Conference to Negotiate Legally Binding Instrument Banning Nuclear Weapons Adopts Treaty by 122 Votes in Favour, 1 against, 1 Abstention
7 July 2017
Conference on Nuclear Weapons, 28th & 29th Meetings (AM & PM)
Nuclear Weapons, Always Immoral, Now Also Illegal, Declares Hiroshima Survivor as Disarmament Chief Urges, ‘Use Treaty Wisely’
To cheers and sustained applause, the Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons completed its work today, adopting a Treaty that would ban such weapons of mass destruction with a view to their total elimination.
By the terms of the Treaty — adopted by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 1 against (Netherlands), with 1 abstention (Singapore) — each State party would never, under any circumstances, develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. In addition, States parties would never transfer such weapons or devices; use or threaten to use them; or allow them to be stationed, installed or deployed on their territory.
Also by the text, States party in possession of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices would immediately remove them from operational status and destroy them as soon as possible. Moreover, a State party possessing on its territory nuclear weapons or devices belonging to or owned by another State would ensure their prompt removal.
Also by the Treaty, a State party having used or tested nuclear weapons or devices would have a responsibility to provide adequate assistance to affected States parties for the purpose of assisting victims, as well as remedies for environmental damage.
A first meeting of States parties would be convened by the Secretary-General within one year of the Treaty’s entry into force, with a review conference to be held four years after that, according to the text. States not party to the Treaty, as well as relevant United Nations entities and organizations — including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — would be invited to attend as observers.
Further by the text, the Treaty would open for signature at Headquarters on 20 September, and enter into force 90 days after the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession had been deposited with the Secretary-General.
Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, congratulated participants on the successful conclusion of a Treaty reflecting the international community’s strong desire for progress on nuclear disarmament. It was designed to ensure that no State could evade the basic safeguards underpinning the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which would remain the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, she added. She appealed to all prospective States parties to “use this Treaty wisely”, and to nuclear-weapon States, in particular, to pursue nuclear disarmament “in their own ways” if necessary, but with vigour and commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.
Similarly, delegates called the adoption a historic moment after decades of stagnation. South Africa’s representative said that 7 July would be remembered as the “epoch-making” day when the Organization and civil society had taken extraordinary steps to rid the world of the nuclear threat. Several speakers argued that there was a political and moral imperative for doing so, with Cuba’s representative describing nuclear weapons as immoral, unjustifiable and illegal. Lebanon’s representative, speaking for the Arab Group, expressed hope that the Treaty would bolster the quest for a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East. Austria’s representative proposed to hold the first meeting of States parties on United Nations premises in Vienna.
Others took a different view, with the representative of the Netherlands explaining her country’s negative vote. She said the Treaty had not met its criteria, adding that the obligations under article 1 were incompatible with her country’s commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). More broadly, the draft was not verifiable, which harmed its credibility, she said, adding that it also undermined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by establishing a parallel and partially overlapping review mechanism.
Other delegates expressed hesitation over the Treaty’s placement within the disarmament regime. Singapore’s representative emphasized that it should not affect the rights and obligations of States parties to other agreements, he said, citing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while noting that greater efforts should have been made around language to avoid unnecessary legal uncertainty. Switzerland’s representative said the Treaty should have gone further in affirming the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of disarmament efforts.
On that point, Iran’s representative pointed out that the Treaty lacked the elements that would have made it legally binding and helped it to avoid confusion. The Treaty could have declared that any use of nuclear weapons would constitute a crime against humanity, as reaffirmed by the General Assembly, he said. Furthermore, it referred to the production, maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons simply as a waste of human resources, whereas such activities had resulted from an arms race. Such a shortcoming was unfortunate because nuclear‑weapon States continued to upgrade their arsenals, he noted.
Other speakers objected to the fact that the Treaty made no mention of prohibiting the transit of nuclear weapons, with Ecuador’s representative saying his delegation would have supported expanding such a prohibition to cover financing and military preparations for their use. Peru’s representative, meanwhile, said he understood that the provision on the transit of nuclear explosives would be covered under article 1 (e).
