Nuclear Ban Daily, Vol. 1, No. 2
Courage is the crux of the ban treaty
28 March 2017
Applause broke out at the beginning of the day when the President of the conference to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons, Ambassador Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica, opened the proceedings. Applause also broke out at the end of the day when she declared the first meeting over. Clearly, diplomats and activists alike are excited about this treaty.
They should be. As Ambassador Patricia O’Brien of Ireland said in her remarks, this “is a pivotal point in our international relations, a time to take stock and
honour the testimony of the past, to decide what sort of present we wish to live in and what sort of legacy we wish to leave for future generations.” She noted, “We are not just writing a new and complementary treaty here, we are taking the opportunity to write a new history and in so doing to create a new, more stable, more secure and more equal future for all.”
This is the crux of the ban treaty. It is being negotiated on the basis of courage and hope, rather than fear and inequality. It is an act of states and civil society coming together to stand up to power and violence and say, enough, we are going to craft a different world, whether you like it or not.
Day one of the negotiations could not have gone better. Many delegations issued eloquent explanations of their belief in and hopes for this treaty. Several outlined in detail (in many cases for the first time) what they see as the preferred scope of the treaty in terms of prohibitions, shedding more light than ever on the possibilities for this instrument. The vast majority of countries clearly want a strong, comprehensive prohibition treaty that covers a wide range of nuclear weapon-related activities and that carves out space for future negotiations on nuclear disarmament and related verification measures.
That space is a sign to nuclear-armed states that we have faith in this treaty. That we believe that it will be effective in its normative, legal, political, economic, and social transformation of the nuclear world order and that will help compel them to eliminate their genocidal weapons.
Most of us—whether diplomats, activists, academics—have had to live in the space created for us by the nuclear-armed states that have decided they have the power and authority to determine when and where they will eliminate nuclear weapons. So far their obligations and commitments have amounted to naught, and now one of the states with the biggest arsenals is reconsidering whether it even thinks disarmament is a “realistic objective” that it will continue even as a rhetorical commitment. Yet these states have controlled the narrative and even much of the scholarship for so long that most of the world believes they have the right and legitimacy to do so.