15 June 2017: Day 1
Flavia Tudoreanu & team:
The concluding session of the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons has started today.
Queueing to get our badges proved to be a much more interesting experience than expected. We got to reunite with fellow international campaigners and met new ones. We were all excited to be brought together by such a special occasion.
The day continued with a short briefing by ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) followed by the conference. Countries and civil society had the floor and expressed their support for the nuclear weapons draft treaty.
The following discussions focused on the preamble which outlines the concern over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and the importance of humanitarian law. Amendments to strengthen these arguments were suggested by various countries.
There was an appetite from many states to ensure that the gender aspects of disarmament were clearly addressed in the treaty.
Another popular topic was adding to the treaty the threat of use.
We were reminded that the very first UN resolution was to get rid of nuclear weapons.
Between ourselves we have taken notes, monitored statements, counted participants and used social media to raise awareness of the talks. We have also publicised the side event: Book Launch ‘Disarming the nuclear argument by Tim Wallis’, where Janet Fenton, vice chair of Scottish CND, will be speaking.
Andy has attended the side event ‘Verification of the Ban Treaty: Articles 3, 4 and 5 and Beyond’, organised by the Program on Science and Global Security and Princeton University. This meeting explored the choice between a very simple treaty that might leave gaps versus a more detailed approach which would be more difficult to negotiate.
“It started to rain torrentially and we were soaked in seconds. Conspiracy theories suggested this was the doing of the nuclear weapon states.”
We have also visited the WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) office to collect our banner for the coming Women’s March and Rally to Ban The Bomb.
Throughout the process, we have kept contact with our Scottish-based campaigners and the Scottish CND office and we were very pleased to see supporting video messages coming from our elected representatives.
16 June 2017: Day 2
Amy Christison & team:
The second day of negotiations has begun, and the Scottish delegation has been busy both in and out of the conference room.
The day started with our daily ICAN meeting, which noted that attendees were generally pleased with the discussions of the previous day.
Not long into the morning session, where delegates continued their discussions on the Preamble, our colleagues at the World Council of Churches received confirmation of a meeting from the UK Mission office across from the United Nations. Keen to discuss the UK’s position on the ban treaty as well as the UK’s notable absence at the negotiations, Dagmar, Flavia, Janet and I joined, along with Dave from UK CND and Tim, from Quakers UK, while Andy remained in the negotiations room to observe attendance of participating countries and to take notes on the continued proceedings.
“The nonviolent civil disobedience managed to attract media attention, which has been notably lacking.”
While Chatham House Rule applies for the discussions, and we were aware there would be little room for manoeuvre, the group were able to discuss their differing views on the relationship between the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty and the Nuclear Ban Treaty, as well as the perceived security that such weapons hold.
Journeying back to the United Nations in time for lunch, we attended the side event by Pugwash Conferences, where a panel discussed the challenges of being a host country to other nuclear weapon states. This was a particularly pertinent and interesting discussion for our Scottish team, because while Scotland’s position of hosting nuclear weapons for the UK is unique, it bears some resemblance to that of host states who hold these weapons for nuclear ones while possessing little control.
While there was discussion of all of the host states in this situation, there was a greater discussion on the Netherlands, as they are the only host state attending these negotiations. It was noted that while they made strong opening remarks yesterday about their allegiance and priorities to NATO as a pre-requisite of signing a treaty, their attendance here should still be commended, as it shows an honesty and willingness on their part to make progress.
The official book launch of Disarming the Nuclear Argument: the truth about nuclear weapons, written by Tim Wallis, was the next item on the agenda for the Scottish team. Janet, along with Dave Webb, chair of UK CND, and Dr Rebecca Johnson of the Acronym Institute, joined Tim in an open discussion session where they spoke about the arguments and importantly the rebuttals that can come from discussions with opponents to the ban treaty.
A free copy of this book will be offered to all 130 delegates at the negotiations. It is hoped that this will give delegates greater information as well as answers to the common questions and queries surrounding disarmament.
In attendance and contributing to the discussion were sister Ardath Platte and sister Carol Gilbert, nuns who have both served prison sentences for pouring their own blood on a nuclear warhead.
17 June 2017: Day 3
Flavia Tudoreanu & team:
Today we had some time off from the UN negotiations, but not from our own nuclear disarmament actions. It was the day of the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb.
We decided to walk on Brooklyn Bridge and we used every opportunity to show off our banner.
We met the rest of our team in Bryant Park. Not long after, it started to rain torrentially and we were soaked in seconds. Conspiracy theories were suggested that this was the doing of the nuclear weapons states.
