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Changing the discourse on nuclear weapons: The humanitarian initiative

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 April 2016

Abstract

This article examines the progress of the humanitarian initiative to reframe the nuclear weapons discourse internationally. The initiative seeks to shift debate away from theories of strategic stability and towards a focus on the impact of nuclear weapons themselves. This effort has now gathered significant support at an international level, and its implications are increasingly recognized by both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-armed States. The initiative has been underpinned by the deliberate logic of humanitarian disarmament. A treaty banning nuclear weapons, around which momentum is gathering, would be an achievable, legally coherent and logical next step developing from the initiative.

Type
The Humanitarian Impact initiative: Changing the discourse at the international and domestic levels
Copyright
Copyright © icrc 2016 

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References

1 See, for example, Nick Ritchie, Nuclear Risk: The British Case, Article 36, London, 2014, available at: www.article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Nuclear-risk-paper.pdf (all internet references were accessed in March 2015); Rebecca Johnson, “The NPT in 2010–2012: A Control Regime Trapped in Time”, in Rebecca Johnson, Tim Caughley and John Borrie, Decline or Transform: Nuclear Disarmament and Security beyond the NPT Review Process, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, London, 2012; Wilson, Ward, “The Myth of Nuclear DeterrenceNonproliferation Review, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2008CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 States in security alliances with nuclear-armed States, subscribing to the doctrine of “extended nuclear deterrence” (the guarantee of a nuclear response in the event of a nuclear attack).

3 See Beatrice Fihn (ed.), Unspeakable Suffering – The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Reaching Critical Will, Geneva, January 2013, available at: www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Unspeakable.pdf.

4 Sauer, Tom A. and Pretorius, Joelien, “Nuclear Weapons and the Humanitarian Approach”, Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 26, No. 3, 2014, pp. 238240CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), 729 UNTS 10485, 1 July 1968 (entered into force 5 March 1970).

6 T. A. Sauer and J. Pretorius, above note 4, p. 440.

7 Jakob Kellenberger, “Bringing the Era of Nuclear Weapons to an End”, statement, 20 April 2010, available at: www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/statement/nuclear-weapons-statement-200410.htm. This document is also available in the “Reports and Documents” section of this issue of the Review.

8 Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, “Council of Delegates 2011: Resolution 1. Working towards the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”, 26 November 2011, available at: www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/resolution/council-delegates-resolution-1-2011.htm.

9 Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, “Working towards the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons: Four-Year Action Plan”, Sydney, Australia, 17–18 November 2013, available at: www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/red-cross-crescent-movement/council-delegates-2013/cod13-r1-nuclear-weapons-adopted-eng.pdf.

10 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, UN Doc. NPT/CONF.2010/50, Vol. 1, 2010, available at: www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/revcon2010/FinalDocument.pdf.

11 R. Johnson, above note 1, p. 16.

12 Nuclear Threat Initiative, Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection, available at: www.nti.org/analysis/reports/nuclear-disarmament/.

13 Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, First Session, Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Dimension of Nuclear Disarmament, 2 May 2012, available at: www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/prepcom12/statements/2May_IHL.pdf.

14 Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Second Session, Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 24 April 2013, available at: www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/prepcom13/statements/24April_SouthAfrica.pdf.

15 Chairman's Factual Summary, UN Doc. NPT/CONF.2015/PC.II/CRP.2, 2 May 2013, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/prepcom13/documents/CRP2.pdf; and Chairman's Factual Summary, UN Doc. NPT/CONF.2015/PC.I/WP.53, 10 May 2013, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/prepcom12/documents/WP53.pdf.

16 Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Report of the Preparatory Committee containing Recommendations to the Review Conference, UN Doc. NPT/CONF.2015/PC.III/CRP.7, 7 May 2014, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/prepcom14/documents/draft-recommendations.pdf.

17 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, 2015, available at: www.bmeia.gv.at/das-ministerium/presse/reden-und-interviews/2015/04/2015-review-conference-of-the-parties-to-the-treaty-on-the-non-proliferation-of-nuclear-weapons/.

18 UN General Assembly First Committee, 67th Session, Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Dimension of Nuclear Disarmament, 22 October 2012, available at: www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com12/statements/22Oct_Switzerland.pdf.

19 UN General Assembly First Committee, 68th Session, Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, 21 October 2013, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com13/statements/21Oct_Joint.pdf.

20 UN General Assembly First Committee, 69th Session, Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, 20 October 2014, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com14/statements/20Oct_NewZealand.pdf.