Throughout the meeting, delegates praised civil society as their inspiration, crediting their ardent awareness-raising of the suffering endured by victims of nuclear weapons use. Among them was Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, who asked delegates to pause and remember the hundreds of thousands of people who had perished in Japan. She said that she had been waiting seven decades for this day and was overjoyed that it had finally arrived. “Nuclear weapons have always been immoral,” she said, declaring: “Now they are also illegal.”
Also today, the Conference adopted a draft resolution titled “credentials of representatives to the United Nations Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. It also adopted its own draft report, authorizing its President to finalize it in line with United Nations practice.
Also speaking today were representatives of El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Trinidad and Tobago(for the Caribbean Community), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay, Malaysia, Argentina, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Egypt, Sweden, Nigeria, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Philippines (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Thailand, Algeria, Panama, Uruguay, Ireland and Bolivia, as well as observers for the State of Palestine and the Holy See.
Making a general statement was the representative of Mexico.
The Conference also heard from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), OPNAL and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, representing civil society.
ELAYNE WHYTE GÓMEZ (Costa Rica), Conference President, said that delegations would be leaving today with the satisfaction of having carried out their duty. The Conference would adopt a text that enjoyed legitimacy and reflected agreement between those holding different positions. The text left the door open to nuclear-weapon States, as well as those with control over such weapons to sign up to the treaty, she emphasized. With the Conference only a few moments from telling those impacted by nuclear weapons that the first seeds of a world free of them had been sown after so many decades, she said, it was, in the same vein, a few moments from saying that it was indeed possible for future generations to inherit a world free of nuclear weapons.
The representative of the Netherlands said her delegation could not accept the text, adding that it wished to lodge a formal objection to its adoption and request a formal recorded vote.
The President said that, in accordance with Conference rules of procedure, the text’s adoption would require a majority of two thirds of the States present and voting.
The Conference then adopted the text by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 1 against (Netherlands), with 1 abstention (Singapore).
The representative of El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reiterated that the use of nuclear weapons was a crime against humanity and a violation of international law. Calling today “a historic point in time after years of waiting”, he welcomed the Treaty as the first instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons multilaterally agreed at the United Nations. Its adoption was a break from the status quo and strengthened the non-proliferation regime, he added.
The representative of Lebanon, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, also described today as “a historic moment in time”. The Treaty should be considered an important and historic addition to the existing global instruments and marked a new phase in international efforts towards nuclear disarmament. Emphasizing that nuclear-weapon States must participate in the process, she pointed out that Israel, a non-participant, still pursued its intransigent policy and objected to a Middle East free from nuclear weapons. The Arab world placed international interests over national interests, she said, expressing hope that the Treaty would bolster the quest for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
The representative of South Africa said it was extraordinary to bear witness to the making of history, emphasizing that 7 July would go down as an “epoch-making” day upon which the United Nations had worked with civil society to save the world from the spectre of nuclear weapons. “We have definitely said never ever, ever again,” she asserted, emphasizing that it had been South Africa’s duty to vote in favour of the Treaty. “We must not await another Hiroshima or Nagasaki before mustering the political will to banish these weapons from arsenals,” she emphasized, adding that, to have voted against it would have been “a slap in the face” of the victims of those two Japanese cities. Noting that her delegation had faced “incredible” pressure not to participate in the Conference, she said the task ahead was to ensure that everyone “comes into the fold” on the Treaty. Noting that some had chosen not to participate, she recalled that South Africa had pulled back from the nuclear option after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, later joining the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and supporting its article 6, in particular. “We had to close this loophole,” she added.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said future generations would recall that the Treaty had advanced the otherwise stymied multilateral disarmament process. Acknowledging the role of civil society, she said CARICOM stood by the international community’s commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons in the best interest of all humanity.
