Overwhelming majority: negotiate a ban in 2017

A ban on nuclear weapons is coming. The majority have spoken, in one voice:

“The convening by the General Assembly of a conference in 2017 open to all states, international organisations, and civil society, to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons leading towards their total elimination”.

That phrase was heard repeatedly at the 16 August session of the Open Ended Working Group. It was repeated by  most regional groups- CELAC, Africa Group, ASEAN and the Pacific Island states (that’s about 101 for those who are counting), and the message is clear: the majority want negotiations to begin in 2017.

The second draft of the Chairs report was released Monday afternoon, and this was the first session of the OEWG, which will conclude its work this week. Speaker after speaker repeated the desire for a negotiating conference next year.

There were some other views- Canada spoke up on behalf of a small group of states and said that they do not agree that this language of the majority should be reflected as an agreed recommendation. They also wanted to suspend the meeting and conduct the rest of the discussion behind closed doors. The Chair however, allowed the discussion to continue. It was clear by the number of statements in support of negotiations in 2017 that states are ready to negotiate a prohibition on nuclear weapons.

No matter what the outcome document eventually says, the momentum for negotiations is there. How this momentum is shaped into action will be seen in the coming months. For now, countries that have been arguing that the time is not yet right for a ban should start thinking about how they will engage in the ban negotiations- and prepare- a ban is coming.