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Point of no return: Mexico conference marks turning point for ban on nuclear weapons

The Second International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, concluded today with overwhelming agreement that consequences of any use of these weapons would be more acute and more widespread than ever recognised before.

With a large group of countries calling for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons the meeting marked a turning point in the process to outlaw and eliminate these weapons of mass destruction. Austria announced that it would host the next meeting in Vienna later this year.

In his closing summary, the Chair called for the development of new international standards on nuclear weapons, including a legally binding instrument. The time has come, he noted, for a diplomatic process to reach this goal, within a specified timeframe, identifying the most appropriate forum and on the basis of a clear and substantive framework. Calling for this process to conclude by the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Chair described Nayarit as “the point of no return”.

The meeting in Nayarit saw presentations from UN agencies, renowned academics, former military officers and the UK’s Chatham House on the likely impact of a nuclear weapon detonation on the planet’s climate, agriculture, human health and social and economic infrastructure. Yet whilst other weapons of mass destruction - chemical and biological - have already been clearly declared illegal, the same is not true for nuclear weapons. In response to the evidence presented on humanitarian impact, many states recognized the need to put in place a ban as the next step towards elimination.

A ban on nuclear weapons is long overdue and the conferences in Oslo and here in Mexico have created an opportunity for us to put it in place. States must take this opportunity when they meet in Vienna.