The representative of Cuba said the Treaty was the fruit of multilateral discussions going back 70 years to the adoption of the General Assembly’s very first resolution. It was a tribute to all victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as a fundamental step forward on the road to disarmament. The Treaty established a new norm of international law, categorically prohibiting nuclear weapons while creating solid and legally binding grounds for their elimination. Through the Treaty, the international community had clearly stated that nuclear weapons were immoral, unjustifiable and illegal, he said, adding that it also offered nuclear-weapon States various ways in which to sign up. Cautioning that no country was protected from the madness of a nuclear attack, he recalled that Fidel Castro had told the General Assembly in 1979 that it was time for the world to accept that nuclear weapons could not solve its problems.
The representative of Chile, noting that the Treaty’s adoption demonstrated the possibility of democracy in the international system, said his delegation wished to honour the contribution of civil society, which had provided a moral compass for the negotiations. While Chile would have preferred not to hold a recorded vote, the action did not undermine the legal importance of what had been accomplished today, he emphasized.
The representative of Colombia, emphasizing the difficulty of negotiating the Treaty in such a short time, said his delegation would have liked greater clarity in article 1 (a), and article 4, paragraph 2, but hoped nevertheless that the Treaty would contribute to peace and security, build trust among States and lead to a world free of nuclear weapons.
The representative of Costa Rica said the Treaty confirmed that democracy was possible in disarmament, and that those States without nuclear weapons had the political influence to move the process forward. Of the 15,000 nuclear weapons deployed today, he noted, many were on alert, while others were susceptible to cyberattack. It was now time to bring the Treaty into force so that international law would become the strongest weapon in the arsenal of any State, he emphasized.
The representative of Venezuela, associating himself with CELAC, noted the absence of nuclear-weapon States from the Conference. Emphasizing that they could not continue to expose humankind to the danger of nuclear weapons, he said the use of such weapons was a crime against humanity, adding that no security doctrine or military bloc could justify the mass killing of human beings and the destruction of the planet.
The representative of Iran, emphasizing that Israel’s nuclear programme threatened the Middle East, said his country had been a main advocate of a world free of nuclear weapons, having consistently supported their elimination as the only guarantee against their use or threat thereof. Iran’s work to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East confirmed the consistency of that position. While the first priority was to conclude a convention on nuclear weapons, Iran did not consider today’s Treaty a contradiction of that goal, he said, adding that, rather, the Treaty could create momentum for a convention. The Treaty should strengthen existing internationally legally binding instruments by filling the gaps and avoiding duplication of their content, he emphasized.
He said Iran had made every effort to negotiate and was pleased that some of its proposals were included in the Treaty, notably those on the contribution of religious leaders to disarmament and on the conversion of nuclear facilities. Yet, the Treaty lacked elements that would have made it more sound and legally binding, and which would have helped it avoid confusion. While the Preamble comprehensively addressed almost all catastrophic human aspects of nuclear weapons use, it could also have declared that any use would constitute a crime against humanity, as reaffirmed by the General Assembly. Moreover, he noted, the Preamble referred to the production, maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons only as a waste of human resources. However, that should not distract from the fact that those activities were the result of an arms race.
Such a shortcoming was unfortunate, especially when nuclear-weapon States continued to upgrade their arsenals amid plans by some to develop new weapons, he said, emphasizing also that plans to expand their nuclear arsenals constituted an explicit call for a new arms race. The Treaty also did not refer to the transit of nuclear weapons, despite having enjoyed support for such a reference. Any such transit would clearly defeat the Treaty’s purpose. Furthermore, the Treaty’s reference to test prohibition might be abused, he cautioned, saying Iran would have wished to see a definitive obligation. Noting that his delegation had taken a flexible approach on the drafting of articles 2 through 4, he expressed hope that its good intentions would be reciprocated on the basis of Iran’s position in support of all activities geared to nuclear disarmament. National authorities would examine the Treaty, he said, and pending any decision on signing it, all Iran’s legal obligations and political positions on disarmament would remain unchanged and unaffected by its participation in the Conference.
The observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Arab Group, said the Treaty expressed the power of the collective will. There was no substitute for eliminating nuclear weapons since they posed an existential threat, he said, emphasizing also that the exceptional status granted nuclear-weapon States could not be justified. The need to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was more urgent than ever and deserved support, he said, welcoming the decision to allow his delegation’s participation in the Conference with equal rights, including the right to vote.
The representative of Brazil described the adoption as a milestone for the disarmament regime, while emphasizing that, historic as today might be, delegates must not lose sight of the eventual goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. The Treaty’s swift entry into force, as well as continuing dialogue with those that had not yet joined the process, especially nuclear-weapons States, was required in order to achieve universality. The openness of the Conference’s had led to a stronger Treaty, with civil society playing an important role in attracting delegates by drawing attention to the suffering caused by nuclear weapons. “We are one significant step closer to a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he declared.
The representative of Ecuador, associating himself with CELAC, said delegates would not be present today if not for the tenacity of civil society. Noting that the Treaty was now a part of international law and had met the objectives sought, he welcomed its acknowledgement of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons use on the most vulnerable. The Treaty was flexible enough so that those already possessing nuclear weapons could join, he said. Referring to article 1, he said that his delegation would have wished to see a reference to prohibiting the transit of nuclear weapons, their financing and military preparations for their use.
The representative of Paraguay emphasized that the nuclear disarmament process must be transparent, irreversible and based on a legally binding international framework.
The representative of Malaysia said the Treaty sent a powerful political message that nuclear weapons were unacceptable and categorically rejected. It stigmatized nuclear weapons rather than States, he said, expressing hope that the Treaty’s political and legal impact would provide direction for further initiatives for their elimination. All energies must now go towards bringing the Treaty into force, he added.
The representative of Peru, recalling his country’s role in promoting the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), acknowledged that it would have been impossible for the Treaty to cover the concerns of all States. However, Peru understood that its provision on the transit of nuclear explosives would be covered under article 1 (e).
The representative of Argentina expressed regret that the Treaty made no mention of prohibiting transit. Highlighting the Treaty’s scope vis-à-vis international humanitarian law, and its recognition of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime, he stressed that the Treaty should not duplicate the competencies of established forums, and that verification mechanisms should be based on existing institutions, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Argentina also regretted the absence of nuclear-weapon States from the negotiations, he added.
The representative of Indonesia said that while no treaty was perfect, the one just adopted represented a big step forward in jump-starting efforts to rid the planet of nuclear weapons. As a strong proponent of disarmament, Indonesia stood ready to work with other delegations and with civil society to bring nuclear-weapon States on board.
The representative of Kazakhstan said his delegation would have preferred an instrument agreed by consensus on the part of all delegations.
The observer for the Holy See, recalling the Pope’s pleas for disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons, acknowledged the contribution of civil society. Describing the Treaty’s adoption as “just a beginning”, he said there was much work still to be done in persuading those not in the room that prohibition was in the interest of their peoples and States. As a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Holy See recognized the importance of the commitment to general and complete disarmament, as well as to the abolition of nuclear weapons. “Today we have struck one more blow on the anvil of history,” he said, recalling the words of the prophet Isaiah on turning swords into ploughshares.
The representative of Liechtenstein said that a gap in international law had been closed today. Following the prohibition of biological and chemical weapons, nuclear weapons were now subject to a legally binding prohibition instrument open to all States. Expressing regret that consensus had not been possible, he pointed out that tremendous resources were still being spent on nuclear weapons despite the opposition of a large number of States. Liechtenstein viewed the Treaty as complementary to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, he emphasized.
The representative of Egypt described the Treaty as a landmark instrument and emphasized his country’s unwavering support for nuclear disarmament. Egypt championed collective security over selective security, despite the volatile nature of the region in which it was situated and the dynamics of that “neighbourhood”, he said, stressing that States might pursue national interests, but they must never lose sight of the collective global interest. Acknowledging civil society, he said that its members might be seated at the back of the room, but their devotion to total disarmament placed them at the forefront of respect.
