On Wednesday, September 27th, the UN convened a high-level meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. At the start of the event, the Secretary General delivered his remarks in which he drew upon his experience in Nagasaki and Securing our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament, his new disarmament agenda, the Secretary General emphasized the importance of nonproliferation and denuclearization, noting that nuclearization “is the greatest existential challenge of our time.” He further specified that “we must take urgent steps” toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well. A clear and purposeful way to start the day’s discussion.
Ms. Epinosa, President of the UN General Assembly, called upon the international community, especially the nuclear-armed States. to engage in 'innovative discussions on practical measures' and to advance 'fresh ideas and political will to make a difference.' She further emphasized the importance for the international community to support the Secretary-General’s disarmament agenda.
The Non-Aligned Movement
On behalf of the NAM, Venezuela emphasized the need for the international community to support a high-level conference, which would review progress on nuclear disarmament. It further explained that “so long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use will persist.” Moreover, he contended that nuclear weapons violate the UN Charter and nuclear weapons constitute a crime against humanity. Finally, the NAM reiterated that the use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences, he added.
Amongst the European States, Austria and Liechtenstein were present. Austria is a leader in the TPNW and has made disarmament one of its top national policy priorities. Consequently, it urged other states to ratify the TPNW. Austria further asserted that due to the ongoing modernization of nuclear weapons and advancements of national arsenals, nuclear weapons are currently more dangerous than ever before.
Similarly, Lichtenstein expressed deep concern in the slowing pace of decisive progress towards disarmament and contended that the TPNW is the only source of optimism at the moment. They urged the international community to break the recent trends in nuclear modernization and to instead pursue a disarmament agenda.
Arab and Middle East
On behalf of the Arab Group, Oman expressed their belief in the necessity of reviving multilateral efforts to secure a “nuclear-weapon-free” future. In addition, it urged the international community to strive for the creation of a WMDFZ within the Middle East as stipulated in the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and reaffirmed in final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference Furthermore, it explained that Israel has become an obstacle to attaining these goals within the Middle East, due to its lack of willingness to cooperate with Arab states and refusal to accede to the NPT.
Egypt endorsed the Arab Group’s statement. It conveyed strong opposition to the increasing reliance of nuclear weapons in the foreign and military policies of nuclear states, claiming that “security of nuclear states” is no excuse for militarization as this threatens the security of non-nuclear states. Egypt also stated that a slow and gradual step-by-step process is not going to yield definitive results and instead called upon all states to revive their efforts and take full, irreversible, and verifiable steps towards denuclearization.
Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Jordan echoed similar sentiment within their respective statements. For instance, Saudi Arabia supplemented these points with their opposition to even peaceful uses of nuclear energy, especially by Iran, claiming that they must be held accountable to safety regulations that affect the entirety of the region.
Iran, understandably, presented a boisterous argument against the United States for actions regarding its unwillingness to stand by the points laid out within the JCPOA as well as within the UNSC resolution 2231, a security council resolution that legally endorsed the JCPOA. Iran countered that the United States, by engaging in sanctions which present noncompliance toward the JCPOA and the UNSC Resolution 2231, the ties, which bind all parties have started to fray and will eventually break; thus causing fragile, if not disruptive international relations between the United States and everyone party to the the JCPOA.
Iran also reaffirmed its allegiance to the NPT and vehemently urges other nations to sign and ratify the NPT as well. Iran also criticized Israel for being the only state in the region, which has not acceded to the NPT. It further conveyed its concerns about both Israel’s opacity policy and its perceived nuclear deterrence policy.
Similarly, on behalf of the African Group, Madagascar. welcomed the TPNW. The group further called upon all states to take into consideration the severe effect the weapons have on human health as well as for all states to “seize this opportunity” and ratify the TPNW. Additionally, the African Group mentioned whether "we could for a brief moment ponder, about the world we will leave for our children?”
Latin American and Caribbean states
Amongst this regional group, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Brasil, Cuba, Guatemala, Venezuela, Guyana, Peru, and Uruguay underscored the importance of nuclear disarmament. In particular, Costa Rica, which chaired the 2017 negotiations on the TPNW, underscored the necessity for states to support the TPNW. It also resolutely stated that “ We will not rest until we free the world of this terrible nuclear nightmare because we hold dear a world free of nuclear weapons.
