Surge in support across Europe for global parliamentary appeal to ban nuclear weapons

September 17, 2015

There has been a significant increase in support among parliamentarians across Europe for the launch of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons – the only weapons of mass destruction not yet clearly prohibited under international law.

In recent weeks, elected representatives from Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Slovenia and Spain have signed ICAN’s global parliamentary appeal, which describes a ban on nuclear weapons as “necessary, feasible and increasingly urgent”.

While no NATO nation has yet endorsed the Austrian-led Humanitarian Pledge “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”, it is clear that support among parliamentarians in many of these nations is growing. Legislators from 16 out of 26 European NATO nations have so far signed the ICAN appeal.

In Iceland a group of lawmakers from four opposition parties, led by Stein­unn Þóra Árna­dótt­ir MP, recently introduced a motion urging the government to endorse the landmark diplomatic pledge. In 2012, Iceland had joined calls for all nations to “intensify their efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons”, but now it appears to be back-pedalling.

Parliamentarians in NATO nations have a vital role to play in encouraging their governments to reject the dangerous doctrine of “nuclear deterrence”. The growing support for the appeal across Europe is encouraging. A total of 781 legislators in 41 nations have signed the appeal to date.


New UK Labour leader among appeal signatories

Jeremy Corbyn MP, who this month won a landslide election to become leader the opposition Labour party in the United Kingdom, is among the signatories of the appeal, which calls upon “all national governments to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons and leading to their complete eradication”.

For the potential next prime minister of a nuclear-armed nation to support such a treaty – which the current government in Britain strongly opposes – is a significant development. Corbyn has long been a vocal critic the country’s nuclear arsenal, which consists of four submarines equipped with a total of up to 215 warheads.

The parliament at Westminster is expected to vote next year on whether to renew the “Trident” nuclear system. In his plan for defence diversification, Corbyn argued that upgrading Britain’s nuclear programme would undermine efforts “to advance the cause of international nuclear disarmament”. He said that the country’s nuclear weapons are “unsustainable, expensive, dangerous and immoral”.

Interviewed about the issue shortly after his election to the leadership, he said: “I’m hoping the party will come together around this issue. We don’t need nuclear weapons. We need to keep those people who make them in good jobs, so we have defence diversification, but we need to fulfil our obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Rebecca Sharkey, ICAN’s coordinator in the UK, said: “It’s great to have a Labour leader who supports the scrapping of Trident as part of a new global push to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Inside and outside parliament, Jeremy Corbyn has long argued for the UK to uphold its international disarmament obligations under the NPT.”

Last December, Corbyn attended the ICAN civil society forum in Vienna and the inter-governmental conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, at which the government of Austria issued its pledge “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.


– By Mat Kelly

Image: Jeremy Corbyn MP, with ICAN’s UK coordinator Rebecca Sharkey, signing the global parliamentary appeal for a nuclear weapons ban in May 2014.

  • 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