The representative of Switzerland said the Treaty should complement and reinforce existing norms and treaties, and in no way undermine the existing disarmament regime. While Switzerland supported the Treaty’s adoption in principle, it should have gone further in affirming the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, she said, pointing out that some of its provisions were not sufficiently verifiable or posed a risk to existing norms, instruments and forums. Switzerland also regretted that the negotiations had not been more inclusive.
The representative of Sweden said her delegation supported the adoption because “anything else would be to evade an obligation”, given the lack of progress in provoking a reaction to an increasingly dangerous status quo. One significant achievement was the Treaty’s reaffirmation of the humanitarian perspective, she said. It was beyond doubt that any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic to humanity and the environment, yet crucial elements had not met expectations.
She went on to state that her delegation would have wanted the Treaty to affirm the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime, but that view was not shared by all. Sweden did not subscribe to language in preambular paragraph 10 describing international law as it stood today, favouring instead language in the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that the use of nuclear weapons or the threat to use them would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict.
Reference in preambular paragraph 9 to the prohibition of weapons used to cause unnecessary suffering reflected a general obligation, she continued, pointing out that it did not identify which weapons fell under that prohibition, which should not be confused with the principle of distinction intended to protect civilians. Furthermore, Sweden had a strong preference that the Treaty not cover nuclear testing since the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty had already established the norm. On the scope of application, she said Sweden would have wanted better references specifying direct assistance to parties in article 1 (f).
Turning to verification, she expressed disappointment that the additional protocol had not been used as the standard of verification, saying that would have strengthened the Treaty’s credibility. Sweden was not in full agreement with article 8, regarding meetings of States parties as the most effective forum for discussions. On article 17, she said the prerogative to interpret what was in the supreme interest of sovereignty rested with sovereign States. Sweden was also not in full agreement with article 18, she said, emphasizing that nothing in the Treaty could be seen as reducing obligations to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.
The representative of the Netherlands said that while it could not support the Treaty, her delegation appreciated that it placed disarmament in the limelight. Non-nuclear-weapon States had their own responsibilities and should not hesitate to take them. She called for bridging the divide between supporters and detractors, she stressed: “We should not wait in seeking middle ground.” With that in mind, the Netherlands would explore how to restore a shared sense of purpose to the disarmament regime, she said. It also would look into new research and focus on the risks associated with nuclear weapons. The Netherlands would also continue efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, including the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and disarmament verification, and increase the transparency and review process for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Yet, the Netherlands could not support the draft, she said, recalling that her delegation had signalled its inability to sign any instrument incompatible with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) norms, containing inadequate verification provisions or undermining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “This draft does not meet our criteria,” she reiterated. Since its article 1 obligations were incompatible with its NATO commitments, the Netherlands had introduced a “temporality clause” that many did not favour. Furthermore, the draft was not verifiable, which harmed its credibility since it failed to encourage members to participate in verification initiatives. The Treaty should complement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as reflected in resolution 71/258, she stressed. Instead, it placed itself above that instrument and established a parallel, partially overlapping review mechanism, she added, recalling that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty outlined the only disarmament obligations binding the five permanent members of the Security Council.
The representative of Nigeria said the Treaty’s historic adoption marked a new beginning to set forth norms and standards for nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States alike. Nigeria was committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons, he said, emphasizing that Africa would remain a nuclear-weapon-free zone and encouraging nuclear-weapon States to embrace the new beginning.
The representative of Austria said that, after more than 20 years at a standstill, there was finally an outcome that laid the foundation for progress in multilateral nuclear disarmament. As with chemical and biological weapons, legal prohibition came first, to be followed by elimination, he noted. The next stage would be signature by Heads of State and Government on 20 September. He proposed to hold the first meeting of States parties on United Nations premises in Vienna, a fitting venue given the presence of international organizations directly relevant to the Treaty.
