UK parliamentary briefing shows growing support for a nuclear weapons ban
January 28, 2015
On January 21, ICAN UK and the All Party Group on Weapons and the Protection of Civilians, facilitated by ICAN partner Article 36, organised a parliamentary briefing to report on the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Attendees discussed the outcome of the conference, and the implications for the UK’s own nuclear weapons.
The meeting came just a day after a parliamentary debate on the renewal of Trident. During the debate, called by the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, many MPs pointed to the catastrophic risk of nuclear weapons due to intentional and accidental detonation. Katy Clarke MP noted that the abandonment of Trident would not only be a significant symbolic step towards nuclear disarmament, but would also have a significant impact internationally. Paul Flynn MP pointed out that the continued possession of nuclear weapons by certain states also tacitly encourages other states to maintain and develop their own, thereby actively thwarting disarmament efforts. Other speakers during the debate also noted that the UK has an obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith, and this obligation should be met by a nuclear weapons ban. “It is high time the Government stated their support for a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons that would complement our disarmament commitment under Article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty”, said Angus Robertson MP.
The parliamentary meeting the following day continued these discussions. Many at the meeting agreed that now, after the Vienna Conference and before the NPT RevCon, is the time to push through the agenda. Dame Joan Ruddock MP praised the ICAN Civil Society Forum, where more than 600 campaigners representing 100 organizations from 70 countries met, as an inspiring precursor to the Vienna Conference. She also noted that the evidence and testimonies provided during the government conference clearly demonstrate the urgency of an international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Martin Caton MP acknowledged the pivotal role of civil society in moving this campaign forward. Previous disarmament initiatives, including those on landmines and cluster munitions, have seen successful thanks to the strong participation of civil society. Continued civil society engagement, as well as the discourse-changing Humanitarian Initiative, can continue to push states towards a ban treaty. “The Humanitarian Initiative cannot be ignored – this whole discourse has been strengthened and is now the centre ground for many on nuclear disarmament” said Thomas Nash of Article 36, member of ICAN International Steering Group. While many within the UK government continue to hold onto nuclear weapons, more and more MPs are acknowledging the humanitarian evidence presented by civil society, and are pushing for a legal ban treaty. “An international ban can be made law without the nuclear weapons states signing up”, said Dame Joan Ruddock MP. “That is what makes it incredibly important, different from the NPT – and the only way, in my view, that we will move towards elimination.”