19 June: Day 4
The ‘No Wars, No Walls and No Warming’ side event by American Friends Service Committee was held at the Brooklyn Friends Meeting House.
We were told stories from survivors of Hiroshima, nuclear testing and from the Marshallese Educational Initiative. Common themes were people being told nothing (before or after) and the lack of support in their suffering caused by nuclear fallout. It is important to collect the oral histories and to tell their stories.
Israeli disarmament activist, Sharon Dolev, spoke of the proposed draft treaty for a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destuction Free Zone and the hope to progress this at a closed-door round table meeting in Scotland at the end of this year! Other speakers explained the connections between possession of nuclear weapons with racism and colonialism.
“The Dutch delegation only attended because of pressure on parliamentarians from NGO and civil society groups.”
Four wonderful young speakers described a range of organisations for mobilising youth activists (Peace Action, Abolition 2000, Hiroshima Democratic Youth League, Amplify). The importance of mentoring was described, oldies listening to the young and peer-to-peer meetings.
On post-treaty actions, various pathways were suggested. Alyn Ware, co-ordinator of Parliamentarians for Nonproliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, gave us a very uplifting story of the change in New Zealand from a very warlike, pro-nuclear weapon state to being a nuclear weapon-free zone. The US imposed an economic boycott on New Zealand. This was countered with a ‘girlcott’ selling to the US (eg nuke-free butter) which actually increased trade.
Sunday’s ICAN campaigners’ meeting summarised where we are and what’s next. It was emphasised that this is not a protest treaty. It’s a treaty against the weapons themselves not against the countries that have them.
In terms of priorities in the general obligations, ICAN campaigners would really want to see references to military preparations, planning and financing.
We also had the pleasure to welcome Caroline Lucas MP. She will meet a representative of the UK mission at UN as well and I had an interesting chat about how our meeting went and the main points made at it.
20 June 2017: Day 5
Dagmar Medeiros & team:
Monday morning was anything but dull as we started the week with an action-packed programme. We were definitely glad to have a team presence so that we could split up and participate in all the events to the fullest.
The day started with the ICAN strategy meeting, which we attended together.
We recapped last week’s activities and highlighted the two issues of military planning and finance as key issues for us to focus on for the day.
The team then split up with Janet sitting in on the negotiations; Andy volunteering to participate in external lobbying activities, making calls to Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Gabon, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, South Sudan and Tajikistan; while Amy, Flavia and I attended a youth working group where we exchanged ideas about youth engagement in nuclear disarmament issues.
Meanwhile, Isabel attended a screening of Paper Lanterns a touching documentary that presents the relationships which developed between the families of two of the prisoners of war who perished in Hiroshima and the Japanese gentleman who had been there in August 1945. This man extended a hand of friendship to provide closure for the families of the deceased by relentlessly seeking the truth regarding their deaths.
Towards the end of the morning, we headed back outside to support anti-nuclear bomb activists protesting the US boycott of the negotiations outside the US mission. The nonviolent civil disobedience act managed to attract some media attention, which has been notably lacking throughout the negotiations so far and ended when more than a dozen activists were arrested.
Following this, we attended the side event ‘Global Call of Hibakusha’ which highlighted common themes in the experience of nuclear weapons victims. Karina Lester spoke of the suffering of Australian Aboriginal people following nuclear testing on their land and her family’s journey for acknowledgement from the government. Roland Oldham spoke with passion about the impact of nuclear testing in French Polynesia, accusing the nuclear weapons states of crimes against humanity. The session also saw three Hibakusha sharing their memories of the bombing and the psychological and physical suffering caused by this experience which continues to follow them throughout their lives. The survivors delivered three million petition signatures to the UN high representative for disarmament.
The afternoon saw us back in the negotiations room where discussion had moved on to the phrasing of the treaty obligations. As participating countries discussed the framework that should lead us towards a nuclear weapons-free world, disagreements emerged as to the appropriate balance between clarity and need for assurance of effective procedures towards disarmament. Nonetheless, the tone of the negotiations remained positive and we look forward to receiving a revised draft soon.
The end of the day found us in a local pub, a gathering of merry activists satisfied with a good day’s work, raising a glass in celebration of Flavia’s birthday. Cheers!
21 June 2017: Day 6
Amy Christison & team:
Day 6 began with our usual morning ICAN briefing, where we were presented with the exciting news that 125 Governments have participated in the negotiations so far – a very promising figure.