The representative of Singapore said that although the negotiations had been difficult due to the absence of some countries, the diverse positions and the time constraints, his country was fully committed to a world free of nuclear weapons. Like other delegations, Singapore had participated in negotiations in good faith, he said. However, article 7 made no mention of a proposal relating to the South‑East Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, and a suggestion to delete a phrase about the new Treaty’s relationship with others under article 8 was not included. The Treaty should not affect the rights and obligations of State parties under other agreements, he said, stressing that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea underpinned the international legal architecture. Greater efforts should have been made around language to avoid unnecessary legal uncertainty. While efforts had been made to reconcile divergent views, more time should have been allocated in order to breach seemingly contradictory positions. As such, Singapore had abstained from the vote to finalize the Treaty. However that did not detract from its commitment to disarmament. Singapore would study the Treaty’s provisions and their broader implications in the course of its disarmament obligations, she said.
The representative of Guatemala, associating herself with CELAC, described today’s adoption as “good news”, emphasizing that the only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons was their complete prohibition and elimination. Many States had decided to break with the status quo by agreeing to the Treaty, which was robust and rooted in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty so as to fill the existing legal void. It would strengthen the existing nuclear non-proliferation regime and stigmatize nuclear weapons, she said. “Today we can declare proudly, for the first time, that nuclear weapons are illegal.”
The representative of the Marshall Islands recalled that her country had experienced many nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958 while still a United Nations trusteeship. “Our people have carried a burden which no other people should ever have to bear,” she said. Emphasizing that today’s statement should not be construed as signing on to the Treaty, she said the Marshall Islands would consider it carefully, in line with its alliance with the United States and with its need for defence.
The representative of the Philippines, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the bloc had long been guided by the principle that total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat thereof. While not all the elements advanced during the Conference could be reflected in the Treaty, it nevertheless laid out a “clear and categorical” prohibition of nuclear weapons and provided a framework within which nuclear-weapon States could contribute to the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Speaking in his national capacity, he emphasized that the Treaty was not a sudden inspiration, but the slow, painstaking fruition of many disarmament endeavours. It represented the “capstone” of the global denuclearization framework, he added, declaring: “We voted for its adoption because it was the right thing to do.” The Treaty balanced many compelling proposals with the need to encourage nuclear-weapon States to get on board, he noted.
The representative of Thailand, associating himself with ASEAN, said the commitment to “putting people at the core of all we do” had guided his delegation’s efforts at the Conference, as it did in all his country’s international endeavours. Today’s adoption as a “triumph for humanity and a legacy for succeeding generations”, he said, stressing nevertheless that the hard work of implementation was just beginning.
The representative of Algeria said his country still suffered the effects of the nuclear tests conducted on its territory in the early 1960s. He expressed regret that nuclear-weapon States had not joined the international community in embarking on today’s historic journey. Nevertheless, “we leave for them the door wide open”, he said, emphasizing that their security concerns could be addressed by reaching out to each other. “Nuclear weapons to do not provide any freedom,” he said, adding that they only sowed fear. Complete nuclear disarmament must be achieved without hesitation, no “ifs or buts”, and no strings attached.
The representative of Panama, associating herself with CELAC, said total nuclear disarmament was an ethical imperative for all 193 Member States without exception. “We can never allow any more victims” of the disastrous effects of nuclear weapons use, she said. Latin America and the Caribbean had led the way in rejecting them, having declared a nuclear-weapon-free zone 50 years ago through the Treaty of Tlatelolco, she pointed out.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, associating herself with CARICOM and CELAC, applauded the passionate efforts and years of ardent advocacy by civil society that had propelled Governments to the present historic moment. “Finally we have shattered the chronic stalemate,” she said, noting that the Preamble, as well as the articles on both victim assistance and international cooperation, were anchored in the humanitarian imperative. Trinidad and Tobago situated its support for the Treaty within the broader framework of national implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Quoting J. Robert Oppenheimer — often known as the father of the atomic bomb for his involvement in the Manhattan Project that yielded the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — she stated: “I think the only hope for our future safety must lie in cooperation.”
