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OEWG Report, Vol. 2, No. 7

Opportunity for progress
2 May 2016


Mia Gandenberger

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From Monday, 2 May 2016, the open-ended working group (OEWG) to take forward nuclear disarmament negotiations will meet for its second session in Geneva. During the May meetings, it is imperative that states focus their time on discussing elements for a treaty banning nuclear weapons and that they make concrete recommendations to the UN General Assembly in relation to moving forward with negotiations on such a treaty.

After a fruitful discussion in February, where the prohibition of nuclear weapons provided the key framework for debate and where states and civil society interacted in ways far superior to what we are used to seeing in most multilateral forums on disarmament, it is crucial that the next two weeks are used constructively. The purpose of this body is to “substantively address” and make recommendations to the UN General Assembly about “concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms” to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapon free world. With a significantly greater number of non-governmental organisations and academic institution participating this month, the bar for a fruitful and result-focused debate is raised and states will have to make use of this opportunity for a more focused debate defining elements and processes for the way ahead.

Chair’s paper

Since the February session, which provided an opportunity for some exceptionally open and progressive discussions about the way forward for nuclear disarmament, the Chair presented his synthesis paper on 21 April 2016. In his paper, the Chair summarised his perceptions of the discussions so far and a summary of the working papers submitted until 7 April 2016. The paper, after a brief introduction of the mandate and history of the OEWG, looks at suggestions and concrete legal measures discussed during the first session, namely a nuclear weapons convention, a prohibition treaty, a framework agreement, or a “progressive” building blocks approach. Here he identified several elements that would be common for all options moving forward, which are compiled in Annex I of the paper. The paper goes on to examine various other measures suggested, e.g. regarding increasing transparency or building trust. Here there seemed to be more convergence of views already during the February session. Finally, the paper summarises all the recommendations for the way ahead raised by delegations.

While this synthesis paper is a good summary of the February session and recommendations so far, it’s crucial that states focus in on the ideas with the most traction. The prohibition of nuclear weapons is a measure long past due, and as many NGOs and states agree, is the most feasible and practical approach under the current circumstances.

Coverage of the OEWG

Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of WILPF, will provide full coverage of the OEWG proceedings through this daily report. It will provide analysis and advocacy, highlights from the discussions, and reports on side events. You can subscribe to receive this report by email by going to www.reachingcriticalwill.org and subscribing to the First Committee Monitor. On that website, you can also find statements, documents, archived OEWG reports, and more information.

You can also follow the discussions on Twitter at #OEWG, #goodbyenukes, @RCW_, and @nuclearban, among others. 

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