Note: A complete summary of today’s Conference on Nuclear Weapons meeting will be available after its conclusion.
ELAYNE WHYTE GÓMEZ (Costa Rica), Conference President, said that delegations would be leaving today with the satisfaction of having carried out their duty. The Conference would adopt a text that enjoyed legitimacy and reflected agreement between those holding different positions. The text left the door open to nuclear-weapon States, as well as those with control over such weapons to sign up to the treaty, she emphasized. With the Conference only a few moments from telling those impacted by nuclear weapons that the first seeds of a world free of them had been sown after so many decades, she said, it was, in the same vein, a few moments from saying that it was indeed possible for future generations to inherit a world free of nuclear weapons.
The representative of the Netherlands said her delegation could not accept the text, adding that it wished to lodge a formal objection to its adoption and request a formal recorded vote.
The President said that, in accordance with Conference rules of procedure, the text’s adoption would require a majority of two thirds of the States present and voting.
The Conference then adopted the text by a recorded vote of 122 in favour to 1 against (Netherlands), with 1 abstention (Singapore).
The representative of El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reiterated that the use of nuclear weapons was a crime against humanity and a violation of international law. Calling today “a historic point in time after years of waiting”, he welcomed the Treaty as the first instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons multilaterally agreed at the United Nations. Its adoption was a break from the status quo and strengthened the non-proliferation regime, he added.
The representative of Lebanon, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, also described today as “a historic moment in time”. The Treaty should be considered an important and historic addition to the existing global instruments and marked a new phase in international efforts towards nuclear disarmament. Emphasizing that nuclear-weapon States must participate in the process, she pointed out that Israel, a non-participant, still pursued its intransigent policy and objected to a Middle East free from nuclear weapons. The Arab world placed international interests over national interests, she said, expressing hope that the Treaty would bolster the quest for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
The representative of South Africa said it was extraordinary to bear witness to the making of history, emphasizing that 7 July would go down as an “epoch-making” day upon which the United Nations had worked with civil society to save the world from the spectre of nuclear weapons. “We have definitely said never ever, ever again,” she asserted, emphasizing that it had been South Africa’s duty to vote in favour of the Treaty. “We must not await another Hiroshima or Nagasaki before mustering the political will to banish these weapons from arsenals,” she emphasized, adding that, to have voted against it would have been “a slap in the face” of the victims of those two Japanese cities. Noting that her delegation had faced “incredible” pressure not to participate in the Conference, she said the task ahead was to ensure that everyone “comes into the fold” on the Treaty. Noting that some had chosen not to participate, she recalled that South Africa had pulled back from the nuclear option after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, later joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and supporting its article 6, in particular. “We had to close this loophole,” she added.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said future generations would recall that the Treaty had advanced the otherwise stymied multilateral disarmament process. Acknowledging the role of civil society, she said CARICOM stood by the international community’s commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons in the best interest of all humanity.
The representative of Cuba said the Treaty was the fruit of multilateral discussions going back 70 years to the adoption of the General Assembly’s very first resolution. It was a tribute to all victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as a fundamental step forward on the road to disarmament. The Treaty established a new norm of international law, categorically prohibiting nuclear weapons while creating solid and legally binding grounds for their elimination. Through the Treaty, the international community had clearly stated that nuclear weapons were immoral, unjustifiable and illegal, he said, adding that it also offered nuclear-weapon States various ways in which to sign up. Cautioning that no country was protected from the madness of a nuclear attack, he recalled that Fidel Castro had told the General Assembly in 1979 that it was time for the world to accept that nuclear weapons could not solve its problems.
The representative of Chile, noting that the Treaty’s adoption demonstrated the possibility of democracy in the international system, said his delegation wished to honour the contribution of civil society, which had provided a moral compass for the negotiations. While Chile would have preferred not to hold a recorded vote, the action did not undermine the legal importance of what had been accomplished today, he emphasized.
The representative of Colombia, emphasizing the difficulty of negotiating the Treaty in such a short time, said his delegation would have liked greater clarity in article 1 (a), and article 4, paragraph 2, but hoped nevertheless that the Treaty would contribute to peace and security, build trust among States and lead to a world free of nuclear weapons.
