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"Forget the Rest" blog


For immediate release March 27, 2017

US, Allies, Stage Protest Outside UN General Assembly Hall as Nations Gather in Unprecedented Meeting to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Contact: Greg Mello,, 505-265-1200 or 505-577-8563

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New York – This morning, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, negotiations will begin to ban the possession, development, and use of nuclear weapons, pursuant to a mandate passed by a wide margin in the General Assembly late last year. (Proceedings should be webcast at UN TV . Live updates are available here. The twitter feed for ban proceedings is #nuclearban.)

About two-thirds of the world’s countries are expected to participate in the four-week process, which will proceed from general statements this week, to a draft text sometime in the spring, to final negotiations over a three-week period in late June and early July.

The United States and other nuclear weapon states are boycotting these negotiations as are all NATO states with the exception of the Netherlands. Australia, South Korea, and Japan will also be absent, though Japan will apparently attend today to condemn the proceedings before leaving.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley has announced that the US delegation, flanked by US allies – apparently Australia, Germany, and others; how many is uncertain – will hold a press conference outside the General Assembly at 10:00 am this morning to protest these negotiations.

The US boycott was announced last October by the Obama Administration in a last-ditch attempt to prevent passage of a negotiating mandate, which was adopted despite this and other nuclear weapon-state opposition by the First Committee by a vote of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions. Notably, North Korea voted to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban, and China abstained.

The negotiations beginning today are the culmination of a multi-year process principally led by a dozen or so states, the Red Cross, and the International International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a network of over 400 non-governmental organizations in 90 countries. (For more background and analysis, see this page.)

Study Group Director Greg Mello: “It is a moment of high drama in disarmament affairs. For the UN to mandate negotiations to ban nuclear weapons – a process being led by non-nuclear states – is unprecedented. We believe it is the most significant development in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War.

“Likewise unprecedented is the conspicuous boycott and protest by the US and its allies of a major UN disarmament meeting. It is a flagrant violation of the US obligation under Article VI* of the NPT to negotiate nuclear disarmament and to do so ‘in good faith.’ It will damage the NPT and US nonproliferation efforts.

“The resolution establishing these negotiations rejects nuclear deterrence entirely on both moral and legal grounds. It would immediately lower the political and military credibility of nuclear threats. It would lower the status and legitimacy of nuclear weapons, even within nuclear states. Its efficacy would develop further over time, by means which nuclear states cannot fully control.

“These negotiations are the product of the rising multipolar world. More than the legitimacy and status of nuclear weapons is in play. The nuclear ban process is also about initiative and leadership in world affairs – who can have them and who cannot. The ban process is in part about who can decide whether nuclear weapons are legitimate.

“Despite the shameful efforts of the Obama and now the Trump administration to impede the ban process, momentum toward a ban is strong. Will 2017 be the year nuclear weapons are banned? Quite possibly so.

“Diplomats from countries without nuclear weapons and alliances are reasserting civilizational values in a dark time. We look forward to a successful conclusion to these negotiations, and to the process of implementation.”

* “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”


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