21 UNGA Res. A/C.1/70/L.37, 21 October 2015.

22 For records of these meetings, see Reaching Critical Will, Other Disarmament Fora, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/others.

23 The latest of which is Special Declaration 16 of CELAC on the Urgent Need for a Nuclear Weapon Free World, 29 January 2015, available at: www.sela.org/media/1876366/special_declaration_16_of_celac_on_the_urgent_need_for_a_nuclear_weapon_free_world.pdf.

24 For records of these meetings, see Reaching Critical Will, Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/hinw.

25 See the ICAN homepage, available at: www.icanw.org.

26 Presentations available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/hinw. For studies on many of these points, see B. Fihn (ed.), above note 3; John Borrie and Tim Caughley, An Illusion of Safety: Challenges of Nuclear Weapon Detonations for United Nations Humanitarian Coordination and Response, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), New York and Geneva, 2014, available at: www.unidir.org/files/publications/pdfs/an-illusion-of-safety-en-611.pdf.

27 Borrie, John, “Humanitarian Reframing of Nuclear Weapons and the Logic of a Ban”, International Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 3, 2014CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 See Article 36, “Victim Assistance” in a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons, London, January 2015, available at: www.article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/victims-nuclear-weapons.pdf.

29 See, for example, Arka Biswas and Faiqa Mahmood, “India, Pakistan, and the Nuclear Humanitarian Initiative: Let's Be Real”, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, April 2015, available at: http://thebulletin.org/india-pakistan-and-nuclear-humanitarian-initiative-let%E2%80%99s-be-real8256.

30 Announcement of non-attendance to the Oslo Conference, March 2013, available at: www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/oslo-2013/P5_Oslo.pdf.

31 See, for example, John Borrie and Tim Caughley, After Oslo: Humanitarian Perspectives and the Changing Nuclear Weapons Discourse, UNDIR, 2013, available at: www.unidir.org/files/publications/pdfs/after-oslo-en-469.pdf; Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, “Nuclear Weapons: House of Lords Written Question”, 21 March 2013, available at: www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2013-03-21a.182.0.

32 Joint Statement, above note 20.

33 Announcement, above note 30.

34 See, for example, Alistair Burt, Statement on behalf of France, the United Kingdom and the United States, United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament, 26 September 2013, available at: www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/HLM/26Sep_UKUSFrance.pdf.

35 Matthew Bolton, “No New Information on the Consequences of Nuclear Weapons?”, Political Minefields, 14 May 2015, available at: http://politicalminefields.com/2015/05/14/no-new-information-on-the-consequences-of-nuclear-weapons/.

36 T. A. Sauer and J. Pretorius, above note 4, pp. 242, 248.

37 An official from China was also present at the Vienna Conference, but was attending in an unofficial capacity as an academic.

38 See Article 36, “Documents Suggest UK Boycott of Key Nuclear Weapons Meeting was Driven by P5 Partners”, 4 June 2013, available at: www.article36.org/nuclear-weapons/documents-suggest-uk-boycott-of-key-nuclear-weapons-meeting-was-driven-by-p5-partners/.

39 See Alistair Burt, “Backbench Business: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference”, Column 100, 9 March 2015, available at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm150309/debtext/150309-0003.htm#15030930000002.

40 “United States Will Attend the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons”, media note, 7 November 2014, available at: www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/11/233868.htm.

41 John Borrie, “Outrunning a Bear Is a Relative Thing: US and UK Participation in the Vienna Conference”, International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI), 9 January 2015, available at: http://unidir.ilpi.org/?p=66.

42 J. Borrie and T. Caughley, above note 31.

43 Costa Rica, Statement at the 2015 Review Conference of the Non Proliferation Treaty, 29 April 2015, available at: www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2015/statements/pdf/CR_en.pdf.

44 Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, UN Disarmament Commission, Opening Remarks, 6 April 2015, available at: https://unoda-web.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/hr-undc-2015.pdf.

45 Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, UNGA 69 First Committee, 20 October 2014, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com14/statements/20Oct_Australia.pdf.

46 Freedom of Information (FOI) Ref. No. 14/51652, Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, available at: http://dfat.gov.au/about-us/corporate/freedom-of-information/pages/foi-disclosure-log.aspx.

47 Australian Statement at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 8–9 December 2014, available at: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/vienna-2014/9Dec_Australia.pdf.

48 See, for example, House of Commons, “Oral Answers to Questions: Nuclear Weapons (Vienna Conference)”, Column 153, 28 October 2014, available at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141028/debtext/141028-0001.htm.

