5 July 2017
Conference on Nuclear Weapons, 25th & 26th Meetings (AM & PM)

Conference to Negotiate Legally Binding Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Decides to Retain Entire Revised Text, Reinstate Language on Assistance for Victims

The Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons decided to retain the entire revised draft treaty (document A/CONF.229/2017/L.3) today, ahead of the text’s scheduled adoption on 7 July.

Conference President Elayne Whyte Gómez (Costa Rica) emphasized that the draft reflected the sum total of joint efforts undertaken by the Conference since its opening session in March.  Today’s meeting would enable delegations, having consulted their capitals, to share views and bring attention to technicalities, but not to reopen debate on substantive matters.

The Conference also agreed to reinstate consensus language in article 6 — on victim assistance and environmental remediation — stating that a State party having used or tested nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices shall have primary or fundamental responsibility to provide adequate assistance to the affected States parties.  The representative of the Philippines said the only outstanding issue had been which word to use, “primary” or “fundamental”.

Conference President Whyte Gómez (Costa Rica) said the missing language would be reincorporated into the draft.

The Conference will continue its work at 10 a.m. on 6 July.

Read-through of Draft Treaty

As delegates went through a reading of each article, several expressed their concerns over a number of points, including the language of the draft preamble, paragraphs concerning withdrawal from the treaty and the date upon which the draft instrument would be opened for signature.

On the draft preamble, Brazil’s representative cautioned that making small improvements might jeopardize chances for timely adoption of the text.  It was important that participants determine whether the draft was worth living with, since it would open a path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Iran’s representative said the text needed further work, pointing out that the draft preamble did not refer to the use of nuclear weapons as a crime against humanity.

South Africa’s representative said much could have been added, but her delegation would join the consensus.  The document might not be perfect, but the outcomes of multilateralism never were, she added.

In similar vein, Liechtenstein’s representative said the text contained things that his delegation did not like, but it was happy to agree with the draft preamble and hoped others would feel likewise.

Kazakhstan’s representative, citing the draft preamble’s reference to hibakusha, or survivors of nuclear attack, said 1.5 million people in his country had been affected by nuclear testing.  They were the heart of its anti-nuclear movement and their support should be highlighted in the treaty.

Cuba’s representative said the draft preamble should have referred explicitly to respect for environmental standards and to the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  However, Cuba would not insist on those points in order not to jeopardize the outcome of the Conference.

The Observer for the Holy See said the preamble charted a positive course by grounding the draft treaty in international humanitarian law.

As the Conference took up article 1, Iran’s delegate said it lacked a explicit prohibition on the transit of nuclear weapons, emphasizing that his delegation would also have preferred language prohibiting all types of testing, including computer simulations.  That was also not reflected.

Switzerland’s representative said the eventual treaty must guarantee the inalienable right of States to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and for the exchange of knowledge and technology in that regard.

Malaysia’s representative described the text as legally sound, saying its implementation would be feasible and that it sent a powerful message that nuclear weapons would be prohibited.  While there could have been improvements and changes, a final push was needed to get out the draft treaty’s core message: the prohibition of nuclear weapons leading to their total elimination.

Among other delegates, Kazakhstan’s representative said the text should have included a prohibition on transit, financing and preparation.

Ghana’s representative said the draft text was not perfect, but it was the best possible under the circumstances.  It would serve as a compass for humanity on the path towards total elimination of nuclear weapons, he said, while emphasizing that preambular paragraph 21 did not affect the right of States parties to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the draft instrument met its three objectives, set out in March: acknowledgement of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons; grounding the treaty in international humanitarian law; and clear, robust prohibitions.  Indeed, the draft delivered on the promise of a clear and comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons, she added.

As the Conference took up articles 2 (Declarations), 3 (Safeguards) and 4 (Towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons), the representative of the Netherlands said his country would have liked to see higher verification standards in respect of article 3.  Article 4 was an improvement, but the Conference was trying to set strict rules for hypothetical future situations, he said.  The Netherlands would also have preferred a shorter article 4, which would have provided more flexibility.  He went on to say that his country could not currently join any article at referendum.

Switzerland’s representative said that, regrettably, it had not been possible to include a provision encouraging States parties to ensure the highest levels of safeguards.  Its absence raised questions as to whether article 3 was in line with Conference’s mandate to strengthen the disarmament and non-proliferation regime, he said.  The absence of that provision also weakened the text, leaving it vulnerable to being leveraged by sceptics.

As the Conference took up articles 5 (National implementation), 6 (Victim assistance and environmental remediation) and 7 (International cooperation and assistance), Iran’s representative expressed surprise at the omission of language on the responsibility of States that had used or tested nuclear weapons.

Fiji’s representative said the treaty should emphasize the burden of responsibility for States that had tested nuclear weapons.  That was a priority issue for Fiji.

Switzerland’s representative registered concern about attempts to establish parallel structures for discussing disarmament and non-proliferation.

Ecuador’s representative said that Iran’s proposal that the Meeting of States Parties use the Conference’s rules of procedure, rather than those of the General Assembly, was “extremely reasonable”, because that would facilitate the inclusion of civil society.

The Conference went on to discuss articles 9 (Costs), 10 (Amendments), 11 (Settlement of disputes), 12 (Universality) and 13 (Signature).

Concerning article 13, Cuba’s representative proposed opening the draft treaty for signature on 26 September, the International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, rather than 19 or 20 September when the Assembly would be holding its general debate.

Austria’s representatives said it would be possible to hold a ceremonial opening for signature on 26 September.

The Conference then took up articles 15 (Entry into force), 16 (Reservations) and 17 (Duration and withdrawal).

Chile’s representative said his delegation would have preferred that article 17 deal only with duration and that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties address the question of withdrawal.  However, Chile would not block the consensus on that point.

The Observer for the State of Palestine said that, if any provision weakened the text, it was article 17, which implied the possibility of reasons and justifications for exiting the treaty.  That article should have been limited solely to duration, he said.  At a minimum, the text should echo the Chemical Weapons Convention, which stipulated that a withdrawal would not affect the duty of States to fulfil their obligations under international law.

Sweden’s representative called for the deletion of the second sentence of paragraph 3, article 17, because it impeded the sovereign rights of States.  Different States lived under different security-policy situations, she added.

Ghana’s representative pointed out that the Conference was not about regulating, but prohibiting, suggesting the removal of article 17 in its entirety.

Conference President Whyte Gómez (Costa Rica) said the text reflected compromise.

The Conference then turned its attention to articles 18 (Relationship with other agreements), 19 (Depositary) and 20 (Authentic texts).

Switzerland’s representative called for clarification of article 18 to ensure there was no hierarchy between the draft treaty and other instruments.

The representative of the Netherlands said that article 18 exceeded the mandate of the General Assembly resolution that had created the Conference.

Sweden’s representative, concurring with Switzerland, suggested the deletion of the last eight words of article 18.

Also speaking today were representatives of Ireland, Nigeria, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Thailand, Colombia, Guatemala, Singapore, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Mozambique, New Zealand, Argentina, Viet Nam, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Algeria.

For information media. Not an official record.