Building upon Costa Rica’s statement, Mexico explained that the threat and use of nuclear weapons are illegal under international humanitarian law. It further recalled its commitments to nuclear weapons free zones (nwfzs).
Cuba also expressed historical points within the story of its own nation’s development relating to their battle for denuclearization. Moreover, Venezuela underscored its strong commitments to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. It further expressed dismay about the slow pace of nuclear weapons. It further mentioned that nuclear weapons must be immediately eliminated in order to remove the Damocles’ nuclear sword that hangs over humanity. Finally,Venezuela emphasized its strong support to NWFZs; consequently, in this context, it called for the creation of a WMDFZ in the Middle East.
Concerning Central Asian states, Kazakhstan proclaimed that it actively contributes to nuclear free zones, wants to focus efforts also on cyber crimes which seem to have a connection to Weapons of Mass Destruction and are planning on ratifying the TPNW treaty. Kyrgyzstan . Kyrgyzstan reaffirmed the importance of multilateral nuclear disarmament measures. In this regards, it acknowledged the work of civil society and the UN in helping both the region and the world to move closer towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Considering Kyrgyzstan’s positive views, it is imperative for it to sign the TPNW as soon as possible. Kyrgyzstan has yet to sign the TPNW treaty.
Regarding Northeast Asia, Japan expressed support for a step-by-step approach towards nuclear disarmament. In essence, it underscored its long-standing policy on nuclear disarmament and emphasized a need for both the nuclear states and non-nuclear weapons to collaborate together..
Unfortunately, despite the strong positions held amongst the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Hibakusha on the TPNW, Japan refused to support the TPNW. It is simply regrettable that Japan deliberately chose not to mention the TPNW.
In terms of the Pacific States, both Palau and Samoa touched upon the legacy of nuclear testing in the region, which motivated them to sign and ratify the TPNW. Both states are members of the Rontagona Treaty, which established the NWFZ in the South Pacific.
Unfortunately, the Marshall Islands, a state where the US tested its nuclear weapons, explicitly mentioned that it will not sign the TPNW. It will continue to “study” the treaty. It further expressed grave concerns about the TPNW’s provisions on victims assistance. The RMI erroneously believes that the provision about victims assistance places undue burden onto them and other affected states. This is simply not true as highlighted by ICAN and the Harvard Human Rights Law Clinic. The RMI is relying on this argument because it is still worried that the TPNW violates its COMPACT agreement with the US. However, in a recent study by both ICAN and the Harvard Human Rights Law Clinic, it is possible for RMI to sign the agreement and remain in compliance with its obligations under the COMPACT agreement with the US
Nuclear Armed States
China reiterated its No-First-Use Policy and underscored a “pragmatic step-by-step approach towards establishing a world free of nuclear weapons.” This incremental process could take several long decades.
India supports negotiations in the CD and desires to engage in a global framework that is nondiscriminatory. - India mentioned the FMCT in the CD, a bs response i might add.They also gave importance to the United Nations resolution 1299.
Pakistan mentioned its alliance with the non-aligned movement and in 1978 affirmed that complete abolishment of nuclear weapons is the solution.
The Holy See underscored the importance of the TPNW and declared that (noted is too weak) it as an “important step towards a nuclear free world.” The Holy See signed it and ratified it “on the very day it was opened for signature on the 20th of September 2017.” The Holy See further urged all states “to make the “Nuclear Test Ban Treaty a reality by ensuring its entry into force.”
The ICRC stated that that even a minimal amount of nuclear damage would have catastrophic effects on human health, the environment, the climate, food production, and socioeconomic development. It further explained the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a a “historical achievement signaling the determination of a large majority of states.” Finally, it called on all states to sign and ratify on the TPNW. .
At the end of the event, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, delivered a strong statement in which it reiterated that a vast majority of states adopted the TPNW. Since the historic adoption of the treaty, there has been tremendous progress towards its entry into force.
In addition to mentioning the importance of the TPNW, ICAN reminded states that strategically deployed nuclear weapons pose a grave danger to everyone. ICAN further mentioned that nuclear weapons undermine the sustainable development goals; and therefore, nuclear weapons must be banned once and for all.