The representative of Costa Rica said the Treaty confirmed that democracy was possible in disarmament, and that those States without nuclear weapons had the political influence to move the process forward. Of the 15,000 nuclear weapons deployed today, he noted, many were on alert, while others were susceptible to cyberattack. It was now time to bring the Treaty into force so that international law would become the strongest weapon in the arsenal of any State, he emphasized.
The representative of Venezuela, associating himself with CELAC, noted the absence of nuclear-weapon States from the Conference. Emphasizing that they could not continue to expose humankind to the danger of nuclear weapons, he said the use of such weapons was a crime against humanity, adding that no security doctrine or military bloc could justify the mass killing of human beings and the destruction of the planet.
The representative of Iran, emphasizing that Israel’s nuclear programme threatened the Middle East, said his country had been a main advocate of a world free of nuclear weapons, having consistently supported their elimination as the only guarantee against their use or threat thereof. Iran’s work to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East confirmed the consistency of that position. While the first priority was to conclude a convention on nuclear weapons, Iran did not consider today’s Treaty a contradiction of that goal, he said, adding that, rather, the Treaty could create momentum for a convention. The Treaty should strengthen existing internationally legally binding instruments by filling the gaps and avoiding duplication of their content, he emphasized.
He said Iran had made every effort to negotiate and was pleased that some of its proposals were included in the Treaty, notably those on the contribution of religious leaders to disarmament and on the conversion of nuclear facilities. Yet, the Treaty lacked elements that would have made it more sound and legally binding, and which would have helped it avoid confusion. While the Preamble comprehensively addressed almost all catastrophic human aspects of nuclear weapons use, it could also have declared that any use would constitute a crime against humanity, as reaffirmed by the General Assembly. Moreover, he noted, the Preamble referred to the production, maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons only as a waste of human resources. However, that should not distract from the fact that those activities were the result of an arms race.
Such a shortcoming was unfortunate, especially when nuclear-weapon States continued to upgrade their arsenals amid plans by some to develop new weapons, he said, emphasizing also that plans to expand their nuclear arsenals constituted an explicit call for a new arms race. The Treaty also did not refer to the transit of nuclear weapons, despite having enjoyed support for such a reference. Any such transit would clearly defeat the Treaty’s purpose. Furthermore, the Treaty’s reference to test prohibition might be abused, he cautioned, saying Iran would have wished to see a definitive obligation. Noting that his delegation had taken a flexible approach on the drafting of articles 2 through 4, he expressed hope that its good intentions would be reciprocated on the basis of Iran’s position in support of all activities geared to nuclear disarmament. National authorities would examine the Treaty, he said, and pending any decision on signing it, all Iran’s legal obligations and political positions on disarmament would remain unchanged and unaffected by its participation in the Conference.
The observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Arab Group, said the Treaty expressed the power of the collective will. There was no substitute for eliminating nuclear weapons since they posed an existential threat, he said, emphasizing also that the exceptional status granted nuclear-weapon States could not be justified. The need to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East was more urgent than ever and deserved support, he said, welcoming the decision to allow his delegation’s participation in the Conference with equal rights, including the right to vote.
The representative of Brazil described the adoption as a milestone for the disarmament regime, while emphasizing that, historic as today might be, delegates must not lose sight of the eventual goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. The Treaty’s swift entry into force, as well as continuing dialogue with those that had not yet joined the process, especially nuclear-weapons States, was required in order to achieve universality. The openness of the Conference’s had led to a stronger Treaty, with civil society playing an important role in attracting delegates by drawing attention to the suffering caused by nuclear weapons. “We are one significant step closer to a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he declared.
The representative of Ecuador, associating himself with CELAC, said delegates would not be present today if not for the tenacity of civil society. Noting that the Treaty was now a part of international law and had met the objectives sought, he welcomed its acknowledgement of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons use on the most vulnerable. The Treaty was flexible enough so that those already possessing nuclear weapons could join, he said. Referring to article 1, he said that his delegation would have wished to see a reference to prohibiting the transit of nuclear weapons, their financing and military preparations for their use.