Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Annual Commemoration of the Bombing of Hiroshima, 6th August 2017

The annual commemoration for all victims of atomic bombs and 'test' explosions will take place on Sunday, 6th August, the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, at 1.10 p.m. at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square Park, Dublin 2.

Approximately 16,500 nuclear weapons remain in the world today. While this is less than the Cold War peak, it is still enough to destroy life on earth as we know it many times over. 

The ceremony will take place at the memorial cherry tree planted by Irish CND in 1980. The commemoration will be opened by Cllr Larry O'Toole, representing the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Ms Midori Yamamitsu, Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Japanese Embassy in Ireland, will also speak. There will be short contributions of poetry and music from Irish and Japanese artists (weather permitting) and the laying of a wreath at the memorial tree. Representatives of several other embassies will also be in attendance. 

This annual ceremony gives us all an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the victims of these horrific weapons of mass destruction, and to affirm our determination to work for their elimination, the only way to ensure that the ghastly events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not be repeated. Please do come and attend this moving and inspiring ceremony if you can.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nuclear Ban Treaty Agreed by United Nations

A new international treaty declaring nuclear weapons illegal has been agreed on Friday 7th July, following weeks of negotiations at the United Nations in New York. For the first time, it will be explicitly contrary to international law to "develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

The treaty, drawing heavily on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, also contains provision on providing assistance for victims and environmental remediation, and explicitly recognises the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and children.

While nuclear-armed states boycotted the talks, the new treaty will play an important role in stigmatising and de-legitimising the possession of nuclear weapons, and has been hailed by campaigners as an major milestone which brings the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons significantly closer.

Responding to the historic vote, Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to abolish Nuclear Weapons, said, "This treaty comprehensively bans nuclear weapons and related activities. We hope that today marks the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons. We now will work to ensure that all countries committed to international humanitarian law and human rights match their values and words with action."

Welcoming the agreement of the treaty, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament chairperson Dr David Hutchinson Edgar said, "This is an important step towards a world free of the horrific threat of nuclear war. The determined efforts of civil society campaigners and states opposed to weapons of mass destruction have shown that progress is possible even in the face of the failure by nuclear-armed states to live up to their legal obligations to disarm under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty."

"It is also particularly encouraging for Irish CND, as the main Irish voice in campaigning against nuclear weapons, to see that the Irish government has played a prominent role in bringing this treaty to reality," he continued.

The treaty opens for signature at the UN in September, and will enter into force when it has been ratified by 50 countries.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Draft Text of Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons published by United Nations

The draft text of a treaty to ban nuclearweapons has been released in advance of negotiations resuming at the United Nations later this month. Following initial discussions involving over 130 states in March, the talks chairperson, Costa Rican UN ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez published the draft of the Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would introduce clear-cut international prohibitions on the development, possession or use of nuclear weapons.

The introduction to the draft treaty bases it firmly in the recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences caused by nuclear weapons, and declares that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to international humanitarian law.

The text speaks of how nuclear weapons “pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and for the health of future generations” and specifically notes “the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on maternal health and on girls.”

The draft text has been widely welcomed by campaigners. Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said: “The draft language is strong and categorically prohibits nuclear weapons. The President of the negotiations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, has captured the key elements agreed upon in March. And while we expect debate on the text as this process moves forward, we are confident that this text provides a good basis for adopting a treaty by July 7.”

“We are particularly happy the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and that it builds on previous prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions,” Fihn added.

As one of the key sponsors of the UN General Assembly resolution to establish the negotiations, Ireland has been a strong supporter of the process. The Irish delegation played a prominent role in the March discussions, and is expected to play a leading role again during the next round of talks, which aims to see a revised draft agreed by early July. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hopes high for a nuclear weapons ban treaty after positive negotiations at UN

Following the first week of negotiations at the United Nations on a new international treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, hopes are high among campaigners that the process will result in a positive outcome by the time they conclude later in the year. 

As ICAN Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn put it, "it felt like we made the transition from arguing that we need a ban treaty to actually banning nuclear weapons." With participation from over 130 states, as well as civil society organisations, the constructive atmosphere could be described by John Loretz of IPPNW as "one of the most productive, energized, and energizing exchanges most of us have ever experienced inside a UN conference room."
ICAN Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn, speaks to journalists during the ban treaty negotiations
Given that Ireland was one of the co-sponsors of the UN resolution establishing the negotiations, Ireland's diplomatic contributions during the first week were strongly supportive of a "robust treaty" and were warmly welcomed by campaigners. Helena Nolan, Director to Disarmament in the Department of Foreign Affairs, called for prohibitions on the "possession, use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer" of nuclear weapons. 

Among the contributions from civil society, a poignant highlight was the contribution of Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who spoke on behalf of ICAN on the second day of the talks. 
Setsuko Thurlow addresses the ban treaty negotiations
While the nuclear-armed states and some allies - mostly NATO members - boycotted the talks, participants stressed their determination to press forward to close the current legal gap by banning nuclear arms. A ban treaty will stigmatise nuclear weapons possession internationally by setting clearly-defined norms and discrediting the claims to prestige some states have attached to nuclear arms. 

Following decades of stalemate as the nuclear-armed states have blocked progress under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, this week's talks show non-nuclear-armed states and civil society reclaiming the initiative in setting the legal framework emphatically back in motion. As has been the case with other weapons of mass destruction, international prohibition offers a significant step towards elimination. 

