Abolition 2000 – Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

Ambassador Aitimova (Kazakhstan) speaking at the A2000 session

Disarmament experts, non-governmental organisations, parliamentary representatives, ambassadors to the United Nations, documentary media and other nuclear abolition advocates met at the Bahá’í International Community UN Office in New York on October 11 for a half-day session on achieving a global treaty to abolish nuclear weapons.

Organised by the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the session considered a range of strategies and approaches for moving governments to start work on a treaty in order to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

Read the full report after the jump, or download the Strategy Session Report.

These included:

  • forums for advancing nuclear disarmament negotiations including the Conference on Disarmament, United Nations General Assembly, UN Security Council, International Law Commission or a like-minded approach such as was done      with landmines and cluster munitions conventions,
  • parliamentary engagement and the role of parliaments in achieving a nuclear weapons free world;
  • local government tools for engagement and advocacy;
  • new framing and opportunities to engage on the nuclear weapons issue – from international humanitarian law to shifting away from state centred security approaches;
  • ways  for further building political momentum through an economic approach,  addressing key drivers of nuclear weapons doctrines, and informal preparatory work on the framework for a nuclear-weapons-free world, and
  • engaging key constituencies including leaders and high level officials, legislators, public figures, and different sectors of civil society.

The session was chaired by Susi Snyder (IKV Pax Christi) and Alyn Ware (International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament).

Speakers included H.E. Byrganym Aitimova (Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UN), Randy Rydell (United Nation Office of Disarmament Affairs), Bill Kidd (Member of the Scottish Parliament, Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament), Jackie Cabasso (Mayors for Peace), H.E. Eduardo Ulibarri (Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United Nations), John Burroughs (Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, Nuclear Abolition Forum) and Jonathan Granoff (Global Security Institute).

Ambassador Aitimova reported on recent initiatives of Kazakhstan for a nuclear-weapons-free world including the launch of the ATOM Project (see Abolition 2000 Update October 2012) and the circulation at the United Nations of a Draft Declaration for a Nuclear Weapons Free World. Kazakhstan is hoping to obtain consensus on this declaration – and thus elevate political commitment and momentum, by the 2013 UN General Assembly.

Ambassador Eduardo Ulibarri (Costa Rica) outlining work that has been done, and should now be done by governments on the nuclear weapons convention

Ambassador Ulibarri spoke about the work that had already been done to lay out the framework for a nuclear weapons free world through the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention – drafted by experts under the auspices of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, presented to the United Nations by Costa Rica and circulated and promoted by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Negotiations leading to the conclusion of a NWC should commence immediately. As indicated above, any issues relating to the elimination of nuclear weapons could be discussed and resolved through the negotiation process, and should not be presented as pre-conditions to even starting such negotiations. However, as some States are reluctant to join such negotiations, the following could be initiated by like-minded countries:

  1. 1.      Informal preparatory work could be undertaken on various aspects outlined in the Model Nuclear Weapons in order to start the practical work on a framework for a nuclear-weapons-free world and pave the way for negotiations.   
  2. 2.      Commencing negotiations through a like-minded or UN General Assembly approach.  
  3. 3.      Elevating nuclear disarmament with a leadership group determined to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world.

See www.abolition2000.org/?p=2584#more-2584 for the full remarks of Ambassador Ulibarri.


Randy Rydell, United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, speaking on UN forums to advance nuclear abolition

Randy Rydell outlined the approach promoted by the UN Secretary-General in his Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament, i.e. the promotion of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or framework of agreements, coupled with simultaneous work on a number of supporting measures such as the establishment of nuclear weapon free zones, stockpile reductions, reducing the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and conventional weapons limitations/reductions.

Mr Rydell noted that the UN has a number of mechanisms through which nuclear disarmament work could commence, even while the Conference on Disarmament is blocked – including through the UN General Assembly resolution. He noted the possibility of tasking the International Law Commission to study the legal framework for a nuclear weapons free world – based on the preparatory work they have done for other international agreements such as the International Criminal Court and the Law of the Sea.

Mr Rydell also commented on the pre-conditions that the NWS and their allies have placed on nuclear disarmament, saying that in the most these are another form of excuses for non-action. He referred to the speech the previous day of Angela Kane, UN High Rep for Disarmament, to the Middle Powers Initiative Framework Forum event arguing that while there are definitely security issues to be dealt with in the context of nuclear disarmament negotiations, there are no valid pre-conditions to starting such negotiations. (See: Opening Remarks, Creating the Conditions and Building the Framework for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World, Angela Kane, Oct 10, 2012 at www.middlepowers.org/archives/10_10_12/Angela-Kane.pdf)

Bill Kidd MSP highlighting the importance of civil society to engage their parliamentarians

Bill Kidd MSP spoke about the important role that parliamentarians have in conjunction with civil society. He bemoaned the fact that most parliamentarians are so busy on constituent matters and other issues that they are not as active as they should be on the nuclear weapons issue. However, the impact they can have when they get moving is very significant – whether it be to publicly challenge government policy, join with parliamentary colleagues in other countries to promote key initiatives or adopt groundbreaking motions or legislation.

Bill noted the vital work of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND) in promoting nuclear abolition in parliaments and globally including through motions in parliaments, joint parliamentary statements and key parliamentary conferences and strategy meetings such as the PNND Assembly in Kazakhstan attended by parliamentarians for over 75 countries including from most of the nuclear-weapons possessing States and from the differing geo-political blocks.