49 Article 36, above note 38.

50 Austrian Foreign Ministry, “Humanitarian Pledge”, December 2014, available at: www.bmeia.gv.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Zentrale/Aussenpolitik/Abruestung/HINW14/HINW14_Austrian_Pledge.pdf.

51 Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Chair's Summary, 14 February 2014, available at: www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nayarit-2014/chairs-summary.pdf.

52 J. Borrie, above note 27, p. 644.

53 See ICAN, “Humanitarian Pledge: Stigmatize, Prohibit and Eliminate Nuclear Weapons”, 8 December 2015, available at: www.icanw.org/pledge.

54 UNGA Res. A/C.1/70/L.13/Rev.1, 29 October 2015.

55 Jonas Gahr Støre, “Disarmament – Reframing the Challenge”, 1 February 2010, available at: www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/disarmament/id592550/.

56 See, for example, Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash, Global Coalitions: An Introduction to Working in International Civil Society Partnerships, Action on Armed Violence, London, 2011; Brian Rappert, A Convention Beyond the Convention: Stigma, Humanitarian Standards and the Oslo Process, Landmine Action, London, May 2008; Borrie, John, Brehm, Maya, Cattaneo, Silvia and Atwood, David, “Learn, Adapt, Succeed: Potential Lessons from the Ottawa and Oslo Processes for Other Disarmament and Arms Control Challenges”, Ideas for Peace and Security, Vol. 1, 2009Google Scholar. This paper was based on a 2008 workshop to consider this issue.

57 John Borrie and Tim Caughley, “How are Humanitarian Approaches Relevant to Achieving Progress on Nuclear Disarmament?”, in R. Johnson, T. Caughley and J. Borrie, above note 1.

58 Ibid.

59 John Borrie, Viewing Nuclear Weapons through a Humanitarian Lens: Context and Implications, UNIDIR, 2013, p. 9, available at: www.unidir.org/files/publications/pdfs/viewing-nuclear-weapons-through-a-humanitarian-lens-en-413.pdf.

60 High Representative Angela Kane, The New Zealand Lectures on Disarmament, UNODA Occasional Papers, No. 26, June 2014, available at: www.un.org/disarmament/publications/occasionalpapers/en/op26.pdf.

61 See, for example, the works cited above in notes 27 and 56.

62 R. Moyes and T. Nash, above note 56.

63 J. Borrie, above note 27.

64 Ibid., p 637.

65 Ibid., p 639.

66 Ibid., p 643.

67 See the ICAN homepage, available at: www.icanw.org.

68 J. Borrie, above note 59, p 9.

69 FOI Ref. No. 14/51952, above note 46. The op-ed was published as Julie Bishop, “We Must Engage, Not Enrage Nuclear Countries”, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 February 2014, available at: www.smh.com.au/comment/we-must-engage-not-enrage-nuclear-countries-20140213-32n1s.html.

70 For example, Kate Brannen “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb? With a Money Crunch”, Foreign Policy, 5 March 2015, available at: https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/05/nuclear-weapons-pentagon-modernization-money/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Situation%20Report&utm_campaign=Sit%20Rep%20March%206%202015.

71 ICAN, “Japan to Join Humanitarian Initiative at UN First Committee”, 12 October 2013, available at: www.icanw.org/campaign-news/japan-to-join-humanitarian-initiative-at-un-first-committee/.

72 “Japan Loses Support of U.S., Britain, France for U.N. Resolution on Abolishing Nukes”, Asahi Shimbun, 4 November 2015, available at: https://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201511040076.

73 See, for example, recent work by the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, available at: www.nonproliferation.org.

74 Message from ten French parliamentarians from various political parties to the International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Vienna, 8–9 December 2014, delivered by Jean-Marie Collin, PNND France Coordinator, to the Parliamentary Roundtable side event held in the Austrian Parliament, available at: www.pnnd.org/sites/default/files/i/photos/events/20141209-vienna/french_parliamentarians_message_for_the_vienna_conference_-_english_tra.pdf.

75 ICAN UK, “Humanitarian Initiative Raised by MPs at Trident Debate”, 22 January 2015, available at: http://uk.icanw.org/action/humanitarian-concerns-raised-by-mps-at-trident-debate/.

76 House of Commons, Ministerial Statement and Debate Summary, “Trident Renewal”, Column 90, 20 January 2015, available at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm150120/debtext/150120-0001.htm.

77 Parliamentary questions and answers are archived by the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, available at: www.acronym.org.uk/parliamentary-records.

