85 governments met at the Palais des Nations (United Nations) in Geneva on January 28 in the first informal session of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) – a new UN process established to undertake substantive work on the legal measures and norms required to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.
The OEWG, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, is also tasked to make recommendations on increasing nuclear transparency, enhancing awareness of the risks and impact of nuclear weapons detonations, and on measures to reduce and eliminate the risk of accidental, mistaken, unauthorized or intentional use of nuclear weapons.
Ambassador Thani Thongphakdi (Thailand) was named as the OEWG Chair, and a provisional OEWG agenda was distributed.
Civil society organisations including UNFOLD ZERO, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation (PNND) and the NGO Committee on Disarmament participated in the informal meeting and are planning on participating in the working sessions which will take place in Geneva on February 22 to 26, May 2-4, May 9-13 and for three days in August.
Building political commitment to ensure success
The OEWG could pave the way for the commencement of multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament, which have been stalled since 1986. However, this will require political commitment and participation in the OEWG by governments – especially governments currently relying on nuclear weapons in their security doctrines.
Civil society organisations are undertaking actions in capitals and around the world to build political commitment by their governments.
- Mayors for Peace, an organisation of over 6,800 cities, has sent an open letter to the OEWG urging all States – especially those possessing nuclear weapons and their umbrella states – to engage in constructive deliberations in the OEWG in order to pave the way for a nuclear-weapon-free world;
- Paul Flynn MP (UK), a member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, has put a question in the UK House of Commons to the Foreign Office asking ‘what proposal the Government plans to put in place to the second UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament.’ The UK did not participate in the 2013 OEWG and has not yet announced whether they will participate in the 2016 OEWG;
- UNFOLD ZERO has announced a civil society competition to support the OEWG. Send us an email with your idea for an inspiring campaign or social media action to support the OEWG and you could win a trip to Geneva to participate in the May sessions. For more information see UN OEWG – win a trip to Geneva;
- PNND, Religions for Peace and Mayors for Peace are re-launching the Joint Statement of Legislators and Religious Leaders for a Nuclear Weapon Free World, to gather more endorsements before presenting it to the OEWG in the Feb 22-26 session. Please encourage your local parliamentarian, mayor and/or religious leaders to endorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
UNFOLD ZERO and PNND are also meeting with key governments in Geneva and in capitals to build support for the OEWG. For more information see Recent actions promoting the OEWG.