It was agreed that in the negotiations of Articles 2-5 yesterday, there were a number of proposed amendments that were effective, calling for safeguarding measures to better deal with future concerns, as well as pathways to attract nuclear states to the treaty. South Africa circulated a text to incorporate these ideas, which, although it was by no means perfect, was certainly a basis to build on in due course.
In the morning session of negotiations, Egypt, with support from other states, called for an emphasis on states who used or tested weapons to bear the primary responsibility in victim assistance, and other countries in turn to provide assistance where possible. During these negotiations, Andy again participated in external lobbying activities, making calls to countries who are yet to participate in negotiations.
“The treaty is not a protest about who has power but an expression of how unacceptable nuclear weapons have been proved
The lunchtime side event today, which was attended by our full team, was entitled ‘Prohibiting nuclear weapons: democratic strategies to take forward and implement the nuclear ban in nuclear-armed and umbrella states’. The event was organised and chaired by Dr Rebecca Johnson, executive director of Acronym, who also called upon Janet to highlight Scotland’s position in light of the panellists’ discussions.
Most notably for our Scottish delegation, the panel line-up included Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. Although acting in a civil society capacity, Caroline provided a sense of optimism in her parliamentary presence, which, given the significant absence of an official UK delegate in the negotiations, was particularly important.
Joining Caroline in the discussions were current and former MPs from the Netherlands and Germany. The Netherlands remarked that the Dutch delegation was only attending the negotiations because of the pressure put onto parliamentarians from NGO and civil society groups, and that strength and progress comes from collaboration between these groups and parliamentarians.
The afternoon session of negotiations meant a further continuation of discussions regarding Articles 7-10. Much discussion circulated around the nature of follow-up meetings, the frequency of these and the necessity to hold them. In line with earlier suggestions from ICAN to strengthen the role of civil societies in future meetings, amendments were proposed to ensure the treaty stated that civil society groups ‘should’ attend future meetings as opposed to the current draft writing which states civil society ‘might’ be invited to attend.
22 June 2017: Day 7
Andy Hinton & team:
The ICAN morning briefing reported that yesterday’s civil society input was well received. States have to present their credentials to the secretariat to go on record as participating, and already 65 states have done so, with a further 40+ actively participating although they have not yet formally presented their ambassador’s letters to the secretariat.
The plenary session started with the delegates’ submissions on the final cluster. One talking point was on the relationship with the NPT in one paragraph and the Ecuadorean delegate eloquently made the case for deleting this article by quoting Tony Blair to UK parliament in 2007 when he said that the ‘NPT makes it absolutely clear that the UK can possess nuclear weapons’.
Other delegates, including Sharon Dolev and Matt Bolton for ICAN, disapproved of allowing withdrawal from the treaty.
Flavia and Amy attended the side event ‘Examples of national implementation measures’, which explored existing examples of nuclear weapons prohibitions including the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone. Dagmar attended a side event, ‘Protecting Rights, Remediating the Environment: Addressing the Harm from Nuclear Weapons’. Andy, Amy and Flavia attended ‘The Road Back to the Nuclear Brink’.
The president decided that afternoon session was to allow informal interaction between the diplomats. Civil society delegates were (unusually) allowed to attend with the proviso that nothing was to be reported, quoted or tweeted and no photos or filming was allowed.
Scotland’s delegation is now even better represented, with Michael Orgel joining the team.
23 June 2017: Day 8
Dagmar Medeiros & team:
The eighth day of the treaty ban negotiations gave rise to particular excitement as our Scottish team had the opportunity to organise our very own side event, ‘Scotland can disarm the UK’!
But first, our daily campaigners’ briefing got the day off to a great start with a summary of all the fantastic progress that has been made in and outside the conference room since negotiations started last week. Highlights include 125 countries have participated so far; 75 percent of states have reflected civil society focus points when taking the floor; and the revised draft of the preamble now includes a specific reference to human rights, as called for by civil society.
Nonetheless, with only nine more days to go until states conclude a treaty, there is still much work to be done. In particular, we as civil society need to continue to stress the importance of: prohibiting finance of nuclear weapons and military planning, strengthening the current provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation, and revising the preamble so as to include a reference to environmental law.
For more information on the status of these topics in the negotiations, you’ll have to watch this space, as negotiations have, for the time being, been taking place in an ‘off the record’ setting. This means we cannot report on the details of the discussions. However, we did have the unique opportunity of sitting in and listening and can say that while discussions were lively, parties maintained a positive attitude and displayed a clear intent to make this treaty as strong and successful as possible.
Meanwhile, Andy attended a side event contextualising the current negotiations through previous experience with the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions. He also made a breakthrough with his external lobbying activities and spoke at some length with the Tajikistan mission which expressed its support for the treaty. Yet another excellent example of the importance of civil society work and how every person can contribute to the cause.
