United Nations sets dates and mandate for High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament

As tensions between North Korea and the USA raise again the spectre of a nuclear war, the United Nations yesterday called on leaders to come together in a High-Level Conference to reduce nuclear dangers and pave the way for nuclear disarmament.

In a resolution adopted by the First Committee of the UN General Assembly yesterday, the UN has set the dates and mandate for a High-Level conference on nuclear disarmament to take place at the UN from May 14-16, 2018. The principal aim for the conference is to make progress on effective measures for nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament.

The resolution reminds nuclear-armed States that they have previously agreed to hold an international conference to ‘eliminate nuclear dangers’, but not yet done so. And it calls for progress to be made on a nuclear weapons convention – a global agreement which would include the nuclear-armed States and provide a phased and verified process for prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.

Parliamentarians and civil society organisations working on nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament measures welcomed the UN resolution and called on world leaders to commit now to attending the conference at the highest possible level (Prime Minister, President or Foreign Minister).

The increasing possibilities of a nuclear exchange between North Korea and the United States, or between India and Pakistan, or between Russia and NATO are frightening,’ says Alyn Ware, Convener of UNFOLD ZERO, the global coalition coordinating civil society support for the 2018 UN High-Level Conference. ‘It is time for leaders to come together at such a conference and take nuclear war off the table. They should meet to discuss measures to reduce nuclear threats and start the process of mutual nuclear disarmament.’

Christine Muttonen, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which has adopted declarations supporting the 2018 UN High-Level Conference

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have been calling on governments to step back from the nuclear brink,’ said Christine Muttonen MP (Austria), President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). ‘This includes adopting policies to never use nuclear weapons first, to attend the 2018 UN conference at the highest level, and to support UN nuclear disarmament negotiations. We are ready to support governments in this vitally important initiative.’

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – which includes the parliaments of France, Russia, United Kingdom, USA and the other 52 OSCE members – adopted declarations in 2016 and 2017 calling member governments to reduce nuclear threats, adopt no-first-use policies and support UN negotiations including on the nuclear ban treaty and at the 2018 UN High-Level Conference.

‘Non-nuclear countries have already taken a lead in adopting a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons’ says Mr Ware. ‘We hope and expect that the number of countries signing the treaty will grow from the current 53 to 100 by the end of the UN Conference. This will give strong support to global nuclear disarmament.’

Jonathan Granoff, UN Representative of the Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates, with laureates Betty Williams, Ingeborg Breines (IPB) and Mairead Maguire.

Nine nations continue to hold the world at risk of nuclear annihilation,’ said Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute and UN Representative for the Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates. ‘Although 120 non-nuclear weapons states have negotiated a treaty to ban the weapons, the states with the weapons remain deadlocked in inertia. It is time for leaders to come together the high-level conference, to discuss measures to reduce nuclear threats and start the process of collective universal nuclear weapons elimination.”

The UN conference provides an opportunity for the UK and other nuclear-armed States to make progress on incremental disarmament measures to which they agreed in the Non-Proliferation Treaty conferences but have not yet implemented,’ said Baroness Sue Miller, Member of the UK House of Lords and a Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament. ‘Prime Minister Theresa May should commit now to attending the 2018 conference and working with her colleagues from the other nuclear-armed States to adopt concrete measures at the conference.’

Saber Chowdhury, Honorary President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

The human and economic resources currently committed to nuclear weapons – over $100 billion per year – are a waste and could instead be used to create jobs, support renewable energy, protect the climate and implement the sustainable development goals,’ said Saber Chowdhury MP, Honorary President of the Inter Parliamentary Union. ‘The UN conference provides an opportunity to make mutual commitments to re-direct some of these resources, as we phase out reliance on nuclear weapons.

The nuclear-armed States are threatening not only themselves but the whole world with their arsenals on hair-trigger alert and with first-use policies,’ said Bill Kidd MSP, Co-chair of the Scottish Parliament Cross-party Group on Nuclear Disarmament. ‘These weapons, including the ones deployed in Scotland by the UK, make us a target in a nuclear exchange, rather than a force for peace. The UN conference provides an opportunity for the nuclear-armed governments to realise that we all would be safer in a non-nuclear-armed world.’

Countries like Canada which are under extended nuclear deterrence relationships, have a role to reduce the reliance on nuclear weapons and support effective disarmament measures,’ said Dr Hedy Fry MP, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Center (Canada) and the  Special Representative on Gender Issues for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. ‘The UN High Level Conference provides an opportunity to do this.

Dr Hedy Fry MP (Canada) speaking at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

‘The series of conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway, Mexico and Austria demonstrated that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic human, environmental and economic impact on cities and on populations around the world,’ said Thore Vestby, Vice-President of Mayors for Peace. ‘Mayors who have a responsibility for safety in their cities, are therefore joining together to support nuclear disarmament, and will be attending the 2018 High-Level Conference along with parliamentarians and other civil society representatives.’

Will silence and repeating past positions resolve the very real dangers posed by the huge arsenals of Russia and the United States, the tensions with North Korea or India and Pakistan?” Mr Granoff asked. ‘It is time for leaders to come together the high-level conference, take nuclear war off the table, and commit to a negotiating process directed toward achieving a nuclear weapons free world, a duty already embodied in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.’

Thore Vestby, Vice-President of Mayors for Peace (being interviewed by UNFOLD ZERO)

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