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"Forget the Rest" blog


For immediate release 24 October 2016

Historic UN vote to mandate negotiation of treaty banning nuclear weapons

Contact: Greg Mello or Trish Williams-Mello, Los Alamos Study Group
505-265-1200 (office), 505-577-8563 (Greg cell), 505-577-3366 (Trish cell)
Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will/Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
917-442-5214 (cell), 212-682-1265 (office)
Beatrice Fihn, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), or

Albuquerque and New York -- It is a moment of high drama in international nuclear disarmament. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution L.41, “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations,” with 48 countries co-sponsoring, is coming to vote in the UNGA First Committee in the next few days, probably this Thursday, October 27th, between 3:00 and 6:00 pm New York time.

For the UN to mandate negotiations to ban nuclear weapons – a milestone fast approaching – is unprecedented. Many, including Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, believe "This may be the most significant development in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War."

Resolution L.41 is all but certain to pass. Some 127 countries have pledged to support ban negotiations (or 139, counting the countries which voted for the same pledge in the form of an UNGA resolution last fall) -- in other words, about two-thirds of the 193 UN member states.

For background current to October 23rd explaining the upcoming vote, please see the Study Group's Bulletin 223: Historic UN vote to mandate negotiation of treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Staff of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) are providing live updates as the vote approaches.

First Committee meetings (and the vote on L.41) can be seen live on UN live TV. Choose "First Committee" from the right-hand menu. Thursday's meeting should begin at 3:00 pm New York time.

Prior coverage of this debate is available from the Associated Press ("Non-nuclear states advance push for UN treaty to ban nukes," Jamey Keaten, Sept. 28, 2016), the Guardian ("Australia will not support negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons," Ben Doherty, Oct. 19), and Foreign Policy ("U.S. Seeks to Scupper Proposed Ban on Nuclear Arms," Colum Lynch, Oct. 21).

In a development this morning, fifteen Nobel Peace laureates urged states to vote in favor of L.41. They said in part:

We need to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. The OEWG strongly recommended that the General Assembly mandate a negotiating conference, commencing in 2017, on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. A draft resolution has now been submitted to the First Committee calling for negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons to commence next year.

As Nobel Laureates, we urge the First Committee and the General Assembly to vote in favor of this resolution and to ensure that negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons commence in 2017. These should be brought to a timely and successful conclusion so that we can proceed rapidly toward the final elimination of this existential threat to humanity.

Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will, the widely-respected disarmament wing of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, remarked in RCW's First Committee Monitor today,

This week, delegations to the UN General Assembly could help shift the course of history.

This sounds dramatic, especially for First Committee. While it always presents a good opportunity for progress, First Committee can sometimes seem like a recycling facility for statements and resolutions. Some of the proposals under discussion have been on the books for decades, while outside the conference rooms levels of armaments rise and bombs continue to fall.

This year is different. This year we have L.41.

L.41 is the document number for a resolution that will establish multilateral negotiations for a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. We have never had such a resolution. We have never had anything close.
“There comes a time when choices have to be made and this is one of those times,” said Ireland in its remarks on the ban treaty last week. “Given the clear risks associated with the continued existence of nuclear weapons, this is now a choice between responsibility and irresponsibility. Governance requires accountability and governance requires leadership.”
Collectively, as humans, we need a better story than the one we’re writing now. This could be a turning point.

The basics of a nuclear ban treaty can be found here, with links to further information. Wildfire’s spot-on analytical satire (erudite, accurate, and recommended) can be found here.

Serious Los Alamos Study Group involvement in this campaign began in early 2014; most of our published writings on the proposed ban can be found in our archives or on our home page.


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