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Latest updates on banning nuclear weapons

On Friday, 5 August 2016, the open-ended working group (OEWG) to take forward nuclear disarmament negotiations opened the third and final session. The first day gave participants the opportunity to share their general views on the Chair’s zero draft of the report before going into more detail during the first collective reading of the report. It is clear from this meeting that groupings that crystalised during the February and May discussions continue to hold diverse views about the best approach to nuclear weapons, which impacted their assessment of the report. Read more with Reaching Critical Will’s report and stay tuned for more news this week.

Just after the OEWG met, the world commemorated the 71st anniversary of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The use of these bombs killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed entire cities. Despite our understanding of nuclear weapons do human beings, and the risks associated with their existence, the UK parliament voted in favour in July of building four new nuclear-powered submarines to carry US Trident missiles armed with modernised nuclear warheads for the next half century. The vote gives permission to the government to sign multi-billion pound contracts with the aim of ensuring that the UK will continue to possess and deploy an enormously dangerous arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, threatening other countries and exposing its people to serious risks of nuclear accidents, use, or attacks for a further generation.

This is a disappointing decision—but not unexpected. It will, however, be seriously challenged by the growing momentum toward banning nuclear weapons.

It is the expectation of the majority of governments and civil society groups that the 2016 session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security will consider and adopt a resolution to begin negotiations of a new international legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Such a process will provide the best opportunity we have had in decades to end the privileged status afforded to nuclear weapons and those that possess them or include them in their security doctrines against the interests of humanity, democracy, justice, and sanity. Subscribe to our First Committee Monitor to follow developments this October!