Over 150 states gather in Vienna for global conference on nuclear weapons

Image: De derde internationale conferentie over de humanitaire gevolgen van kernwapens in Wenen. Foto © www.marko.photo

December 8, 2014

In a demonstration of overwhelming support from the international community, representatives from more than 150 states are gathering in Vienna for the third international conference to examine the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. PAX is calling on participating states to start negotiations on a total ban on nuclear weapons.

Prior to the government talks, more than 500 activists assembled in the biggest gathering of civil society on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Previous conferences of this process held in Norway and Mexico concluded that there could be no adequate response if one or more nuclear weapons were to be detonated, either intentionally or by accident.

These global talks have represented a collective reframing exercise that has fundamentally changed the way nuclear weapons are discussed internationally.

The Vienna meeting will be the first time that an intergovernmental conference will have a focus on survivors of nuclear testing, who will testify about the long-term effects of nuclear explosions on human health. Vienna will also be the first time that states comprehensively address the gap in international law whereby nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to an international ban treaty.

Nuclear weapon states
Of the 150 states that will participate in the Vienna conference, nuclear-armed states such as the United Kingdom and the United States that have previously boycotted talks in this process will participate alongside India and Pakistan.

The Austria conference is the latest step in a process that has changed the way nuclear weapons are discussed at the international level. Since 2010, when states parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty recognized “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons,” a new narrative has emerged in which the actual effects of these weapons are the basis for renewed actions to address them. The Red Cross movement, United Nations relief agencies, civil society and the majority of the world’s nations have endorsed this humanitarian initiative. In October, 155 states joined a statement by New Zealand at the United Nations noting that “the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons must underpin all approaches and efforts towards nuclear disarmament.”

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