Applause rang through the Assembly Hall in the Palais des Nations at the 2nd PrepCom after South Africa read out the names of the 80 states who comprised the newly-formed Humanitarian Initiative and signed the statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa read the statement which expressed deep concern on behalf of the signees about the catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and demanded their “recognition as a fundamental and global concern that must be placed at the core of all deliberations on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.”
This statement builds upon the Joint Statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament given by Switzerland on behalf of 35 States in New York on 22 October 2012, which in turn was an increase on statement at the 2012 NPT PrepCom in Vienna to which there were 16 State signatures. The more-than-doubled number of signatures since October of last year is a clear sign that the humanitarian approach is increasingly resonating among States.
As the statement put it, “this issue is now firmly established on the global agenda”, which has been demonstrated by the outcome of the 2010 Review Conference of the NPT, the 2011 resolution by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to pursue a legally binding instrument which would prohibit the use of and eliminate nuclear weapons, and most recently the March 2013 Oslo conference. It is clear from the statements of a majority of States at the NPT over the last three days that the Oslo Conference was a much-welcomed and highly successful initiative by the Norwegian MFA in changing the framing of nuclear disarmament and kick-starting an alternative dialogue to the deadlocked negotiations in traditional forums which places the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons front and center.
The high participation to the Joint Statement indicated that non-nuclear states are willing to take up the charge to delegitimize these weapons and push for their total elimination at a far faster pace. The upcoming follow-up conference in Mexico provides an opportunity to continue to drive the process towards the elimination of nuclear weapons forward.
This report originally appeared on the ICAN website.