Disarmament & Security Centre congratulates ICAN

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Disarmament & Security Centre, Christchurch, 9 October 2017 – Congratulations to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which has won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017. The group, which originated in Australia, was awarded the Nobel in recognition of its key role in helping create the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The Treaty was adopted by 122 countries at the UN in July, and it opened for signature on 20 September. 53 countries have signed it so far, including New Zealand, and 3 have ratified. The Treaty will enter into force after 50 ratifications.

As the United States and North Korea trade nuclear annihilation threats, the claim from nuclear weapon states that they can “responsibly” manage their nuclear arsenals is less credible than ever. Meanwhile, terrorism and cyber insecurities are expanding and intensifying the nature of nuclear threats. Along with climate change, the existence of nuclear weapons continues to pose an existential threat to humanity.

In this context, the TPNW is exactly the type of progressive disarmament action needed to break the 20-year deadlock in multilateral nuclear disarmament. In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, ICAN stated, “This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.”

ICAN is a coalition group supported by over 400 independent NGOs in over 100 countries. ICAN Aotearoa NZ is convened by Edwina Hughes of Peace Movement Aotearoa, and several other New Zealand NGOs are affiliated and have contributed to ICAN’s work here and abroad, including the Disarmament & Security Centre, the Peace Foundation and others.

The New Zealand Government played a strong leadership role in the development of the Treaty, led particularly by the country’s Ambassador for Disarmament Dell Higgie. New Zealand was a leader of the humanitarian impact initiative that helped build political will for a new treaty, co-sponsored the UN resolution calling for negotiations, and was a Vice-President of the Treaty negotiating conference. New Zealand signed the Treaty the day itopened for signature at the UN in New York. Coverage and transcripts of all of NewZealand’s contributions to this process are available from the ICAN Aotearoa/New Zealand website: http://www.icanw.org.nz/.

The TPNW creates comprehensive, nuclear weapons-related prohibitions for its members, including the development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquisition, possession, stockpiling and transfer of nuclear weapons, or giving assistance or encouragement to others to do these things.

In a direct challenge to nuclear deterrence policies, the Treaty also prohibits the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear deterrence involves threatening to cause catastrophic humanitarian harm through the use of nuclear weapons. The nuclear armed states claim that this creates international peace and stability. Most nuclear armed states and allies, including Australia, boycotted the Treaty negotiations, and have refused to sign the Treaty.

This Nuclear Prohibition Treaty is the culmination of a long campaign to focus attention on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. The Treaty highlights the disproportionate harm that nuclear weapons cause for women and girls due to the gendered effects of ionising radiation, as well as the disproportionate suffering the weapons have brought to indigenous peoples around the world. It recognises and strengthens obligations to provide support for the survivors of nuclear bombings and testing.

ICAN’s work builds on the legacy of successful civil society disarmament campaigns, based on a model of humanitarian focus and strong collaboration with supportive governments. Examples include the campaigns that helped establish the treaties banning anti-personnel landmines (1997) and cluster munitions (2008), as well as the World Court Project, which originated in Christchurch, and led to the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on nuclear weapons (1996). The Nuclear Prohibition Treaty highlights the finding of the 1996 Advisory Opinion that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.”

New Zealand civil society was well represented at the Treaty negotiations. This included academics, activists, international legal experts and UN officials, as well as a team of four who travelled to the UN from New Zealand for the negotiations—Dr Kate Dewes, Commander Rob Green (RN, Ret’d) and Dr Lyndon Burford, all from the Disarmament & Security Centre, and Lucy Stewart, from the Peace Foundation.


For further information contact:

Dr Lyndon Burford: 027 329 5060 / lyndonburford@gmail.com

Dr Kate Dewes: 027 847 6976 / kate@chch.planet.org.nz

Lucy Stewart: 0220673517 / lucy@peacefoundation.org.nz