Negotiations begin Monday at the United Nations in New York on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination.” These talks flow from resolutions adopted late last year by the General Assembly in landslide votes. These negotiations could be the most significant multilateral development on nuclear-arms control since the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1995 and the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty in 1996.
The impetus behind the talks is growing consciousness of nuclear dangers, frustration at the glacial pace of nuclear-disarmament efforts, and exasperation at the nuclear-weapon states’ disregard of their legal disarmament obligations. Most of them – and most U.S. allies that shelter under its nuclear umbrella, including Canada and Australia – won’t be at the UN talks.
Last October, Washington called on allies to vote against ban treaty negotiations and not to join ensuing negotiations. States heeding the U.S. request are on the wrong side of history and humanity. Their refusal to participate is flawed on substance and probably in breach of their NPT obligation to promote nuclear disarmament. It is also a self-defeating tactic as they are rejecting the opportunity to influence the debate and shape the text of the eventual treaty.
co-authored by Ramesh Thakur