78 House of Commons, Written Answers to Questions, “Nuclear Weapons”, Written Question 219273, 6 January 2015, available at: www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2014-12-17/219273/.

79 BASIC, “Trident Commission”, available at: www.basicint.org/tridentcommission/.

80 Ewan MacAskill, “Trident Gets Thumbs Up in Report that Will Dismay Anti-Nuclear Campaigners”, The Guardian, 1 July 2014, available at: www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/01/trident-nuclear-missile-renewal-study.

81 Extract from an email sent on 7 January 2013 by a Foreign and Commonwealth Office official when the UK approach to the Oslo Conference was under discussion, released through an FOI request made by Brian Brady of the Independent on Sunday. File with author.

82 See, for example, Article 36, Banning Nuclear Weapons, 23 February 2013, available at: www.article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Report_web_23.02.13.pdf; Article 36 and Reaching Critical Will, A Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons, 27 April 2014, available at: www.article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/AR06_TREATY_REPORT_27.4.14.pdf.

83 Magnus Løvold, Beatrice Fihn and Thomas Nash, “Humanitarian Perspectives and the Campaign for an International Ban on Nuclear Weapons” in John Borrie and Tim Caughley (eds), Viewing Nuclear Weapons through a Humanitarian Lens, UNIDIR, 2013, available at: www.unidir.org/files/publications/pdfs/viewing-nuclear-weapons-through-a-humanitarian-lens-en-601.pdf.

84 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in its 1996 Advisory Opinion on nuclear weapons, by eleven votes to three, that “there is in neither customary nor conventional international law any comprehensive and universal prohibition of the threat or use of nuclear weapons as such”. ICJ, Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, ICJ Reports 1996, 8 July 1996, para. 99, available at: www.icj-cij.org/docket/ files/95/7495.pdf. The NPT does not explicitly or universally prohibit use or possession of nuclear weapons. For a summary of the gaps in the legal regime with respect to the prohibition of nuclear weapons, see Article 36 and Reaching Critical Will, Filling the Legal Gap: The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, London and New York, May 2015, available at: www.article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/A36-RCW-gaps-table-updated.pdf.

85 Patricia M. Lewis, “A New Approach to Nuclear Disarmament: Learning from International Humanitarian Law Success”, International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Paper No. 13, January 2009.

86 Article 36 and Reaching Critical Will, above note 82.

87 For a summary of the legal gaps with respect to prohibition, see Ibid.

88 ICAN, Support for a Ban, available at: www.icanw.org/why-a-ban/positions/.

89 Joint Statement, above note 14; Joint Statement, above note 17.

90 For example, the working paper submitted by Ireland on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition to the 2015 NPT Review Conference acknowledged a convention on nuclear weapons that delineates verifiable time-bound elimination stages from the onset as an option put forward by some. A ban treaty is also presented as an option for “achieving and maintaining a world free of nuclear weapons” in the context of the knowledge of catastrophic humanitarian consequences and an “incomplete nuclear disarmament framework”. Working Paper Submitted by New Zealand on Behalf of the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa), UN Doc. NPT/CONF.2015/WP.9, 9 March 2015, available at: http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/npt/revcon2015/documents/WP9.pdf.

91 Austrian Foreign Ministry, above note 50.

92 Nick Ritchie, The Story So Far: The Humanitarian Initiative on the Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, ILPI–UNIDIR Vienna Conference Series, 2014, available at: www.unidir.org/files/publications/pdfs/the-story-so-far-en-616.pdf.

93 House of Commons, Written Answers to Questions, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, “Nuclear Weapons”, Column 57W, 24 February 2014, available at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140224/text/140224w0002.htm.

94 Comments by a representative of the UK at a UN General Assembly side event, October 2015. Based on notes taken by author.

95 FOI Ref. No. 14/51952, above note.46; FOI Ref. No. 15/2850, Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, 26 June 2014, available at: https://dfat.gov.au/about-us/corporate/freedom-of-information/Documents/dfat-foi-F1210.pdf.

96 ICAN, “US Attempts to Bully Allies into Inaction”, 18 March 2015, available at: www.icanw.org/campaign-news/us-attempts-to-bully-allies-into-inaction/.

97 Rebecca Sharkey and Laura Boillot, “Momentum towards a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty: What Does It Mean for the UK?”, Sustainable Security, 14 March 2015, available at: http://sustainablesecurity.org/2015/03/14/momentum-towards-a-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty-what-does-it-mean-for-the-uk/.

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