From its founding meeting, CND has championed the global abolition of nuclear weapons. Yes, we have always fought first and foremost to secure British nuclear disarmament, because this is where we have most leverage. But we have never been a NIMBY organisation and know that Britain’s nuclear weapons are a relatively small part of a massive global problem that needs to be dealt with.
For many years we have argued that nuclear weapons must be banned in the same way that chemical and biological weapons have been banned – or more recently cluster munitions and landmines have been outlawed. Of course this demand for global disarmament doesn’t just come from campaigns like ours – it is made by the overwhelming majority of states globally, many of which have already taken action by forming themselves into nuclear weapons-free zones. In fact, over half the globe is covered by such agreements.
The requirement for nuclear disarmament has also been enshrined in international law since 1970, in the form of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the problem we are all painfully aware of, is that although law, morality and mass popular will are on our side, the nuclear weapons states ignore all these factors. This leaves the big question: what will make them shift on nukes?
Many states are now so totally sick of the inaction, prevarication and double standards of the nuclear weapons states that they are pushing for a new international legal process through the United Nations, to secure a global nuclear ban treaty. A series of conferences over the past few years, initially about the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, coalesced into a UN General Assembly resolution last autumn, convening a working group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. Three sessions of the group later, it reported in August, recommending that the General Assembly convenes a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons, leading to total elimination.
So far so good. Key flies in the ointment, were a) nuclear weapons states did not participate, even though they endlessly talk about being committed to a multilateral process, and b) quite a few non-nuclear states acted as their proxies, disingenuously arguing that the current framework for negotiating disarmament is fine and dandy. Notwithstanding this attempt effectively to destroy the ban initiative, the working group still voted by a significant majority to press forward and recommend a conference to secure prohibition.
The General Assembly will discuss this proposal in the autumn and the likelihood is the conference will go ahead. But again, the big question is: how do we get the nuclear weapons states to engage and comply, given their track record of ignoring such requirements? This is where we come in. We have to get Britain to that negotiating table. We have built a massive alliance and popular movement against Trident, disregarded by our head-in-the-sand government. Now let’s mobilise unrelenting pressure on them to join the global majority. They say they’re ‘multilateralists’ – now make them prove it!