Towards Global Consensus: Highlighting African States’ Role in A Nuclear Weapons Ban

June 4, 2014

Momentum in support of a nuclear weapons ban is building all around the world, including in Africa. On May 27-28, representatives from ICAN, civil society, and representatives from nine African governments met in Lusaka, Zambia, to discuss prospects for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

This roundtable focused on practical ways to engage African states in abolishing nuclear weapons, building on prior discussions held in Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya.

Discussions surrounding nuclear weapons have long been seen as an issue strictly relegated to national security concerns for nuclear weapons states and their allies. The discourse has now changed. Particular emphasis on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons’ possession and use have opened up issues surrounding nuclear weapons to wider debate. “The focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has widened the discussion,” says Magnus Løvold, Campaign and Advocacy Director at ICAN. “Nuclear weapons are now seen as a global issue, one in which all states should actively engage with.”

“There is also expressed frustration with the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament,” continues Løvold. “African states in particular have agreed to not produce or use nuclear weapons as states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Pelindaba Treaty, and they have fulfilled all of their obligations. Nuclear-armed states, however, have showed little effort in meaningfully pursuing nuclear disarmament.”

The participation of African states in the process to ban nuclear weapons is not only desirable, but also necessary. African states played a critical role in the negotiation of other weapons treaties, including the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and most recently the Arms Trade Treaty. The African continent includes over one-fourth of the countries in the world, and their active support and participation is instrumental to the successful negotiation and drafting of a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The roundtable provided another opportunity to discuss current approaches to nuclear disarmament and concrete goals moving forward. A single, cohesive message from African states in favour of a ban would send a strong message to the rest of the world and highlight the broad-based support for a ban.

  • 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