Last week, 132 countries took part in the first round of negotiations at the United Nations on a nuclear weapons ban. Survivors of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, survivors of nuclear tests, civil society organizations such as PAX, and other experts actively participated in the talks. Based on this first round of negotiations, a treaty text will be drawn up and negotiated in the second round to be held from 15 June to 7 July. It is already clear that there is extensive support for a comprehensive prohibition of these weapons of mass destruction.
The delegates discussed the general parameters of the weapons ban. There was overwhelming agreement that the catastrophic humanitarian effects of the use of nuclear weapons should be paramount and that the ban should strengthen existing treaties, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). For years, PAX has worked on another aspect of a delegitimizing nuclear weapons — halting investment in their development and production. PAX encourages banks and pension funds to enact policies so that they no longer invest in the production of nuclear weapons. During last week´s negotiations, a number of countries explicitly referred to this aspect of assisting with the production of nuclear weapons, giving it a good chance to be included in the final version of the treaty.
Civil Society organizations
The current negotiations are thanks in large part to many years of pressure exerted by PAX and ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), partnering with governments and international organisations including the Red Cross. PAX´s Krista van Velzen, says, “This is an historic moment. Finally, a clear legal nuclear weapons ban is coming. It is wonderful that a large majority of the world’s countries have spoken up for the ban.”
The Dutch standpoint
PAX is pleased that the Netherlands is taking part in the negotiations. The Dutch government has indicated its support for a nuclear free world, including support for a comprehensive, enforceable, and verifiable nuclear weapons ban.
At the same time, as the only NATO member state at the negotiations, the Netherlands indicated that a ban must be compatible with NATO obligations. In practice, NATO member states have long exercised the right to formulate their own national policy regarding nuclear weapons without jeopardising NATO membership. In the case of the coming ban, they will likely have to opt out of NATO’s nuclear weapons policy.
According to Van Velzen, that should not be a problem. “The ban is coming, that much is clear. It will be challenging for the Netherlands as NATO member to embrace the ban, but in practice, it is possible. Most importantly, it would do justice to the oft repeated wish of the Dutch government to have a nuclear-weapons-free world and a ban on nuclear weapons.”
PAX calls on the Dutch government to find a way to support the upcoming treaty. In addition, PAX calls on the Dutch government to continue to involve other NATO allies in the process.