Austria to host next step in humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons
February 13, 2014
The Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, announced today that he will host an international conference later this year on nuclear weapons. The conference will discuss how best to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again, by design, miscalculation, or accident. Discussions are expected to consider existing and potential international legal and political frameworks to address the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
Austria’s announcement comes on the morning of a major international conference in Mexico, where around 146 states will gather to discuss the impact of nuclear weapons on global public health and the environment, economic growth, and sustainable development. The conference in Mexico, which follows on from a groundbreaking meeting in Oslo in March 2013, will also discuss the risk that nuclear weapons, if not banned and eliminated, will be used.
The announcement of this next meeting in Vienna indicates a willingness amongst states to move from a discussion about the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons to a discussion about what must be done to make sure they are never used again. As Austrian President Heinz Fischer said during the High Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament last September “Nuclear weapons should be stigmatized, banned and eliminated before they abolish us.”
Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said: “Civil society has been clear from the beginning that the only reasonable conclusion from discussions on the impact of nuclear weapons is that they must be prohibited and eliminated. The Vienna meeting is the place for states to act on that conclusion.”
Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not yet subject to a comprehensive international ban. This legal anomaly must be addressed through a new international treaty, even if the nuclear-armed states refuse to participate at the beginning. ICAN is calling on states, when they meet in Vienna, to commit to start work on a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Nadja Schmidt of ICAN Austria said: “This is an opportunity for Austria to provide important global leadership and bring the world a step closer to genuine security in a world free of all weapons of mass destruction. Negotiating a treaty banning nuclear weapons would be a defining moment of the 21st century. We applaud our Foreign Minister’s initiative and call for decisive action to launch this process when he hosts the world’s nations in Vienna later this year.”