Based on Resolution 71/258, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 23 December 2016, the first session of the "United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination" was held in New York from 27 to 31 March 2017.
Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the International Organizations based in Geneva, was elected President of the Conference.
Approximately 130 States participated in the first session of the Conference. None of the nine States possessing nuclear weapons attended the Conference.
The members of OPANAL that participated in the Conference were: Antigua and Barbuda (in its national capacity and on behalf of CARICOM), Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States - CELAC), Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In accordance with the Agenda (Doc. A/CONF.229/229/2017/2), the Conference was carried out in four stages:
- a high-level segment;
- an exchange of views on principles, objectives and preambular elements of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination;
- an exchange of views on legal provisions and core prohibitions of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination;
- an exchange of views on institutional arrangements that would include such an instrument.
The high-level segment, held on Monday, 27 March 2017, was attended by Mr. Kim Won-soo, former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who read a speech on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Representatives of the Member States of the United Nations, including members of OPANAL, and Ambassador Luiz Filipe de Macedo Soares, Secretary-General of the Agency (read doc. Inf.05/2017), also read speeches.
The Secretariat of OPANAL submitted to the Conference an informative document entitled "Recommendations for the negotiation of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination" (Doc. A/CONF.229/2017/WP.1). The document lists and comments on some legal provisions of the Treaty of Tlatelolco that could be relevant to the negotiation of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
In the segment on "Principles, objectives and preambular elements", the vast majority of delegations agreed to include, inter alia, the following elements in the preamble of the legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination:
- The goal of achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons;
- The very existence of nuclear weapons puts humanity at risk;
- The inalienable right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes;
- The prohibition of nuclear weapons is complementary to Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
- The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are unacceptable;
- The use and threat of use of nuclear weapons is contrary to International Law, in particutlar to International Humanitarian Law, a crime against humanity and a violation of the Charter of the United Nations;
- Nuclear weapons should never be used again, under any circumstance;
- The contribution to international peace and security of the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones and Mongolia;
- The importance of the early entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT);
- The First Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to disarmament (1978) concluded that nuclear disarmament is a priority of the international community;
- There is a need to codify the illegality of nuclear weapons;
- It is the responsibility of all States to maintain international peace and security;
- The importance of multilateral diplomacy.
In the discussion on "Core prohibitions, effective legal measures, legal provisions, and norms", some delegations were in favor of including the following prohibitions, inter alia: production, development, testing, possession, transfer, reception, deployment, stockpiling, scientific research, financing and the transit of nuclear weapons. In addition to containing the prohibition of encouraging or contributing to the performance of any of those activities.
There was some divergence on the possibility of prohibiting the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. Whereas group of States was in favor of a ban on the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, another group of States pointed out that the threat of use and the use of nuclear weapons is already prohibited by Article 2, paragraph 4 of the Charter of the United Nations. The other States referred to Article 51 of the Charter on the right to self-defense, even mentioning "a tension" between the two articles mentioned.
In particular, it was stated that the outcome of the Conference should be consistent with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and treaties establish nuclear-weapon-free zones.
There was also some divergence on the need to include positive obligations in the treaty banning nuclear weapons, such as measures to repair damage and assist victims of nuclear detonations. Other States that did not necessarily agree to include such positive obligations mentioned that such issues could be included in the preamble and that the operational part of the instrument should only focus on including the provisions and prohibitions that are currently applicable.
Some delegations from the OPANAL Member States mentioned that the Treaty of Tlatelolco contains a definition of nuclear weapons that could be useful for the instrument banning nuclear weapons. However, it was also argued that including a definition of nuclear weapons would not be indispensable since, for example, the NPT does not include a definition in this regard and yet it is an effective instrument.
In the segment on "institutional arrangements", most States pointed out that in order to ensure effective compliance with the provisions of the treaty banning nuclear weapon, a conference of States Parties and a technical secretariat could be envisaged. In that regard, the need for such institutional arrangements to be supported by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the International Atomic Energy Agency was underlined.
In this segment, the Secretary-General of OPANAL delivered a statement (doc. Inf.07/2017).
A majority of States were in favor of the instrument not allowing reservations and having a mechanism that would have an easy entry-into-force provision. That is to say, the registration of a certain number of ratifications would be sufficient for the instrument to enter into force, without the need for the ratification of a particular group of States.
The second session of the "United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination", will take place on 15 June in New York (see the indicative timetable).
During the second session, the Conference will negotiate the final drafting of the instrument for the prohibition of nuclear weapons based on the draft text submitted by the President (Doc. A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1).
See the photo gallery of the Conference.
Statements by Member States and the Secretary-General of OPANAL
Exchange of views on principles, objectives and preambular elements
Exchange of views on core prohibitions
Exchange of views on institutional arrangements
With information of the United Nations.
In order to read all the statements, please go to PaperSmart.