In Scotland, the parliament has led the charge for nuclear disarmament – including promoting an independent Scottish view at the NPT (despite not yet being recognized as a member), supporting a Nuclear Weapons Convention, and paving the way for the creation of Scotland as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. The forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, and the fact that the UK’s only homeport for the nuclear weapons is in Scotland, is putting this issue solidly on the political map in the UK. Bill thus welcomed collaboration between the Scottish parliament, PNND and Abolition 2000 in advancing a nuclear free Scotland and promoting the global abolition of nuclear weapons.

John Burroughs explained a new resource, the Nuclear Abolition Forum, a journal and website (www.abolitionforum.org) launched in October 2011. The Nuclear Abolition Forum seeks to foster debate and dialogue on the elements of a nuclear weapons-free world and the process for achieving that world. It was founded by Alyn Ware and is directed by Rob van Riet of the World Future Council. Participating organisations are the Albert Schweitzer Institute, Global Security Institute, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Middle Powers Initiative, Pugwash, and World Future Council.

The theme of the first issue of Nuclear Abolition Forum was “International Humanitarian Law and Nuclear Weapons: Examining the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament.” The issue featured several excellent articles, including ones by Bruce Blair of Global Zero and Randy Rydell of UNODA. John Burroughs, who also served as the issue’s editor, contributed an article explaining the Vancouver Declaration and how it reflects the state of the law as it is now, not 15-plus years ago when the International Court of Justice delivered its opinion on nuclear weapons. John told the strategy session that both the application of international humanitarian law and the proposed Nuclear Weapons Convention are very powerful ideas, as can be seen from the diligence that Russia and the Western nuclear weapon states show in trying to deflect them. The second issue of Nuclear Abolition Forum will be on the theme “Beyond Nuclear Deterrence.”

Jackie Cabasso introducing the Mayors for Peace Action Alert Portal

Jackie Cabasso outlined the important role that mayors play in representing the right of citizens to be free from the threat of nuclear weapons, and introduced the Mayors for Peace new Action Alert Portal which is a fabulous online resource for activists and legislators (mayors and parliamentarians) on key issues and initiatives. The portal includes short political updates, sample letters/actions and key governmental contacts to lobby. The portal opened with three action alerts:

1) Calling on all Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZs) to replicate the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ strong commitment to a nuclear-weapons-free world.

2) Calling on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to support the Resolution calling for negotiations on a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC). The General Assembly votes annually on this Resolution in response to the International Court of Justice’s 1996 advisory opinion on the legal status of nuclear weapons.  Opposition against this Resolution has eroded gradually with the 2011 vote seeing 130 countries in favor, 26 against it and 23 abstaining.

3) Oslo conference on humanitarian consequences, providing a letter mayors can send urging governments to include local elected officials in their delegations to the Oslo conference, since they would be on the front line as first responders in case of a nuclear attack. This action is designed to start a dialogue between mayors and their national governments and put the governments on notice that mayors have a role to play and a stake in the outcome.

Jonathan Granoff speaking on nuclear abolition as a global public good

Jonathan Granoff argued that if we stick to the current framework of debate on nuclear weapons we will be unable to win the security debates in the nuclear weapon States – and that we have to change the framework in order to achieve success.

The internal national security policy-making debates in Nuclear Weapon States are framed in terms of the risk versus benefit. Nuclear disarmament advocates argue the risks are too high. Those who see value in nuclear weapons argue that present deterrence value trumps the risks and pose the proposition that nuclear weapons are necessary to meet unforeseen challenges – an argument that is very difficult to overcome.

 Nuclear weapons actually pose a global threat, just as climate change and damage to our oceans are global threats. Our advocacy will be strengthened by framing elimination as a global public good, just like a healthy global environment. This allows non-NWS to emphasise their stake in the issue, accurately describes the situation, places a vision of success before us, and allows us to argue for a realistic framework of cooperative security based on universal legal norms.

Susi Snyder reminded people that the Abolition 2000 network has endorsed and encouraged grass-roots participation in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – a member of Abolition 2000. She showed the ICAN website (www.icanw.org) and encouraged participants to use ICAN materials in their organising efforts for nuclear abolition.

Throughout the afternoon there was some discussion on key points raised by the introductory speakers, plus other campaign resources shared – including an upcomingfilm “The man who saved the world” about Stanislav Petrov’s decision not to launch Soviet nuclear weapons in 1983. See https://vimeo.com/27477826 for a preview.

In addition there were a number of background papers circulated for the session including:



Dr. Carlos Vargas

The A2000 Session was dedicated to Dr Carlos Vargas Pizzaro (Costa Rica), who passed away unexpectedly on 12 August 2012.

Dr Vargas was one of the founding members of the Abolition 2000 Nuclear Weapons Convention Working Group and a Vice-President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. Dr Vargas represented Costa Rica in the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons and was the President of the United Nations Working Group that drafted the Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Dr Vargas was a member of the Drafting Committee for the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, was responsible for encouraging the Costa Rican government to submit the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention to the United Nations, and was an advisor to the government on promotion of the nuclear weapons convention.

Thank you Carlos for your vision and dedication.