.
‘We do not support this treaty,
we do not think it should apply to the UK,
and if it is voted on we will not accept it’
So said Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence, on the Global Ban treaty in Parliament yesterday.
Not quite the last word but a splendid summary of of the significance of the UN nuclear weapon treaty. Author Ray Acheson was a strong collaborator friend of the late John Ainslie.
The new reality
8 July 2017
Yesterday, we banned nuclear weapons.
It’s still hard to believe this is the case. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, the enormity of what just happened. Even as survivors, activists, politicians, and diplomats celebrated in New York and around the world, many expressed amazement that we actually pulled it off.
It was a long campaign. Activism against nuclear weapons has been fierce and determined for over seventy years. But it wasn’t until recent years, when a few courageous diplomats in partnership with a group of civil society actors working as part of or in collaboration with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons decided to take a leap into the unknown, that we managed to finally develop international law condemning and prohibiting these last weapons of mass destruction.
Working together, we foregrounded our actions in resistance and hope. Resistance to the pressure from nuclear-armed and nuclear-alliance states. Resistance to attitudes of cynicism and of defeatism. Resistance to staying the course, being placated, being told to be patient, that the “important” countries will handle this matter. Hope that change is possible. Hope that by working together we can achieve something that can disrupt some of the most powerful, heavily militarised structures and doctrines in the entire world. Hope that a shared sense of humanity could prevail against all odds. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney quoted Seamus Heaney in his remarks on Friday, that “hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is a good worth working for.”
There were incredible obstacles in our way. We were challenging power. In response, many forces of that power were unleashed upon us—politically, and sometimes personally. In her closing statement, Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa noted the “an incredible amount of pressure” on her continent not to participate. We saw this pressure placed on many countries in October before the General Assembly voted to begin these negotiations. We saw it even when states were organising conferences to examine the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons.
The key was not to allow these obstacles to be insurmountable. This is a choice. One can either give up or keep fighting. No obstacle is actually too big; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to go under, around, over, or through it. On Friday, 7 July, 122 governments voted yes for humanity. They took courage in their collective endeavor, and in the support of civil society filling the gallery behind them beyond capacity. They also took courage in their “moral duty,” as Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko put it, noting that “to have voted no would have been a slap in the face to the victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.”
Banning nuclear weapons was not an insurmountable challenge, just as achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons is not insurmountable. The day after the adoption of this treaty we are already seeing the flood of commentary on how useless what we did is. How this treaty will change nothing; how we’ve only created divisions; how we haven’t eliminated a single nuclear weapon. It will continue to be an epic mansplaining session until the trolls, who have invested their academic or political careers in reinforcing the status quo by explaining ad nauseam that this is how things are and that things can never change, get bored and move on. (Proving them wrong is apparently not sufficient—they said we could never ban nuclear weapons and now that we have, the issue its utility, not its possibility.)
It’s okay, they can have their space to complain and critique—they have always taken up this space, and until we do more to disrupt the structures that keep them safely ensconced in that space, they will continue to do so. In the meantime, the feminists, the queers, the people of colour, the survivors, the determined diplomats, the passionate politicians, the thoughtful academics, the fierce activists—the rebels and the brave—will do what we can to keep making change. We do so to honour the people who have suffered from nuclear violence. We do so to ensure that respect, dignity, courage, and love are the dominant traits of humanity, rather than our capacity for self-destruction, selfishness, or fear.
There is time for celebration but not self-congratulation. There is only time for more work. Just like the critics warned, this treaty has not magically eliminated nuclear weapons over night. We always knew it would be harder than that. But as atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow said in her remarkable closing statement to the conference on Friday, “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.” This treaty was conceived of as a tool that could help change the politics and economics of nuclear weapons as a means of facilitating disarmament. The text that we adopted on Friday is well suited to this task. It provides a solid foundation to change policies and practices, as well as to shift the thinking and discourse on nuclear weapons even further than the process to ban them already has.
We have not, as a species, been able to figure out how to solve everything at once. We struggle sometimes to even keep things on the right track, tenuous and fragile as that track can sometimes be. But we can work together to do extraordinary things—and we should do it more often. It just takes courage. It sounds over simplified, but it’s really not. We’re taught that this is a naive approach to the world—it’s engrained in us as we become adults that idealism and activism are youthful pursuits. They are not. They are the pursuits of the brave, of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs.
This is a treaty made by people. By diplomats who got inspired by an idea and went home to change their government’s positions. By activists writing, thinking, and convening, bringing together governments and civil society groups to figure out how to make things happen. By survivors who give their testimony despite the personal trauma of reliving their experiences. By direct action crews who get arrested for breaking into nuclear weapon facilities or blockading nuclear transports or military bases. By campaigners who mobilise nationally to raise awareness and pressure their governments. By politicians who truly represent the will of their people and speak the truth in parliaments. By academics who write the theory or record the process.
This treaty is an amazing feat of collective action by people who came together to do something that had not been tried before. Like anything created by people, it has its imperfections. But it’s a good start on the road to abolition, and it gives a glimpse of what is possible in this world. That, all on its own, has meaning.
Copyright © 2017 Reaching Critical Will, All rights reserved.
Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Adopted at UN
After a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and 72 years after their invention, today states at the United Nations formally adopted a treaty which categorically prohibits nuclear weapons. Scottish CND has been a partner in ICAN since 2007.
Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a ban treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences across the world of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992.
ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said:
“We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security. It is time for leaders around the world to match their values and words with action by signing and ratifying this treaty as a first step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.”
Bill Kidd MSP, Co-President of Parliamentarians for Non- Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, added:
“All of the UK’s nuclear arsenal is based in Scotland, against the wishes of the Scottish Government the votes of the Scottish Parliament and the expressed will of the Scottish people. As a member of the Scottish Parliament, along with colleagues from Scottish Civil Society I am here in New York to speak up on behalf of our nation. The Prohibition Treaty will present a significant opportunity to present nuclear disarmament as a serious option on the table at international negotiations.”
The “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” was adopted today and will open for signature by states at the United Nations in New York on September 20, 2017. Civil society organizations, including those from the wider peace movement in Scotland, have participated in the negotiations as well as more than 140 member states of the UN.
This treaty came about because the majority of the world no longer accepts nuclear weapons as legitimate tools of war. The repeated objection and boycott of the negotiations by the UK and other nuclear-weapon states demonstrates that the treaty will impact on their behavior and stature and in changing the international view of nuclear weapons will change policies and behaviors, even in states that will not yet sign the treaty.
“Scotland’s opposition to the weapons in our country is in line with the global norm,” said Janet Fenton from the Scottish civil society delegation, “and now we have a great tool that can help us in our work to get rid of them.”
The treaty identifies obligations to the victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and to remediate the environmental damage caused.”
From the beginning, the effort to ban nuclear weapons has had the support of international humanitarian, environmental and disarmament organisations in more than 100 states including Scotland. Around the world, they signed petitions, joined protests, contacted representatives, and pressured governments. This year, Scottish CND established a Ban Treaty Working Group to prepare for New York.
The website which documents and reports on activities and negotiations at the UN is http://www.nuclearban.scot
Trident Ploughshares are holding a disarmament camp at Coulport to respond to the treaty’s adoption.
More information about ICAN can be found on www.icanw.org.