UN: A vote to ban nuclear weapons is a vote for Earth's future
by Marie Dennis, Pax Christi International Co-President & Jonathan Frerichs, Pax Christi International UN Representative
(Ed. Note: This article was published by NCR on July 6th, the day before passage of the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, on July 7th.)
For the first time in history, a treaty to ban nuclear weapons is on the negotiating table at the United Nations. A solid majority of governments is set to close a gaping hole in international law. The new treaty may well be ready by July 7, but the United States and four other governments that bear the greatest responsibility for international peace and security are absent.
Instead of meeting their United Nations Charter obligations, instead of negotiating nuclear disarmament in good faith as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, instead of outlawing the ultimate instrument of indiscriminate violence in an era of indiscriminate violence, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are boycotting the deliberations and even belittling their purpose. The U.S. has constrained its allies to stay away as well, including nations like Germany and Japan.
That all countries have a stake in eliminating nuclear weapons is obvious. These weapons threaten all life and all that is most precious in life. Thankfully, the simple truth about nuclear weapons is back in play around the world due to a five-year humanitarian initiative that mobilized governments, regions, international organizations, a civil society campaign and world religions. The onus now is on what nuclear weapons do to us and to our planet, and what we must do about them.
The historic shift powering the current negotiations is that states without nuclear weapons are taking leadership to achieve a global public good on the basis of international humanitarian, human rights and environmental law. This same majoritarian gene may well save the Paris climate accord as citizens, cities and corporations step in to fulfill obligations others have abandoned.
How can we understand the nuclear powers' dereliction of their duty? One clue is behavioral. The evidence indicates that having nuclear weapons makes a government allergic to giving them up. States with nuclear weapons are even allergic to the prospect of other states uniting to make nuclear arms illegal...