Throughout March we have been highlighting the Nuclear Ban Treaty talks which begin next Monday, 27th March in New York. Now you can read our latest blog by Janet Fenton, Vice Chair of Scottish CND who will be attending these historic talks.
In a 2016 presentation to the UN Working group that explored the processes for eliminating and prohibiting nuclear weapons, the Vatican made it clear that peace cannot be achieved through a balance of power between enemies, but requires a profound respect for strengthening mutual trust amongst all nations. Pope Paul VI said that “Development is the new name for peace.”
The Vatican was in line with the overwhelming majority of UN member states, and supported them when they voted for the most significant resolution for nuclear disarmament in decades.
The vote at the UN for a Conference to devise a Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty was achieved despite the efforts of nuclear-armed states like the UK and the US.
The negotiating conference will be held at the United Nations in New York on 27-31 March 2017 and 14 June-7 July 2017. All governments, international organisations and civil society are invited to participate in these historic negotiations.
Any detonation of a nuclear weapon would cause catastrophic humanitarian harm. The blast, the firestorm, the immediate fallout and the long-term impact of radiation would cause unspeakable suffering for civilians. Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not banned per se, and now things can be put right, by banning them specifically, and for good.
By speaking about the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons and by including the perspective of states which do not have nuclear weapons, the ban treaty will address the shortcomings of previous treaties.
While the UK Government and the nuclear armed states oppose the treaty, Scotland is left in democratic deficit again. Our elected representatives will not be able to represent Scotland's view, despite the UK siting its nuclear weapons in this country.
It is imperative that civil society attends the negotiations, to support the states that want to ensure the ban goes ahead, and to hold the powerful minority of the nuclear weapons states to account. India, China and Pakistan abstained from the vote, showing a willingness to participate in discussions. With each achievement, the movement for elimination and prohibition grows, and with it the courage of governments who can make the change happen.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) has been the leading civil society coalition advocating for a treaty to prohibit this inhumane and unacceptable weapon of mass destruction.
The UK Government takes the position that it supports multilateral disarmament through the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT does prohibit nations from acquiring nuclear weapons if they did not already have them at the time that the NPT was negotiated, (1968) and it also requires all of its parties to pursue negotiations in good faith for nuclear disarmament. New legal instruments to advance the objective of nuclear disarmament are specifically required by the treaty. The nuclear weapon ban treaty will fulfil that requirement, and complement and reinforce the NPT. It will neither replace nor undermine it, and the NPT will remain in force after the ban treaty has been concluded.
A statement submitted to the 2016 UN General Assembly First Committee by Faith Communities Concerned about the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons on October 12, 2016, New York urged “… all governments to support the resolution mandating a conference in 2017 to negotiate a new legally binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons and leading to their elimination. Civil society organisations, including faith-based organisations, have a vital role to play in such negotiations, and we call for their full inclusion in the conference and negotiation process.”