The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Friday to support negotiations for a global nuclear ban. Out of 177 countries, 123 voted for the resolution. Just 38 countries, including the UK, voted against and 16 abstained. Resolution L41 was adopted by the First Committee and means ban treaty negotiations will be convened in 2017. Just 38 countries voted against the resolution and 16 abstained.
Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi, said: "Pax Christi is delighted with the outcome at the UN .. to adopt a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 to create a nuclear weapons ban treaty. We are thankful to the Pax Christi and PAX people at the UN for all their hard work in lobbying many countries over there past days and for the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) who have taken a lead on this work. This cooperation illustrates the power of the NGO world in advocacy work. That 123 nations can come together and commit to taking this forward is a great witness to the common good.
"However, we note the UK Government was among the 38 countries that voted against. We had written to Boris Johnson and to the UK Ambassador at the UN to urge them to support the resolution and are disappointed at the lack of willingness to come on board. Looking ahead, we must support those nations who are working to abolish nuclear weapons and affirm the negotiations at the UN and at the same time maintain pressure on our own Government to 'come on board'. We have an opportunity to take a lead among the nuclear weapon states and live out our commitments under international law to the total abolition of nuclear weapons.
The text of the open letter to Foreign Minister Boris Johnson follows:
Support negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty in 2017
We, the undersigned organisations, are writing to urge the United Kingdom to vote in favour of an historic UN Resolution on Taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations that is being tabled at the United Nations General Assembly this month to mandate the start of negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
The resolution has been put forward by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, and is supported by a large majority of states that participated in the UN Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament in 2016.
Under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the UK is legally obliged to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament. The Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon MP has said: "We share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament."
We were therefore alarmed and disappointed to hear that on Friday 14 October at the UN General Assembly the UK disarmament ambassador delivered a statement reiterating that the UK position remains to oppose negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty, placing our country within the minority of states that reject the historic opportunity presented by this initiative.
Ambassador Rowland said in a statement that rather than negotiating a prohibition treaty, nations should abide by the principle of 'do no harm'. But the UK and other nuclear armed states continue to threaten catastrophic worldwide harm to people and the environment through their continued deployment of nuclear weapons which creates an existential risk of accidental, unintended or deliberate use.
Far from being a leader on multilateral disarmament, the UK government is choosing to retain its nuclear arsenal and upgrade associated systems, as well as currently refusing to support new multilateral negotiations towards a global ban treaty. The UK is rapidly losing its claim to credibility on nonproliferation and disarmament: the government must reevaluate whether it will support the UN ban process or end up on the wrong side of history.
The existence of nuclear weapons poses a dangerous threat to global security; any intended or unintended detonation will have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences. The international community has already outlawed other inherently inhumane and indiscriminate weapons, from chemical and biological weapons to antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions. A ban on nuclear weapons is long overdue and the UK must be part of that process. We expect and urge the Government to reverse its position before voting begins on 26 October 2016.
Signed by Rebecca Sharkey, UK Coordinator, ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) On behalf of the following ICAN UK partner organisations:
Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CCND)
Hastings Against War
Movement for the Abolition of War
Nuclear Free Local Authorities
Nuclear Information Service
Nuclear Morality Flowchart Project
Pax Christi British Section
Quaker Peace & Social Witness
Scientists for Global Responsibility
Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND)
Strategic Concept for Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP)
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom UK
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