The second phase of negotiations will begin in June, with the talks President, Ambassador Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica, expected to circulate a draft treaty before then. 

For more detailed information on the negotiations, see the website of Reaching Critical Will, which includes documentation and transcripts of many of the statements delivered by participation, as well as ICAN's dedicated nuclear ban treaty website, their blog of the week's events, and the IPPNW blog

Monday, March 27, 2017

Over eighty Irish scientists back international open letter on UN nuclear ban

As negotiations on a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons get underway at the United Nations in New York on Monday, March 27th, 2017, over 3,300 professional scientists from more than 70 countries worldwide have published an open letter supporting the negotiations.

The signatories include 28 Nobel Prize winners in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine. Internationally well-known figures such as Stephen Hawking, Peter Higgs and Charles D. Fergusson, President of the Federation of American Scientists, are among those backing the letter.

Among those who have signed the letter are 85 scientists based in Irish third-level institutions, including TCD, UCD, DCU, DIT, UCC, NUIG, NUIM, UL and GMIT. Organised by the US-based Future of Life Institute, the signatories state that " scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought.”

Ireland has long been a strong supporter of nuclear disarmament, and was one of the sponsors of the resolution which paved the way for the current negotiations. Irish ambassador to the UN, David O’Donoghue, will co-host a special side event with the Future of Life Institute on Tuesday evening.

The letter was presented to the chair of the negotiations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica, at a ceremony at the United Nations Assembly Hall at 1.00 p.m. (New York time) on Monday.

Commenting on his support for the negotiations, neuroscience professor Edvard Moser from Norway, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine, said, “Nuclear weapons represent one of the biggest threats to our civilization. With the unpredictability of the current world situation, it is more important than ever to get negotiations about a ban on nuclear weapons on track, and to make these negotiations a truly global effort.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Global Week of Action: Only Disarmament Offers Safety from Nuclear Threat

In January 2017, the Doomsday Clock, updated annually by a committee of international scientists to register the earth's risk of destruction, was moved to two and a half minutes to midnight, its most dangerous reading since the 1950s. This reflects the intensified threat posed by nuclear weapons in light of statements by Presidents Trump and Putin, evoking the prospect of a renewed nuclear arms race, as well as threats posed by other issues such as climate change.

Even since the adjustment to the Doomsday Clock, there have been further reports that President Trump, in a telephone conversation with President Putin, denounced the 2010 treaty between Russia and the United States which limits the number of deployed nuclear weapons held by the two countries.

In its report on the risks in 2017, the Doomsday Clock committee concluded, "The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon. ... It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way."

With little sign of the leadership in the states with the world's largest arsenals of nuclear weapons facing up to the responsibility to move away from the brink, the onus falls on non-nuclear-armed states and civil society to drive the agenda for nuclear disarmament forward.

In spite of the intensifying risks, there are signs of possible hope. In March, the first session of United Nations negotiations on a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons will take place. While unlikely to have initial support from nuclear-armed states, such a treaty would close current loopholes regarding the legal status of nuclear weapons, and greatly increase the stigmatisation attached to possessing them.

In advance of the negotiations, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), is launching a Global Week of Action on February 10th, aimed at highlighting the urgency of a successful outcome to the negotiations and maximising international participation.

As Ireland was one of the original sponsors of the resolution proposing the negotiations, we are hopeful that Ireland will play a strong and constructive role in taking the talks on a new treaty forward when it comes down to the actual negotiations.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Historic UN vote defies nuclear threats from Trump and Putin

The United Nations General Assembly has approved the final stage of a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, by a majority of more than three to one. The proposal was originally introduced by Ireland, Austria, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria, and gained the approval of the General Assembly's First Committee, which deals with disarmament and security issues, in October. 

The historic vote, carried on the evening of 23rd December, offers the possibility of ending decades of stalemate in nuclear disarmament, coming at the end of a week which saw both Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president-elect Donald Trump speak of intensifying their countries' nuclear weapons capacities. 

Welcoming the vote, the Chairperson of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, stated, "A treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons would provide an important step towards the elimination of these horrific weapons of mass destruction. It would close the loopholes in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty which a small number of states have exploited to avoid their clear obligations in relation to nuclear disarmament under that treaty."

"The aggressive comments this week from two countries with huge nuclear arsenals show that they have little intention of complying with even their limited legal obligations to disarm under the Non-Proliferation Treaty," he continued. "We believe that this demonstrates the urgent necessity for other countries to seize the initiative from the aggressors and pursue a clear legally-binding treaty which will stigmatise and outlaw these horrific weapons of mass destruction. Even if nuclear-armed states do not participate in the negotiations, it would be grossly irresponsible for the rest of the world to do nothing." 

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons' Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn, stated, “Every nation has an interest in ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again, which can only be guaranteed through their complete elimination. We are calling on all governments to join next year’s negotiations and work to achieve a strong and effective treaty.” 

“We believe that, through its normative force, the nuclear weapon ban treaty will affect the behaviour of nuclear-armed nations even if they refuse to join it. It will also affect the behaviour of many of their allies that currently claim protection from nuclear weapons, including those in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their territory. It will contribute significantly towards achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world,” she said. 

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts. A number of recent studies have also demonstrated that the risks of accidental or intentional detonations of nuclear weapons have been dramatically underestimated or misunderstood.