UN to vote on nuclear disarmament resolutions

Starting on Monday November 2, and running for the whole week, the United Nations General Assembly in New York will vote on a number of draft resolutions on nuclear disarmament. Many of these are repeat resolutions from previous years – and countries will likely vote for them the same way as they have in the past. However there are a few exciting new resolutions – which if adopted with significant support – could pave the way for effective multi-lateral negotiations.

Encourage your government to support these new resolutions:

Open Ended Working Groups

There are two separate resolutions through which the UN General Assembly would establish Open Ended Working Groups (OEWG) to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. UNFOLD ZERO has been promoting the establishment of an OEWG in order to negotiate a new legal instrument or instruments – similar to the way an OEWG was used to facilitate negotiations that led to the conclusion of the Arms Trade Treaty (see UN General Assembly to re-open the door to a nuclear-weapon free world?)

Draft resolution L.13: Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, introduced by Mexico, would establish an OEWG to ‘negotiate on concrete and effective legal measures to achieve nuclear disarmament, in particular new legal provisions and norms to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.’ The OEWG would be held over 15 days in Geneva and report back to the UN General Assembly at its 71st session (October 2016).

Draft resolution L.28: Effective measures on nuclear disarmament, introduced by Iran, would establish on OEWG to ‘identify and elaborate effective measures on nuclear disarmament, including legal provisions or other arrangements that contribute to and are required for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.’ The OEWG would hold sessions in 2016 and 2017 for a total of 30 working days.

The Mexican resolution is much more ambitious – with a mandate to negotiate legal measures, and to do this in just 15 days of negotiations. It would operate under UNGA rules, allowing the possibility of voting if consensus is not forthcoming. The Iranian resolution aims to be more inclusive by holding the sessions in New York (where all UN members have representation) and by operating according to consensus – but this runs the risk of the deliberations being held hostage by some of the nuclear-armed States who could block progress – just as they have done in the Conference on Disarmament for the past 19 years.

So far, attempts to bring the two resolutions together in a joint compromise approach, have been unsuccessful. If both OEWGs are established, it will be important to ensure that governments participate in good faith in both processes, and that they operate constructively – utilising their different strengths in order to advance mutually supporting legal instruments for nuclear disarmament.

Universal declaration

Kazakhstan has introduced a draft Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World. The declaration affirms that any use of nuclear weapons would be a violation of international law and a crime against humanity. It also commits endorsers to negotiate ‘a global, non-discriminatory, multilateral, legally binding instrument for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.’ Kazakhstan has been leading on a nuclear of nuclear disarmament initiatives since eliminating the nuclear weapons inherited from the Soviet Union upon its collapse. These include the achievement of a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, and the decision by the UN to establish August 29, the anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.

Humanitarian impact, pledge and ethical aspects

There are four new resolutions this year which highlight the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the imperative for their abolition. These include:

UNFOLD ZERO consultation

UNFOLD ZERO will hold a roundtable meeting with other key civil society representatives in New York on Tuesday November 3 to discuss follow-up strategy and activities over 2016 and 2017 to ensure the success of these resolutions in facilitating the adoption of concrete nuclear disarmament measures nationally, regionally and internationally.nike