At lunchtime, it was finally time for our presentation of Scotland’s position in the nuclear disarmament movement. We opened the session with a number of videos displaying Scottish efforts towards education (Trident Education Video), supportive statements from five parliamentarians (check our YouTube channel), and examples of Scottish direct action and campaigns.
Our panel was live-streamed and can be watched back on Scottish CND’s Facebook page. In addition to statements from each member of our Scottish team, we were happy to boast contributions to our panel from Michael Orgel from Medact and Elizabeth Minor from ICAN UK, as well as international contributions from Susi Snyder from PAX detailing similarities between the Dutch and the Scottish position, and Sharon Dolov emphasising the value of Scottish contribution in the international domain.
We generated a lively discussion which led to questions which, due to time restrictions, we took beyond the conference room. We also provided a briefing which we can offer campaigners and delegates.
Since negotiations continued to be off the record throughout the afternoon, Flavia had an informal meeting with other campaigners and a representative of the Romanian mission to UN, while the rest attended another side event on ‘Threat and Deterrence’. This had contributions from commander Robert Green and John Burroughs.
24 June 2017: Day 9
Flavia Tudoreanu & team:
It’s our last day at the negotiations for most of the Scottish delegates. Janet Fenton will be staying for the remainder of the negotiations and Bill Kidd MSP will join her next week.
29 June 2017: Day 13
Continuing into this week of the negotiations, everyone is very aware of the deadline ahead, and it seems that the diplomats share civil society’s ardent desire to create an effective and unambiguous treaty by the end of the negotiating period.
The closed sessions continued today, allowing for questioning and plain speaking. Side events and work done outside the room was also looking forward in some respects, addressing how the finished treaty might be shared and what our collective and separate next steps might be.
This included pushing forward on the ideas from our Scottish panel and extending them to explore ways that nuclear-armed states and those that see themselves as dependent can share experience and tactics to build capacity, so a group is becoming established to do that.
It was seen as essential to discredit any suggestion that the treaty is some sort of protest about who has the power instead of an expression of how inherently unacceptable nuclear weapons have been proved to be.
We also had some fun outside the UN with some masks and our own, non-lethal and non-radioactive ‘bomb’.
At the close of today’s session, Dr Rebecca Johnson spoke to diplomats about four outstanding requirements. First, a secretariat to promote the Treaty’s purposes and implementation would be able to engage with other bodies and also with states that are seeking to join. [This was not included in the treaty – ed.]
Secondly, the treaty should be of unlimited duration [included]and not permit withdrawal. Withdrawing from this treaty would threaten international peace, security, human rights and our globally-shared environment. At the very least if there must be withdrawal arrangements they should require a minimum of 24 months’ notice to give time to examine reasons and ensure that disengagement did not suggest a security value in nuclear weapons or threaten global peace and security, as underpinned in the UN Charter. [Withdrawal was included as an option, but countries must give 12 months’ notice.]
Thirdly, to make it as inviting and credible as possible for states to join, implement and comply with the treaty, whether they choose to join and then implement, or to implement and then join, in all cases to ensure necessary international verification and accountability.
And lastly, while welcoming support and reinforcement of the NPT’s core objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, it is wrongful and also unnecessary for this Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty to mention any form of civilian energy production anywhere in its text. [The ‘inalienable right’ to nuclear power is mentioned in the treaty preamble, see facing page.]
30 June 2017: Day 14
The discussions in New York are now focused on the second draft of the proposed treaty to ban nuclear weapons and it is going well. There are still some additional improvements that we hope can be made, and one is to address ‘threat of use.’ Many states at the negotiations have asked about incorporating a prohibition on the threat of use of nuclear weapons.
One way to get this is to have an explicit prohibition on military preparations for use.
3 July 2017: Day 16
Even in these last few days, many diplomats and civil society representatives are keen to still further strengthen the requirements of the treaty.
One aim is to provide more clarity for situations in which non-nuclear states can maintain a military alliance with a nuclear-armed state and another is the hope that treaty will be clearer about prohibiting financing nuclear weapon activity.
Once the treaty is adopted it will open to signing and ratification by 40 or 50 states (depending on the final wording) to become a legally binding UN treaty to de-normalise and prohibit nuclear weapons leading to their elimination.
Due to the UK’s refusal to take part, Scots are both unrepresented and misrepresented at diplomatic level. There has been however a strong Scottish accredited civil society presence which is playing its part of informing and persuading diplomats. This team has now been joined by Bill Kidd MSP, co-president of Parliamentarians for Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament.