The representative of Uruguay, associating herself with CELAC, cautioned that a legally binding instrument did not mean that a nuclear-weapon-free world would happen overnight. She encouraged delegates to work for universal adherence to the Treaty.
The representative of Ireland said his country was proud to have played its part “on this historic day”. The Treaty complemented — and also implemented — the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, demonstrating the power of responsible multilateralism in action, and the ability to change the world one step at a time, he said. It was the fruit of partnership between States and dedicated civil society actors who had worked for years, he said, describing the Treaty as robust and ambitious. It transmitted the powerful vision of a world free from nuclear weapons, he added.
The representative of Bolivia, associating himself with CELAC, said the Treaty strengthened aspirations for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Noting that Bolivia was a pacifist State promoting the right to a culture of peace, he emphasized that it rejected the manufacture, storage and transit of nuclear weapons, as well as the storage of nuclear waste. The use of such weapons, or the threat to do so, violated the United Nations Charter, he said, stressing also that it constituted a crime against humanity and a violation of international law, especially international humanitarian law. Bolivia regretted the non-participation of the nuclear-weapon States, he said, describing their absence as expressing a lack of commitment to the Charter.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, congratulated participants on the successful conclusion of a Treaty reflecting the international community’s strong desire for progress on nuclear disarmament. Paying tribute to the “pioneering efforts” of civil society, she said the Treaty should be seen as a “beacon of hope” and a clear message on the part of the vast majority of nations. Despite the reductions of many nuclear arsenals in recent decades, the risk posed by the remaining nuclear weapons remained very serious, and she therefore hoped that today’s adoption would mark an important step towards the end of the seven‑decades‑long disarmament struggle.
Outlining a number of the Treaty’s crucial elements, she said it had been designed to ensure that no State could evade the basic safeguards underpinning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime. The Treaty also endeavoured to make the disarmament process more inclusive by pointing out that the shared responsibility of all States to work towards nuclear disarmament. Noting that the Treaty left open the door to multilateral dialogue, she said it also reflected the sensitivity of the process. In that regard, she appealed to all prospective parties to “use this Treaty wisely” in helping to fill political gaps, and to nuclear-weapon States in particular to pursue nuclear disarmament “in their own ways” if necessary, but with vigour and commitment to a vision of a world free from nuclear weapons.
Civil Society Statements
The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) described the Treaty as contributing to “the promise of a future free of nuclear weapons”, and to the “moral and political rejection” of such weapons. Urging States to ratify the Treaty, she expressed hope that the Nagasaki detonation would be, once and for all, the last example of the use of nuclear weapons.
The representative of OPANAL, underlining the importance of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, said participants had concluded today a Treaty that would create a new standard as a part of international law.
The representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said today’s accomplishment reflected not only the will of the delegations present, but also that of average citizens around the world. Recalling the experience of the Marshall Islands, her home country — where many nuclear weapons had been tested — said the national cancer rate was among the world’s highest, and the environment still suffered the effects. “They treated us as guinea pigs and told us it was for the good of mankind,” she said, expressing hope that the mistakes of the past would never be repeated. Calling upon all nations to sign onto the Treaty on 20 September and work towards its prompt entry into force and full implementation, she stressed: “We must not give up until these weapons are eliminated fully and forever.”
SETSUKO THURLOW, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, praised the dedication of everyone who had put their “brains and hearts” into the negotiations. She asked delegates to pause and remember the hundreds of thousands of people who had perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Each person who died had a name,” she said. “Each person was loved by someone.” She said she had been waiting seven decades for this day and was overjoyed that it had finally arrived because it marked the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. The world would not return to failed nuclear-deterrence policies. “If you love this planet you will sign this Treaty,” she said, declaring: “Nuclear weapons have always been immoral; now they are also illegal.”
ELAYNE WHYTE GÓMEZ (Costa Rica), Conference President, recalled that Ms. Thurlow had previously told the Conference that survivors of the atomic bombing were convinced that no human being should experience such unspeakable suffering. “Today, we have a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons,” said the President. “Thank you for not letting us rest.”