Hold your government accountable for its vote at the UN

December 1, 2015

It’s not too late for it to change its position. Each year at the United Nations, member states vote on several resolutions relating to the grave threat posed by nuclear weapons. This October, Austria, Mexico and South Africa tabled four important new resolutions aimed at galvanizing global support for nuclear disarmament. Governments have already cast their preliminary votes on the resolutions at committee level.

But on 7 December they will vote once again, this time in a plenary meeting of the General Assembly. If they voted against or abstained from voting the resolutions the first time round, they should switch to a “yes” vote – and stand with the vast majority of nations in rejecting these ultimate weapons of mass destruction. Here is some information to help influence your government’s position.


Which resolutions are we talking about?

Resolution L.37 Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons: Affirms many of the key findings and conclusions of three major diplomatic conferences that were convened on this topic in 2013 and 2014. Declares it in the interest of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, “under any circumstances”.

Lead sponsor: Austria
Yes’ votes: 136
Initial voting result


Resolution L.38 Humanitarian pledge for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons: Is based on the text of an important diplomatic pledge, called the Humanitarian Pledge, that commits states to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts “to fill the legal gap” with respect to the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Lead sponsor: Austria
‘Yes’ votes: 128
Initial voting result


Resolution L.40 Ethical imperatives for a nuclear-weapon-free world: Declares nuclear weapons to be “inherently immoral” given their indiscriminate nature and potential to annihilate humanity. States that all nations have an “ethical responsibility” to work together to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Lead sponsor: South Africa
Yes’ votes: 124
Initial voting result


Resolution L.13 Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations: Establishes a working group that will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2016 for up to three weeks to “substantively address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms” to attain and maintain a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Lead sponsor: Mexico
‘Yes’ votes: 135
Initial voting result



How did my country vote last month?

In the week beginning 2 November, nations cast their preliminary vote on these four resolutions in the General Assembly’s First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security matters. The full voting results are available here, together with explanations offered by some nations as to why they opposed, or abstained from voting on, particular resolutions.

For example, 27 nations issued a joint statement complaining that the humanitarian-focused resolutions were designed “to marginalize and delegitimize certain policy perspectives and positions”. Indeed, these resolutions challenge the policy of “nuclear deterrence”, to which most of these nations subscribe. The policy of nuclear deterrence endorses the retention and possible use of nuclear weapons.

The overwhelming majority of nations voted in favour of all four humanitarian resolutions, signalling their readiness and determination to work together for the complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. These resolutions, together, form a solid basis for launching negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. This is an urgent humanitarian imperative of the highest order.


How can I influence my government’s position?

Decisions about how to vote on UN General Assembly resolutions are typically made by senior government officials, with little or no parliamentary oversight or public debate. We must do more to bring democracy to disarmament. It is time for governments to heed the call of their people for negotiations on a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. These new resolutions will help advance this goal.

  • Parliamentarians: Send your members of parliament ICAN’s briefing note and encourage them to take action ahead of the 7 December vote.
  • Media: Issue a press release on behalf of your organization or write a letter to the editor alerting the public to your government’s initial vote on the resolutions.
  • Other stakeholders: Enlist the support of faith-based groups, trade unions and others. Build a network of organizations to exert pressure on your government.
  • Social media: Make noise on social media. Tweet your foreign minister, prime minister or president. Demand a “yes” vote on 7 December.


Can I watch the second round of voting take place?

Yes. The voting on the four resolutions – as well as many others – will take place on Monday 7 December, between 10:00 and 13:00 New York time. It will be webcast live here and voting results will be published here.

Watch live on 7 December


  • 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