UN General Assembly First Committee Monitor - 5

Reaching Critical Will
11 November 2015

Editorial: A win for resolve and courage at First Committee
Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

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A few days before the vote on the Mexican-led resolution to establish an open-ended working group (OEWG), US Ambassador Wood said: “It will not succeed”. Last Thursday, the 135 states voting in favour of an OEWG that will be open to all but blockable by none proved that his assertion was not only unwise, but simply wrong. The resolutions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weaponshumanitarian pledge for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, and ethical imperatives for a nuclear weapon free world were also adopted, not only by a majority, but by two-thirds of UN member states. It would appear that a great number of states are ready to finally stand up to the nuclear-armed countries and their nuclear allies and take concerted action for nuclear disarmament.
Of course now that the OEWG resolution has been adopted, the states opposed to advancing multilateral efforts to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons are already declaring that the working group will be unsuccessful. The five NPT nuclear-armed states parties said the mandate for the OEWG “lacks all those vital components that would guarantee both a meaningful collaboration and a productive outcome as a result of concerted collective effort.” Russia also said the OEWG “has no chance of being successful because it simply ignores fundamental principles of consensus.” The nuclear allies are also condemning the OEWG before it begins—Australia has already decided that the nuclear-armed states will not participate, while Japan said the OEWG does not have the proper mandate to explore effective measures for nuclear disarmament “in an appropriate manner”.
These declarations of “failure” are a bit similar to those made by non-state parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) that declare the treaty is not strong enough to warrant their accession. Faced with the reality of action by the majority, states attached to unacceptable weapons will apparently use any arguments they can find. In explanations of vote on First Committee’s first ever resolution on cluster munitions, Argentina and Brazil referred to the CCM’s interoperability clause as a reason to not join the treaty. Argentina said it would continue to advocate for a “comprehensive ban” on cluster munitions. Brazil, together with Russia, also argued that the CCM allows rich countries to develop “advanced cluster munitions,” which sets a double standard and, as Russia said, is a “cynical attempt to warp the market”. In reality, these arguments are a cynical attempt to avoid responsibility for taking action on cluster munitions. While saying that the CCM is not good enough, these states have not banned any cluster munitions at all. Far from it in the case of Brazil and Russia, which both continue to produce and sell these weapons. Most recently, Amnesty International reported that Brazilian-made cluster bombs may have been used by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
In the cases of both the OEWG and the CCM, a handful of states have declared that the activity or treaty is or will be unsuccessful, whilst refusing to participate. It’s a bit like standing on the sidelines with your arms crossed while people try to distribute supplies in an emergency, critiquing the relief workers, but refusing to provide any assistance yourself.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, the nuclear-armed have gone even further, by trying to prevent the relief from being provided at all. That is because they are afraid of it. “Can you imagine what chaos would occur in other areas if we acted without agreement or consent of different owners or users of different types of weapons?” cried Mr. Yermakov of Russia in protesting the idea that the CCM could be used as a model for other arms control or disarmament agreements. When it comes to nuclear weapons, those states that posses them or include them in their security doctrines don’t want anything being done without them. However, their refusal to participate must not stop the rest of the world—the absolute majority—from taking resolute action. The CCM and the vote on the Mexican-led OEWG are grounds for optimism that the rest of the world can and will take such action.
The nuclear-armed states probably won’t show up to the OEWG next year. That doesn’t matter. The OEWG will be successful if it draws together committed

Read full article at: Reaching Critical Will