The end of the week, our activities were focused on continuing to lobby diplomats to strengthen key points and prohibitions, and do what we can to get the message to our home countries through conventional and social media, articulating the process and stressing the significance of what is happening here.
In addition to our update on the actual negotiations given elsewhere, I’d like to tell you a little about the experiences we are having.
There have been numerous interesting and informative side events such as Scientists for Global Responsibility as they painted the terrifying true picture of the impact on the climate of any use of nuclear weapons. Whether on the panel – I took part in the one refuting the traditional arguments, along with Alice Slater, Rob Green, and others – or listening and learning, civil society and diplomats are experiencing intense and robust lessons in the urgent need for the treaty, and the rich variety of skills and knowledge that are needed for doing that task.
We watched a new film, The Nuns, the Priests and the Bombs that not only told the story of faith-based direct action, but explained a lot about the US legal system and how it continues to uphold the status quo.
One thing that has been a strange experience is that during these last few days, while the diplomats are consulting in small groups behind closed doors in the room that had been allocated to civil society. They have swapped rooms with us so we are in the large room, Conference Room One, for side events and to meet and talk.
It’s a bit weird and we are somewhat discombobulated in the big room with all the mics and the comfy chairs. We decided on a photo call, and as we stood – a panoramic shot taking ages – someone started to sing, ‘Peace Salaam Shalom’. Gradually everyone joined in – in Conference Room One at the UN, who’d have thought it!
My quote of the week from a side event is: ‘Building the capacity for violence will never meet the world’s deep longing for peace.’
7 July 2017: Day 20
After a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and 72 years after their invention, today states at the United Nations formally adopted a treaty which categorically prohibits nuclear weapons. Scottish CND has been a partner in ICAN since 2007.
Bill Kidd MSP, co-president of Parliamentarians for Non- Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, said:
‘All of the UK’s nuclear arsenal is based in Scotland, against the wishes of the Scottish government, the votes of the Scottish parliament, and the expressed will of the Scottish people. As a member of the Scottish parliament, along with colleagues from Scottish civil society, I am here in New York to speak up on behalf of our nation. The Prohibition Treaty will present a significant opportunity to present nuclear disarmament as a serious option on the table at international negotiations.’
The ‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ was adopted today and will open for signature by states at the United Nations in New York on 20 September 2017. Civil society organisations, including those from the wider peace movement in Scotland, have participated in the negotiations as well as more than 140 member states of the UN.
This treaty came about because the majority of the world no longer accepts nuclear weapons as legitimate tools of war. The repeated objection and boycott of the negotiations by the UK and other nuclear-weapon states demonstrates that the treaty will impact on their behaviour and stature and, in changing the international view of nuclear weapons, will change policies and behaviours, even in states that will not yet sign the treaty.
‘Scotland’s opposition to the weapons in our country is in line with the global norm,’ said Janet Fenton from the Scottish civil society delegation, ‘and now we have a great tool that can help us in our work to get rid of them.’
The Scottish Team
These were the core delegates of the Scottish civil society team at the UN negotiations for a global ban on nuclear weapons in New York, 15 June – 7 July 2017. Here are some things they wrote just before the negotiations opened.
Vice chair of Scotttish CND, Scottish parliamentary liaison for the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, and a member of Trident Ploughshares: ‘As a committed internationalist, I have been an enthusiastic campaigner with ICAN since its inception in 2007 and was one of the organisers of a launch in the Scottish Parliament in 2009.’
Scottish CND member of staff since 2012: ‘Scottish CND is one of the largest and most active partners of ICAN in Scotland and along with all my colleagues, we have played a vital role in contributing to its success on a national level.’
Intern at the United Nations House Scotland: Amy is delighted to be invited to the Conference in New York where she hopes to work with the rest of the team in ensuring a strong and robust treaty is negotiated.
Member of Scottish CND and Aberdeen & District CND: ‘I am excited and very privileged to have been asked to go. I have never been to such an event before and it is quite a responsibility to represent the area.’
Dagmar Topf Aguiar de Medeiros
PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, studying international climate change law: Dagmar is looking forward to contributing to the campaign and participating in the team heading to the Conference in New York.
Former teacher: ‘It will be my privilege to be a voice for Scotland in ICAN at the Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations. It will somewhat alleviate the images that have haunted me since 1945 when, as a 14-year-old, I saw pictures of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The week before, I had viewed the horrors on film of Belsen concentration camp. Have never quite recovered! Now, 72 years later, perhaps a little hope.’