A majority of the world’s governments is ready to negotiate a ban

May 13, 2016

As delivered by Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, at the Open Ended Working Group on May 13, 2016

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I would just like to thank you and your team for the excellent work that has been done.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, is a campaign coalition consisting of over 440 non-governmental organisations in over 98 countries – you’ve heard directly from many of them throughout these two weeks.

I’d like to thank all delegations and the Chair for being welcoming and open to the views of civil society. We appreciate the opportunity to be able to contribute actively to these discussions.

And we’re very encouraged by the debate here. It’s impressive to see how support for a new legally binding instrument has grown significantly during the last years, and that more governments than ever are ready to take action to achieve this.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, ICAN has worked hard throughout the last years to mobilize governments to take action to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe by banning nuclear weapons. As we have highlighted in our contributions to the OEWG, ICAN partner organisations work in nuclear-armed states, in nuclear umbrella states, in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. We work with religious communities, with parliamentarians, with trade unions, national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. And obviously we tweet a lot.

All over the world, people are realizing that we have an opportunity here. That there is a choice to make, and that decision-time is coming. Are we going to ban nuclear weapons or not?

From what we’ve heard these past two weeks, the answer is yes.  A majority of the world’s governments are ready and want to start negotiations of a new legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons now.

Not everyone is convinced though. Some in this room still question the value of a treaty banning nuclear weapons, saying it won’t have an impact unless the nuclear-armed states sign on to it. But I think that’s underestimating the impact governments in this room could have.

A treaty banning nuclear weapons would have a normative impact. It will strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of nuclear weapons. It will clarify that, in the view of the international community, nuclear weapons are unacceptable.

But it could also have some very concrete and practical implications. Many of such provisions of the treaty have been discussed here, such as stopping financing of nuclear weapons production and victim assistance.

And any nuclear alliance states joining the treaty will have to cease to host nuclear weapons on their soil, the weapons would need to be dismantled or returned. They would need to stop participating in nuclear war planning, stop contributing to nuclear weapons modernization programmes and many other very concrete disarmament activities.

Some suggest that nuclear umbrella states wont join this treaty, because some of them currently oppose such proposal. But our partner organisations all over the world, in particularly those in nuclear umbrella states, are working nationally to make sure that their governments participate constructively in negotiations and join the treaty.

ICAN – and our entire network – is ready to work to ensure that a process banning nuclear weapons, even without the participation of nuclear -armed states, will be effective, meaningful, and that it will make a difference.

Civil society is ready; we’ve heard here that the majority of governments are ready. We hope the strong support for recommending negotiating and concluding a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons will be reflected in the report, and we urge all states to support such recommendation.



  • 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