We are part of an historic process

April 3, 2017

Delegations from PAX and the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) were at the United Nations in New York for the historic negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons ban. An overview of an historic week.

30 March – Day of Action

Beautiful weather was perfectly timed for our photo in front of the UN building. Two of us dressed up as a bomb, the rest holding letters spelling out ‘Ban the bomb’. It took a while before we got the letters in the proper order. By then, security had noticed us, and they were less than pleased. Luckily, we got enough good photos before our material was confiscated.

In the meeting hall, diplomats continued to discuss the concrete aspects of a ban. The way this was done was, by UN standards, unique. Normally, statements are duitifully read out after approval from a country’s home office. This time, delegates considered, reflected, and deliberated; they asked questions of one another and of experts. After four days, it is abundantly clear that a comprehensive ban treaty is coming — participating countries agree on most elements of the ban. We are taking part in an historic process. 

29 March A fruitful day for team PAX

Take 120 diplomats discussing the ins-and-outs of a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons. Add four PAX women, stir vigorously, and you get success. Today, on the third day of negotiations, the PAX team sought to convince as many diplomats as possible to include a ban on investing in nuclear weapons products in the new treaty.

Speaking to the delegates in the plenary hall, PAX’s Susi Snyder explained the importance of such a ban on investment: less money will be available for nuclear weapons, and the impact of the treaty will encompass counties unlikely to sign it, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The lobbying was successful – about half of the delegates making statements today said a ban on investments should be included in the treaty. A fruitful day for team PAX!

28 March First steps toward comprehensive nuclear weapons ban

Day two got off to a slow start: UN security made the PAX delegation wait outside for an hour. They made good use of the time by chatting with others who also had to wait. People were delighted that the Netherlands is taking part in the negotiations.

About 100 countries expressed their thoughts on the general contours of the nuclear weapons ban. There was unanimous agreement that the catastrophic humanitarian effects of the use of nuclear weapons should be paramount. The comprehensive ban should strengthen existing treaties, such as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In addition to a ban on production, possession and use of nuclear weapons, a number of counties seek to ban investments in these weapons as well. That would mean, for instance, that banks and pension funds would no longer be able to invest our money in the production of nuclear weapons.

In the evening, PAX’s Susi Snyder, Hiroshima survivor Toshiko Fujimore, and George-Wilhelm Gallhover from the Austrian embassy spoke to students from New York University about the events of the day. 

27 March: Anxious Americans versus courageous survivors

Costa Rica’s UN Ambassador Elayne White Gómez opened the conference. A Japanese survivor of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima called on the delegates to show their courage this week. A letter from Pope Francis was read out in which he declared that weapons of mass destruction should be eliminated. PAX, together with the Future of Life Institute, hosted a luncheon where experts spoke about the influence a nuclear weapons ban would have on countries which have nuclear weapons.

Just before the conference began, in the lobby outside the UN General Assembly hall, US Ambassador Nikki Haley held a press conference. She was flanked by colleagues from some of the 40 countries boycotting the negotiations. Ambassador Haley tried to explain why the United States was not participating, but she didn’t get much further than “now is not the time” and “we have to be realistic, is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?” She didn’t take any questions. The contrast with the vast majority of countries gathered in the main hall couldn’t have been greater. The Netherlands, alone amongst NATO countries, was inside the hall.

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