A significant moment in the struggle for a world free of nuclear weapons

August 19, 2016

ICAN statement delivered by Beatrice Fihn, executive director, in the closing session of the UN working group on nuclear disarmament, Geneva, 19 August 2016

ICAN joins others in thanking the chair and secretariat, and all those states that have participated constructively in this process.

This, we believe, is a significant moment in the seven-decade-long global struggle to rid the world of the worst weapons of mass destruction. An overwhelming majority of nations have signalled their clear intention to join negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The nations of Africa stand united. The nations of Latin America and the Caribbean stand united. The nations of Southeast Asia and the Pacific stand united. And the 440 organizations that comprise the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons stand united.

In this working group, we have debated various proposals for effective legal measures on nuclear disarmament. We have examined possible elements to include in a new legal instrument, and how this instrument would enhance the security of all peoples. And, together, we have concluded that the time for negotiations is now.

Three years ago, the Oslo conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons demonstrated, beyond doubt, that these weapons are indiscriminate and inhumane. A year later, the Nayarit conference concluded that the risk of a nuclear detonation today is unacceptably high – higher, perhaps, than it has ever been. Then the Vienna conference showed that a “legal gap” exists in the regime governing nuclear weapons, and must urgently be filled.

Now, this open-ended working group has shown that a treaty banning nuclear weapons is the most viable pathway forward – the best hope of advancing a goal endorsed by all nations, that of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

We urge all states, this autumn, to vote “yes” to a resolution in the UN General Assembly establishing the mandate for ban treaty negotiations. Your vote will be a permanent record of where your nation stood when the international community resolved, at long last, to outlaw the most destructive, inhumane and immoral weapons ever created.

We urge you all to heed the call of your citizens, and stand on the right side of history. And we look forward to joining you next year at the first negotiating conference, which must be open to all, blockable by none and inclusive of civil society.



  • 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