CND’s Sara Medi Jones is at the UN for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference – here she blogs about Day 2 at the NPT.
The second day started with a briefing for NGOs from New Zealand, Ireland and Mexico, countries representing the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), a group of countries seeking to build an international consensus to make progress on nuclear disarmament; in their own words: the ‘sane and rational ones’. NAC has submitted a working paper to the conference which calls for sessions to be dedicated to discussing legal approaches for getting rid of nuclear weapons.
This is only one example of non-nuclear weapon states trying to move the disarmament debate forward at this conference, due to a frustration with the current status quo.
The Austrian Pledge
Another is the Austrian pledge which 78 countries have now signed. This pledge – to ‘eliminate the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons’ – was the result of the humanitarian initiative to highlight the possible effects of nuclear weapons. Austria took to the conference floor yesterday on behalf of all the states involved in this initiative, and spoke of the ‘deep implications for human survival’ posed by nuclear weapons. No NATO country has yet signed the pledge, but we have heard that Norway may be close to doing so.
Marshall Islands: the Nuclear Zero lawsuits
An interesting element for the Trident replacement debate is the Marshall Islands’ lawsuit against the UK in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – working with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation – for failing their legal obligation to disarm through the NPT. The head of their delegation, Foreign Affairs Minister Tony de Brum, spoke at the Peace and Planet conference over the weekend, saying the Marshall Islands hadn’t chosen to be at the forefront of anti-nuclear campaigning but now that they were, the country was determined that no one else would have to suffer what they went through. The islands, including Bikini Atoll, were the site of 67 nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958, resulting in serious health and environmental problems ever since. As the UK is a signatory to the ICJ, this case could certainly provide a headache for the UK government around Trident replacement. This is certainly an avenue to explore further and CND will be hoping to welcome Minister de Brum to the UK in the near future.
The Marshall Islands also has a case pending against the United States in the US Court of Appeal. The CND delegation didn’t talk about this with their Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Robert Wood, when the CND delegation met him yesterday, but we talked about most other things! In a wide-ranging discussion, CND challenged the American representative on their disarmament obligations, a nuclear weapon-free Middle East, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), missile defence, the Iran nuclear deal, a Central Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone and North Korea. Again, we heard that it’s not quite the right time to disarm, because of ‘security’, which as expected is turning out to be the mantra of the nuclear weapon states.
The US still has 5,000 nuclear warheads and plans to spend $1 trillion on nukes…”
Secretary of State John Kerry had earlier this week delivered the US statement to the General Assembly and opened with a message from President Obama. Before turning to how the US could meet its NPT obligations, Kerry talked of Iran and North Korea. Yes, ‘non-proliferation must be non-negotiable’ but so must be disarmament. And the fact is that the US still has 5,000 nuclear warheads and plans to spend $1 trillion on nukes over the next 30 years.
The Ambassador did stress how important it is for civil society to keep up the pressure on states to disarm. From what we’ve heard at this conference so far, that pressure will certainly be needed over the coming days and weeks, to guarantee any progress at all on the treaty.