World body of parliaments calls for negotiations to abolish nuclear weapons

On March 20, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global organisation of 164 parliaments commemorating its 125th anniversary year, adopted a landmark resolution Toward a Nuclear Weapon Free World: The Contribution of Parliaments.

The resolution, adopted after 12 months of consultations and negotiations, calls on parliaments to ‘work with their governments on eliminating the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines‘ and to ‘urge their governments to start negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or package of agreements to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.’

The far-reaching nature of the resolution is significant in that it was adopted with the participation and consent of parliaments from virtually all of the countries possessing nuclear weapons, as well as those under extended nuclear deterrence relationships.

IPU Standing Committee on Peace and International Security. Photo © IPU/Giancarlo Fortunato
IPU Standing Committee on Peace and International Security. Photo © IPU/Giancarlo Fortunato
This resolution demonstrates the growing understanding by parliamentarians that their responsibilities extend beyond those of their political parties and national positions to a shared obligation to the global common good and the security of future generations’ says Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament  (PNND). ‘Parliamentarians from non-nuclear countries, nuclear-armed countries and their allies came together to challenge governments to emerge from behind their cloaks of complacency and walls of nuclear deterrence, and to instead act resolutely to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The issue of nuclear weapons was proposed by PNND members to be the peace and security topic for the IPU for 2013-2014, and was chosen by the IPU from a number of key security issues due to the importance of this topic for human survival.

On-going efforts by a few States to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them threaten regional and global peace and security’ said Blaine Calkins MP, one of the co-rapporteurs of the IPU Standing Committee on Peace and International Security which facilitated the drafting, deliberations and adoption of the resolution.

The destructive effects of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in time or space,’ said Saber Chowdhury MP, PNND Co-President and President of the IPU Standing Committee, quoting the historic 1996 conclusion of the International Court of Justice as he introduced the resolution.

Co-rapporteur Yolande Ferrer Gómez MP (Cuba)
Co-rapporteur Yolande Ferrer Gómez MP (Cuba)

Parliamentary action worldwide should aim to eliminate the concept of nuclear deterrence once and for all,’ said Yolanda Ferrer MP, the other co-rapporteur of the IPU Standing Committee.  ‘It encourages the perpetual possession of nuclear weapons and justifies the use of huge sums to modernize nuclear arsenals, funds that could be invested to solve the most pressing problems facing the world’s population, such as hunger, poverty and unhealthy living conditions.

The IPU resolution could be instrumental, for two main reasons, in challenging and changing anachronistic policies that have prevented any significant progress on nuclear disarmament for decades. Firstly, parliaments of most of the nuclear armed States and those under extended nuclear deterrence, supported the resolution. These parliaments could thus now move to change their own governments’ policies and practices. Secondly, the resolution focuses on the role of parliaments, which have special authority and influence on these issues.

Parliamentarians can play a key role in moving governments to implement their shared commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons,’ said Calkins. ‘Among other things, they can: hold governments to account and ensure compliance with commitments and responsibilities under the NPT; convince governments to accept new commitments, mechanisms and responsibilities as required; and, mobilize public opinion and civil society to demand faster and deeper action.

Rob van Riet addressing the IPU Plennary, 130th IPU Assembly in Geneva. Photo © IPU/Pierre Albouy
Rob van Riet addressing the IPU Plennary, 130th IPU Assembly in Geneva. Photo © IPU/Pierre Albouy
PNND UK Coordinator Rob van Riet, in addressing the IPU Plenary, offered examples of PNND events and actions in national parliaments and international forums – particularly the United Nations and NPT Treaty meetings – to engage parliamentarians effectively in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. This work is supported  by the PNND/IPU Handbook, published in 2012, that outlines exemplary policies and practices pursued by parliaments and parliamentarians.

PNND is thus now seeking funding to continue and expand this work in follow-up to the most recent IPU resolution.

The IPU resolution included a number of other calls, notably for parliaments to:

  • Use all available tools including committees to monitor national implementation of disarmament commitments, including by scrutinizing legislation, budgets and progress reports;
     
  • Promote and commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26;
     
  • Work together with their governments and civil society to build momentum for a constructive Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2015;
     
  • Ratify and implement existing non-proliferation and disarmament treaties and agreements, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Convention on Nuclear Terrorism, IAEA nuclear safeguards agreements and the Action Plan from the 2010 NPT Review Conference;
     
  • Strengthen existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and support their expansion and the establishment of new zones, especially a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Co-rapporteur Blaine Calkins MP (Canada)
Co-rapporteur Blaine Calkins MP (Canada)
It also welcomes the Oslo and Narayit conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and the emergence of other multilateral approaches and initiatives including the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations;

And the resolution encourages parliamentarians to engage in multi-party networks like PNND in order to support effective parliamentary action.

It is precisely by pursuing such work and partnering with governments and civil society that parliamentarians can ensure that the aspiration of a world free of nuclear weapons will finally be realized,’ concludes Mr Calkins.


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