19 June 2017
Conference on Nuclear Weapons, 15th & 16th Meetings (AM & PM)

Member States Consider How to Improve Draft as Conference Continues Debate on Legally Binding Instrument to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Continuing their deliberations on a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons, Member States suggested today ways in which to improve the proposed text as well as various amendments to several of its draft articles.

This morning’s negotiations began with discussion of the “general obligations” section of the draft instrument (document A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1), as Peru emphasized the great responsibility of Member States to forge a cohesive, comprehensive and inclusive instrument.

South Africa’s representative stressed that the text’s main goal was to prohibit nuclear weapons and strengthen international norms.

Cuba’s representative underscored that excluding nuclear testing from the instrument would severely impact its scope and weaken the norms intended to prohibit nuclear testing.

Mozambique’s representative expressed concern that some of the definitions contained in the draft instrument might not “stand the test of time”.

Austria’s delegate called for practicality, asking: “What is a treaty good for if it is not implementable?”

Conference President Elayne Whyte Gómez (Costa Rica), presenting several revisions, amendments and explanations relating to “safeguards” contained in article 3 of the draft instrument, said the requirement for safeguards was a direct response to calls made during the March session of the Conference.  All Conference Members States were non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), she said, adding that, as such, the verification standard for their nuclear-weapon-free status had long been established under that instrument.  The draft instrument, therefore, did not contemplate a verification standard exceeding NPT requirements, such as by verifying additional general obligations undertaken by States parties.

In that connection, she continued, the draft instrument followed the same approach as the nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.  Article 3 required all States parties to have the same safeguards in place, as required by the non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT.  The approach in article 3 and the annex was designed to avoid creating any duplicative legal obligation as well as the establishment of parallel safeguards regimes, she said, suggesting also that the language could be more flexible.

On the matter of safeguards, Brazil’s representative warned that the draft instrument must neither aim to disarm non-nuclear-weapon States nor impose additional obligations on them.  “We’re here to establish a legally-binding prohibition of nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination,” he reiterated.

Ireland’s representative emphasized that the draft instrument must be clear in the area of safeguards, reiterating the need to ensure that the draft instrument created no loopholes.

Egypt’s representative stressed the need to avoid duplication, pointing out that States already in possession of safeguards under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines must not be burdened with additional ones.

Argentina’s representative underlined that nothing in the draft instrument should make additional demands on non-nuclear-weapon States.

Switzerland’s representative said striving for an effective verification instrument must be the main object in all negotiations on a nuclear-weapons treaty.  While building on IAEA safeguards would be viable, provisions on safeguards must still be clarified and streamlined, he said, emphasizing that States parties must maintain the safeguards to which they had agreed before signing up to the instrument.  Ghana’s representative said that while verification lay at the draft instrument’s core, obligations must not be placed on non-nuclear-weapon States.

In the afternoon, participants turned their attention to the draft instrument’s sections on “declarations” and “measures for States that have eliminated their nuclear weapons”.

Conference President Whyte Gómez opened that discussion by noting that many delegations had voiced their desire to see nuclear weapon-possessing States eventually sign up to the draft instrument.  Urging participants to consider the types of guidelines needed for dismantling existing nuclear arsenals, she said “the instrument we are examining needs to be extremely clear and establish legal guarantees” to that end.

South Africa’s representative said the proposed convention was not the “proverbial silver bullet”, but instead it was intended to move the world closer to complete nuclear disarmament by stigmatizing and delegitimizing nuclear weapons on a global scale.  The draft convention would represent a critical but partial step similar to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other relevant instruments, she said, noting that further discussion would be required at a later stage — hopefully with the participation of nuclear-weapon States.  Indeed, nuclear-weapon States that had committed to eliminating them within a specified time frame must be able to join the draft instrument, she stressed, noting that such a stipulation should be facilitated by the draft instrument’s “declarations” section.

Ireland’s representative pointed out that the participants were not in a position to negotiate on behalf of the nuclear-weapons States that had chosen not to attend the Conference.  While many speakers had voiced concern about their accession to the draft instrument, “we cannot see into the future”, he emphasized.  Instead, States should simply avoid creating any provisions that would prevent nuclear-weapon possessors from joining the draft convention in the future.

A number of speakers described as “discriminatory” and “random” the setting of a specific date after which the manufacture, possession or acquisition of nuclear weapons would necessitate States parties to commit to a verification process through the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Egypt’s representative, among others, warned that setting such a date would create new categories of States and lead to ambiguity and confusion.  The draft instrument was intended to be normative in nature, and must address the possession of nuclear weapons, irrespective of when States had produced or acquired them, he emphasized.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, Mexico, Nigeria, Malaysia, Fiji, New Zealand, Ecuador, Chile, Austria, Iran, Argentina, Indonesia (for the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Liechtenstein, Thailand, Nigeria, Netherlands, South Africa and Venezuela, as well as an observer for the  Holy See.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the following: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms, PAX, UNFOLD ZERO, World Future Council, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Japan Federation of Bar Associations, Nihon Hidankyo, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Peace Boat, Peace Depot and Mayors for Peace.

For information media. Not an official record.