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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 March 29 - April 4  > Antinuke UN conference historical 1st step toward N-ban treaty
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2017 March 29 - April 4 TOP3 [PEACE]

Antinuke UN conference historical 1st step toward N-ban treaty

April 4, 2017
Akahata editorial

The first round of the UN conference to negotiate a legally-binding agreement banning nuclear weapons ended on March 31 at the UN headquarters in NYC, taking the historical first step toward the realization of a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

Joint efforts by world citizens and governments

Nuclear weapons states and countries relying on a “nuclear umbrella” boycotted the meeting in opposition to a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. Without waiting for the participation of these pro-nuclear weapons states, most participating countries agreed to create without delay a draft treaty, and decided to leave the door open for those states refusing to participate at this time. President of the conference Elayne Whyte (Costa Rica) stated that she “will aim to have a draft treaty adopted by July 7”. She will most likely present the draft as early as late May.

During the latest session of the conference, participating countries held in-depth discussions on what to stipulate in the preamble of the treaty. Many issues still need to be further discussed and studied, but it can be said that they generally agreed to outlaw nuclear weapons by branding them as “inhumane” from a humanitarian standpoint and to prohibit their use, possession, and development. The desire to conclude a NWC is increasingly spreading throughout the world. No one country can reverse this move.

However, despite being the only A-bombed country in the world, the government of Japan refused to take part in the UN conference which led to disappointment and criticism by the international community. In sharp contrast, many Japanese citizens including atomic bomb survivors (Hibakusha) participated in the meeting and supported the NWC, which encouraged the world’s governments to take action. President Whyte at the closing of the conference expressed her appreciation to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing for standing with them during the one-week session.

The energetic actions taken by civil society globally worked as the major driving force leading to the success of the conference. NGO representatives in the past have had very limited opportunities to speak at UN meetings. This time, however, they participated as official participants in the conference and were allowed to make remarks. Civil society delegates attended all the proceedings during the conference, offering their opinions and suggestions in regard to working out the details of the N-ban treaty. What is literally epoch-making is that civil society and governments collaborated in the process of creating a NWC. Such collaboration was made for the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. However, regarding the issue of nuclear weapons which have been left in the hands of major powers’ global defense strategy formulation, the latest civil society-government joint effort is the most notable event in postwar international political history. This event expresses how the world has forced a major shift to take place in the field of international relations.

The Japanese Communist Party also contributed to bringing about the success of the talks by making representations to 38 nations and organizations to ask for their cooperation. JCP Chair Shii Kazuo attended the conference and delivered a speech saying that Hibakusha and the majority of Japanese people strongly support this conference, conveying the voices of the A-bombed nation’s people to the world.

Grass-roots movements have built trust in civil society among the world’s governments. UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo noted that the strengthening of world public opinion is necessary to encourage nuclear weapons states to decide to participate in the negotiations, and cited signature campaigns as an important tool to achieve this. The conference chair, Elayne Whyte, expressed her hope to receive as many signatures as possible when the next round of talks begins in June. It is expected for the International Signature Campaign in Support of the Appeal of Hibakusha for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons which brings together citizens’ demands to be further developed.

Increase civil society movements in each nation

A globally united movement influencing nuclear weapons states and the Japanese government is essential to realize a NWC and move forward for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. In New York City, many anti-Trump women’s organizations and peace movements plan to hold a large-scale action to coincide with the second round of the UN conference in June. In order to unite world public opinion to support a NWC, the need is for concerned citizens in each nation to develop their movements by accepting diversity and differences in ideology and political affiliation.

Past related articles:
> Shii and NGOs in NYC affirm common goal of nuclear weapons ban [March 28, 2017]
> Shii meets with UN ambassadors in NYC [March 28, 2017]
> Shii holds talks with chair of antinuke UN conference [March 28, 2017]
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