By Lukas Wiese and Mathew Truscot*
Unfortunately there is no direct German translation for the word ‘awesome’, which is a pity because there is no better word to describe the feeling we had when we entered the Vienna International Centre for the first time this morning.
For those with a passion for changing the world, the sight of the UN emblem is enough to get the heart beating a bit faster, but to know that we will actually be involved in a process of such crucial significance to humankind is quite phenomenal.
After a passing through a fairly extensive security check, the morning started off on a very positive note with a briefing suggesting that there may be new avenues opening up shortly in using humanitarian law to tighten the legal noose around the neck of nuclear weapons. Of particular note is Norway’s announcement of a conference in 2013 which will focus on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. The International Court of Justice has already made strong pronouncements on the applicability of humanitarian law to nuclear attacks so there is significant promise behind the new international movement in that direction.
The atmosphere around the conference certainly seems upbeat, and this was strengthened by the easy passing of the agenda in the first session of the morning (though some might say this was helped by the beautiful weather and the delegates desire to have lunch on the balcony). The NGO’s have also been hard at work on a qualitative and quantitative side with so many representatives that the morning briefing was reduced to standing room only.
The general schedule of the day was packed: Firstly, we attended a debate on the topic of “Nuclear Weapons in Europe” with the speakers elaborating on themes such as Nuclear modernization by NATO, the tactical deployment of nuclear weapons in the EU, and the problem of Nuclear sharing. Besides giving information, the speakers were also very willing to answer critical questions and go into more depth. Simultaneously the plenary session was taking place in which the representatives of the present governments were laying out their objectives for the conference. Though NGOs were assigned their own places in the plenary session, some of us preferred to get a real “first hand-experience” and take a government assigned seat, which caused our leaders to sweat bullets.
After a beautiful lunch in the sun, we rushed off to a meeting with the Canadian representative to the PrepCom, which included a brief presentation on their objectives followed by an extensive round of Q and A. It has been a hallmark of our preparation for the NPT PrepCom that government representatives have been glad to engage with us when given the opportunity. It shows the growing importance of civil society groups that governments are willing to meet us almost as equals and discuss options for taking the goals of non-proliferation and disarmament further. A shining example of this is that our own Susi Snyder will address the plenary session of the state parties on Wednesday. For a report on Susi’s big moment watch our blog on Wednesday.
For tomorrow we are off to explore some more of Vienna, soak up some sunshine and think deep thoughts on nuclear disarmament while having a picnic in the park. See you tomorrow for further updates!
*Lukas Wiese en Mathew Truscot are Crash Course studenten. Lukas is a bachelor student International Relations and International Organization at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Mathew is a master student Public and International Law at the Unversiteit Leiden.