Draft treaty released

DRAFT TREATY RELEASED

People in Scotland have been chanting ‘ban the bomb’ since the first US weapons came up the Clyde, so let’s be celebrating this week’s big news! The chair of the UN Conference to ban the bomb, Costa Rican ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, released the first draft of the Ban Treaty in Geneva, Switzerland, on 22 May. She presented the text to diplomats and civil society representatives then took questions from the media.

This draft is based on the elements identified by the 133 member states and the NGOs at the UN in March at the first round of the UN Conference, and it will be the basis of the final three weeks of intense talks during June and early July.

The Ban Treaty draft outlines how the Treaty will enter into effect , which can happen once 40 nations sign and ratify it. Signing by ambassadors can happen very quickly but it can take a wee bit longer for ratification. Essentially, each nation has its own process to incorporate the treaty into its own legal system, so it is law rather than an agreement by the government of the day, but the timescale will be months rather than years.

We need to get everyone talking and sharing this great news – it seems hard to credit that we are finally actually prohibiting nuclear weapons, but we are and this can lead to their elimination in time to save the world. Everyone can help.

On the first Saturday of the negotiations, June 17th The Women’s March To Ban The Bomb, in New York is being organised by WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) an ICAN founder member which has been instrumental in co-
ordinating civil society’s important part in gaining the Ban Treaty. The plan is for representatives from as many countries as possible to take part in the march and rally, and to support the march at home too. The Scottish Working Group for the Ban will have our Scottish delegation in New York out with a big new banner. Check Facebook and this website to see the gatherings happening here in Scotland.

The nuclear weapons states which have said that they will not join the treaty will be stigmatised and shamed and the practical arrangements for the so-called nuclear “protection” services to the “umbrella” states will be affected in ways that will turn a political asset into a dangerous liability. The NATO states in Europe are good prospects for breaking with the nuclear alliance, and hopefully the SNP will see that clearly. Once any question hanging over the legality of any nuclear weapon is resolved there is a clear argument that will convince banks and pension funds to disinvest and that will impact on the nuclear weapons states ability to continue their modernisation and upgrading programmes.

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Hibakusha visit to Scotland to highlight the nuclear ban

The Scottish peace movement was privileged to host two Japanese A-bomb survivors, known as Hibakusha, during March 2017. The visit coincided with the dates of the first session of the critical UN negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty.

Reiko Yamada and Midori Yamada visited with their translator Shigeo Kobayashi. Reiko survived the bomb despite being caught in its blast in the school playground age 11. Midori is a second generation Hibakusha, one whose parents survived the bomb, and who lives with its effects. Both women have lived their entire lives with physical and psychological effects as well as enduring stigma and social exclusion resulting from their experience and radiation exposure.

This enduring trauma makes it all the more remarkable that they are willing, in their old age, to undertake gruelling tours around the world to talk about their experiences, not once, or even once a day, but several times each day. Their stories are hard enough to listen to the first time. Despite both translation and repetition they retain both their freshness and their horror. The visitors also retained their graciousness and freshness, despite a demanding schedule.

On their first full day in Scotland they began at the Peace and Justice Centre on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, meeting local activists. This was followed by meetings in Holyrood, arranged by Bill Kidd. Many of his SNP colleagues came along to speak to them, as well as some representatives from Labour and the full complement of Green MSPs in the building. An audience with the First Minister followed, where

Nicola Sturgeon reaffirmed her commitment to a nuclear free Scotland and signed a signature campaign calling for eliminations of all nuclear weapons. Although they were behind schedule, the visitors were also keen to have a tour around the iconic Scottish Parliament building.

The next day they began by travelling to Glasgow for an interview with the BBC. This was broadcast later the same evening on Timeline. Lunch was eaten with Helensburgh CND before a visit to the peace camp. It was particularly moving to witness the interaction between the young and the elderly peace campaigners. More than anyone the Hibakusha ‘get’ the peace camp, and they expressed gratitude for its existence. After a further presentation and exchange of gifts there was tea, journalists, photos and lots of chat. On the way back to Glasgow they stopped at the lay-by above the Faslane base to look at the view. They could see Vanguard, one of the Trident submarines docked below. There followed a rather slow drive into the city for their final engagement with Glasgow CND members who had gathered to meet them.

The Japanese visitors were equally at ease whether in the first Ministers Office or at the Faslane Peace camp. Everyone who met them was awed by their courage and dedication, as well as their charm and adaptability.

Thanks are due to many people at Scottish CND, WILPF, Helensburgh CND, Peace Camp, Bill Kidd and his office and Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre.

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A UN ban on nuclear weapons is on the way

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

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UK protest at the UN Ban Treaty discussions

Over 120 UN states have started this week the negotiations to develop a legally binding instrument for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, along the lines of the bans on chemical weapons and landmines.

The UK Government decided to use its access to the United Nation, not to enter the discussion, but to join the US ambassador in a protest outside the room.

Despite the desperate efforts of nuclear countries to boycott this process it is clear that there is a worldwide support for the treaty.

UK’s statements had the following points:

  • The ban fail’s to address key issues that must first be overcome to achieve lasting global disarmament
  • The  UK is completely committed to the long term goal of a world without nukes
  • It recognises it has obligations as every country under the NPT
  • The UK has a strong record on nuclear disarmament that it is proud of – it has reduced nuclear forces by 50% since the height of the cold war
  • The UK is not attending negotiations because it does not believe that they will lead to effective progress – the ban cannot and will not work
  • The best way to achieve the goal of global nuke disarmament is gradual multilateral negotiations with a step by step approach within existing international frameworks
  • A step by step approach is what we need for trust and confidence
  • We must take tangible steps towards a world where those with nukes feel able to relinquish them
  • A ban will not in itself improve the international security environment, or increase trust and transparency, or meet the technical and procedural challenges of verification
  • That is why the UK is standing with US Ambassador Haley today
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