ICAN Statement to the First Committee of the UNGA

October 16, 2015

Delivered by Daniel Högsta, ICAN Network Coordinator

I’m speaking on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of over 430 non-governmental organisations in 98 countries. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created.

A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill hundreds of thousands in just a few seconds. The effects would spread around the world and affect future generations. The humanitarian suffering would be immeasurable.

The evidence presented at the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna have highlighted these unacceptable consequences and underscored that no state, group of states, or international organization can provide meaningful help to those that survive.

Because nuclear weapons are inherently inhumane and indiscriminate and any use would cause catastrophic consequences, they must never be used again.

But the possession and reliance on nuclear weapons continues. They undermine the security of people all over the world, risk a nuclear catastrophe, by accident or design, increase international tensions and make conflict more dangerous. The majority of the world recognises this. The majority of people see clearly that possession and even reliance on nuclear weapons is unacceptable. This majority agrees they should never be used again, under any circumstances.

But somehow, a few continue to consider nuclear weapons legitimate – at least in their hands.

Most recently Pope Francis in his address to the UN General Assembly –called out nuclear deterrence for what it is: immoral and unacceptable. Possessing nuclear weapons for the purposes of deterrence is not only a self-defeating driver of proliferation, but in fundamental contradiction to the entire framework of the United Nations. Nuclear weapons are undemocratic, as the few pretend these are not weapons to kill and maim but symbols to assert power and marginalize the security and needs of the majority.

Here at the First Committee, we are hearing more and more states call for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. As of today, 119 states have publicly recognised that a legal gap on nuclear weapons exists and have pledged to fill it. It’s time to tackle this scourge. It’s time to start negotiations to prohibit these weapons, even if the nuclear-armed states refuse to participate.

But at the same time, we also see clear attempts by those that possess nuclear weapons and those that claim to rely on them, to try to stop this momentum, to try to delay or divert it into the same old structures and processes that have kept the disarmament obligations of the NPT unfulfilled for 45 years — the same rules and procedures that have kept the Conference on Disarmament deadlocked for almost 20 years.

Don’t be fooled.

Any new initiative must be based in the moral and legal imperatives to negotiate in good faith on nuclear disarmament. Humanity cannot be bound by procedures designed to keep the dangerous, undemocratic and immoral status quo in place indefinitely.

There is a renewed sense of empowerment and moral outrage among the peoples and the governments of countries that reject nuclear weapons. We have seen similar determination before. The white government in power in South Africa tried to stop the anti-apartheid movement. Men in power all over the world tried to stop women from achieving their own right to vote. These upholders of the status quo all failed, because they were on the wrong side of history.

Nuclear weapons are on the wrong side of history.

The majority that reject nuclear weapons – and assert the needs and imperative of humanity – can and must move forward. The time has come to start negotiations on a non-discriminatory international legal instrument that would prohibit the development, production, testing, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, deployment, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons in a forum that is open to all, inclusive of civil society, and blockable by none.

We should not accept a framing that such a prohibition is impossible. Prohibiting inhumane, indiscriminate and immoral weapons is not impossible; it is the responsibility and right of all nations and peoples.



  • aiweiwei

    “Let’s act up! Ban nuclear weapons completely and unconditionally.”

    Ai Weiwei Artist and activist

  • sheen

    “If Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were alive today, they would be part of ICAN.”

    Martin Sheen Actor and activist

  • bankimoon

    “I salute ICAN for working with such commitment and creativity.”

    Ban Ki-moon Former UN chief

  • yokoono

    “We can do it together. With your help, our voice will be made still stronger. Imagine peace.”

    Yoko Ono Artist

  • jodywilliams

    “Governments say a nuclear weapons ban is unlikely. Don’t believe it. They said the same about a mine ban treaty.”

    Jody Williams Nobel laureate

  • desmondtutu

    “With your support, we can take ICAN its full distance – all the way to zero nuclear weapons.”

    Desmond Tutu Nobel laureate

  • herbiehancock

    “Because I cannot tolerate these appalling weapons, I whole-heartedly support ICAN.”

    Herbie Hancock Jazz musician

  • dalailama

    “I can imagine a world without nuclear weapons, and I support ICAN.”

    Dalai Lama Nobel laureate