16 June 2017
Conference on Nuclear Weapons, 13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)

Obligations of States Parties Should Include Destroying Existing Nuclear Arsenals, Speakers Say, as Talks on Legally Binding Instrument Continue

Speakers voiced support for the requirement that all States parties destroy their existing nuclear arsenals, as the Conference convening to codify a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons and lead towards their total elimination entered its second day.

During a discussion on the “general obligations” section of the draft Convention (document A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1) — which many speakers described as the document’s core — delegates considered the obligations to be borne by States parties, including pledges never to develop or produce such weapons or assist others attempting to do so.

The draft document lists prohibited activities related to the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession and stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Cuba’s representative, noting that the Convention’s current wording remained incomplete and insufficient, said the full prohibition of nuclear weapons also required a ban on their design and research.  Thailand’s representative, stressing that those prohibition lines must refer not only to States parties but also to any person or entity, also underlined the need to include a reference to the “threat of use” in the text’s general obligations — a sentiment echoed by a number of other speakers.

Austria’s representative, meanwhile, said his delegation was mainly concerned about whether the Convention could be implemented and verified.  It would be better to follow the usual terms employed in similar treaties, including in the area of financing, he said, stressing:  “It has to be implementable.”

In her introduction of that section — contained in Article 1 of the draft text — Conference President Whyte Gómez (Costa Rica) recalled that many of the aspirations outlined by delegates during the meeting’s previous session, in March, had also centred on ensuring that the Convention could one day be universally accepted.

Prior to that discussion, participants concluded their first reading of the draft Convention’s preamble, considering references to such issues as the 1996 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons” and the “delegitimization” of the nuclear deterrence doctrine.

The representative of the Netherlands expressed concern that the preamble in its current form lacked any reference to international peace and security, which he described as a critical element.  Algeria’s representative — along with the representatives of Brazil and Venezuela, among others — called for the inclusion of a paragraph highlighting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which he called a “sovereign and inalienable right” of all States.

Switzerland’s representative emphasized that the text should in no way restrict States’ rights to trade, research and military cooperation.  Cuba’s representative, meanwhile, proposed the insertion of new language underscoring the importance of respecting international environmental agreements, including relevant General Assembly resolutions.

A number of civil society representatives — including survivors of nuclear weapons testing — voiced support for the inclusion of language recognizing the disproportionate impact that nuclear weapons testing had historically had on indigenous peoples around the world.  The representative of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recalling that her father had been blinded by the United Kingdom’s nuclear tests conducted in the Outback of South Australia in 1953, emphasized that the emotional, physical and mental suffering inflicted by nuclear weapons’ testing affected generations of survivors.

The representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons echoed those concerns, also calling for the inclusion of specific language requiring the reallocation of resources currently supporting the maintenance and modernization of nuclear arsenals to environmental and humanitarian purposes.  “Nuclear weapons have no legitimate purpose whatsoever,” she stressed.

Also participating in today’s discussions were representatives of the Philippines, Egypt, Mozambique, Indonesia, New Zealand, Lichtenstein, Ecuador, Sweden, Iran, Mexico, Fiji, Ireland, Peru, Chile, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Guatemala, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Fiji, Uganda, Costa Rica, Viet Nam and Bangladesh.

The observers for the State of Palestine and the Holy See also took the floor, as did representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Western States Legal Foundation, the World Council of Churches, Soka Gakkai International and the Global Security Institute.

For information media. Not an official record.