In what is being called a ‘historic move’, the United Nations General Assembly committee on October 27 voted to launch negotiations on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons despite fierce opposition from the world’s nuclear powers.
It has been reported that a resolution presented by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil was adopted by a vote of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions, after weeks of attempts by the nuclear power for ‘no’ votes.
The non-binding resolution paves way to hold a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”, the reports said.
According to a report in The Guardian, support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over months of negotiations, but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – which includes the veto-wielding permanent five members of the Security Council.
A report of The Times of India informed that Japan, which has long campaigned against the use of nuclear weapons, voted against it, as did South Korea, which is facing a nuclear threat from North Korea.
But Australia has been reported to be the most outspoken of the non-nuclear states.
It has been noted that during months of negotiations, Australia has lobbied other countries, pressing the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons.
Australia has consistently maintained that as long as nuclear weapons exist, it must rely on the protection of the deterrent effect of the US’s nuclear arsenal, the second largest in the world.
According to the reports, opponents argued that nuclear disarmament should be addressed within negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Professor Tilman Ruff, founding chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, told The Guardia that the vote was a “historic step” for the world that “heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament”.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said in a report that “This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight. But it will establish a powerful, new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament.”
The measure is expected to go to the full General Assembly for a vote in late November or early December. The resolution now goes to a full general assembly vote some time in December.