For the first time in the history of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Peace Prize,” the award was given to the people of an entire nation. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), an island nation of 70,000 people, and RMI Foreign Minister Tony de Brum received the award “in recognition of their vision and courage to take legal action against the nuclear powers for failing to honor their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law.”
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is proud to serve as a consultant to the RMI in the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits. These lawsuits will contribute to moving the world to nuclear weapons abolition.
Speaking about the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits, in his acceptance speech at the Swedish Parliament, Tony de Brum said: “This is not just an issue of treaty commitments or international law, though it is that, and not just an issue of ethics or morality, though it is that too, but this is an issue of common sense….”
Source: Rick Wayman, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
On December 7, the United Nations General Assembly voted to set up a working group that will develop “legal measures, legal provisions and norms” for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. This new body, which has the backing of 138 nations, is widely expected to focus its efforts on devising the elements for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons outright.
The working group will meet in Geneva, Switzerland in 2016 for up to 15 days (dates have not yet been set). All UN member states are encouraged to participate. In the interests of achieving real progress, the working group will not be bound by strict consensus rules. It will submit a report to the General Assembly next October on its substantive work and agreed recommendations.
International organizations and civil society organizations are also invited to participate. “It is time to begin the serious practical work of developing the elements for a treaty banning nuclear weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). “The overwhelming majority of nations support this course of action.” In its preambular paragraphs the Mexican-sponsored resolution that set up the working group acknowledged “the absence of concrete outcomes of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations within the UN framework for almost two decades.” It stated that the “current international climate”—of high tensions among nuclear armed nations—made the elimination of nuclear weapons “all the more urgent.”
Five of the nine nuclear-armed nations—China, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France—issued a joint statement last month explaining why they opposed the creation of the working group. “An instrument such as a ban” would “undermine the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] régime,” they argued, but did not explain how.
They said that they could have supported an “appropriately mandated” working group bound by strict consensus rules. However, such an arragement would have allowed them, collectively or individually, to block all proposed actions and decisions, including the appointment of a chair and adoption of an agenda. The Mexican approach of giving greater control to nuclear-free nations is “divisive,” they complained.
Germany, which hosts US nuclear weapons on its territory, abstained from voting on the resolution, asserting that the working group is not “inclusive,” even though it is open to the participation of all nations. Japan and Australia, which believe it is acceptable to use nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, also abstained, offering vague explanations.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan argued that the working group would threaten the Conference on Disarmament, a Geneva-based forum that has been stagnant for close to two decades and excludes two-thirds of the world’s nations from its deliberations (mostly developing nations). They, too, abstained from voting on the resolution.
The General Assembly this week adopted a number of other important resolutions, with 139 nations pledging “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons,” 144 declaring it in the interests of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again “under any circumstances,” and 132 describing nuclear weapons as “inherently immoral.”
Following the success of the three major conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in 2013 and 2014, there is a growing expectation among governments and civil society that negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons should now begin.
Source: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).