WILPF Statement to the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, on the treaty's prohibitions

The following is WILPF's statement to the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, on the treaty's general obligations, delivered on 18 June 2017.

Thank you Madame President,

We appreciate the new draft text, which is a good basis for further work.

In regards to the general obligations, we would support the addition of a prohibition on planning and preparations to use nuclear weapons, and of language explicitly stating that transit of nuclear weapons is not permitted by states parties. These provisions would cover some of the most vital activities that are currently involved in the operation of nuclear “deterrence”.

Before the lunch break the ICRC made the case for including planning and preparatios for use of nuclear weapons, so I won’t repeat that here, but strongly support their intervention.

On the subject of transit, establishing that states parties must not permit the transit of nuclear weapons through their territorial waters, land territories, and airspace is consistent with a categorical ban on nuclear weapons. It could have a significant impact on operational policies that are part of the practice of “extended nuclear deterrence” and nuclear brinkmanship. It could also be important for mitigating risk, as nuclear weapons are especially vulnerable to accidents or attacks while being transported, which could have sudden and devastating consequences for local and regional populations.

There are ways in which the treaty could make it explicit that sates parties must not permit transit without requiring extensive verification or introducing caveats. We agree that these complications and definitions should not be introduced to the text.

If the provision focuses on not permitting (as opposed to requiring that states parties actively prevent) transit, we could avoid some of the complicating factors regarding implementation or cooperation with the nuclear-armed states. This is the approach taken in some national legislation already.

The key thing is to not permit practices that support or sustain prohibited activities. While some states have argued that assistance would cover activities related to transit and planning and preparations to use nuclear weapons, having explicit prohibitions on them would provide guidance and clarity to the changes in policies and practices that will be required for some states parties. If assistance is to include such items, this needs to be made clear. The same is true of financing.

As others have said, it’s important we have clear and strong prohibitions in this treaty. Our rationale for negotiating this treaty is to have an instrument that can help change polices and practices that can lead us towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. In this vein, whatever is decided in relation to articles 2–5, there must be no exceptions or caveats on the prohibitions in this treaty, including of possession.

Thank you very much.