Historic vote on banning nuclear weapons

The world has come a step closer to getting rid of all nuclear weapons. In an historic vote, a majority of United Nations member states have decided to start negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The negotiations will commence at the UN headquarters in New York in March. The vote is a major victory for the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the global coalition in which PAX plays a leading role.

In his reaction to the vote, PAX general director Jan Gruiters says, “This is a momentous breakthrough. A nuclear weapons ban brings us a large step closer to a nuclear weapons free world. Negotiations on a treaty to ban the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction ever invented is fantastic news.”

The vote, during the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee, was not close: 123 for, 38 against and 16 abstentions. Most of the nine nuclear-armed nations voted against the UN resolution. The Netherlands was the only NATO member not to vote against the negotiations. The Netherlands also abstained. In the weeks before the vote, the permament members of the UN security council exerted intense diplomatic pressure on their allies to vote against.

PAX has worked for years toward this moment. Jan Gruiters explains why: “So far, the nuclear armed countries have shirked their responsibility when it comes to nuclear disarmament. Even today, more than 70 years later, survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their children and grandchildren, suffer from the terrible effects of nuclear weapons. So do those in areas where nuclear weapons have been tested. At the same time, more and more threats are being made to use nuclear weapons. A global, legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons raises the threshold for using these weapons.”

Last WMD ban
Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction yet to be banned: chemical and biological weapons are already legally forbidden. Even in peacetime, nuclear weapons can be life-threatening. The list of accidents and near accidents involving nuclear weapons is surprisingly long, and there is increasing danger that these weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists.