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UN resolution to ban nuclear weapons in 2017

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On 27 October 2016, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted resolution L.41 to convene negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

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On 27 October 2016, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted resolution L.41 to convene negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The voting result was 123 nations in favour and 38 against, with 16 abstentions.

The resolution acts on a recommendation made in August by a UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament in Geneva. More than 100 nations participated in the working group, with an overwhelming majority expressing their support for the prohibition of nuclear weapons as a first step towards elimination.

The resolution sets up a negotiating conference to be held over 20 days (from 27 to 31 March 2017 and from 15 June to 7 July 2017), at the UN in New York. All UN member states, along with international organizations and members of civil society, will be invited to participate. The negotiations could continue beyond these dates.

A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would close the “legal gap” in the existing regime governing nuclear weapons, as recognized by the Humanitarian Pledge. It is an anomaly that these are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited under international law in a comprehensive and universal manner.

Chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all expressly prohibited through international conventions. Most nations agree the prohibition of nuclear weapons is the only appropriate course of action in light of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their use.

The following 57 nations co-sponsored the resolution:

Angola, Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.