On Friday, July 7th the United Nations made history, passing the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons with more than 120 countries ready to adopt the treaty.
In an interview with Time, U.N. conference president Elayne Whyte Gomez said, “This will be a historic moment and it will be the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty to be concluded in more than 20 years. The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years.”
This move, however, was not a simple one, fighting through a number of roadblocks along the way. In March, the U.N. reopened discussions about the concept of a global nuclear ban. This came after they were handed a petition signed by more than 2,500 scientists from 70 different countries calling for total nuclear disarmament for all countries.
The final document titled the ‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons‘ is 10 pages in length. The document reached its final review last Wednesday after negotiations lasted nearly three weeks. Whyte Gomez stated that she was, “convinced that we have achieved a general agreement on a robust and comprehensive prohibition on nuclear weapons.” She went on the say, “I am really confident that the final draft has captured the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of those participating in the conference, including civil society.”
The treaty requires that all countries that ‘never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” It also includes a ban on transferring or using both nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive devices as well as the threat of using these weapons.
The treaty was originally boycotted from a number of countries that are believed to be armed with nuclear weapons including Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and the United States. Rather than banning nuclear weapons globally, these countries proposed that the U.N. strengthen the nearly 50-year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This treaty allowed for the original five nuclear powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) to keep their arsenal, but limited it to solely those countries.
With 122 member states voting in favor of the new treaty, the results are encouraging! Of those countries involved in the boycott 8 voted yes, the Netherlands voted against the decision and Singapore abstained. North Korea, however, chose not to participate in the vote.
Britain, France and the United States released a joint statement following the adoption of the treaty, stating “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” They went on to explain that “a purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security.”
— UKUN_NewYork (@UKUN_NewYork) July 7, 2017
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons stated, “15,000 nuclear weapons around the world have not managed to deter Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition and a new approach is needed starting with prohibition as the first step to eliminate nuclear arms.”
When questioned about the countries that are still refusing to ratify the treaty she responded, “If the world comes together in support of a nuclear ban, then nuclear weapons countries will likely follow suit, even if it doesn’t happen right away.”