International Women’s Day NGO Statement to the Conference on Disarmament
5 March 2007
In 1975 the United Nations first recognized International Women’s Day, which has been celebrated by women since at least 1909. International Women’s Day has been traditionally linked to women’s engagement in political processes for peace and justice. This year, civil society around the world is marking International Women’s Day through protesting war, campaigning for Nuclear Disarmament and demanding equal participation in all levels of decision-making. As we have done since 1984, we are bringing the voices of women to the CD.
Non-Governmental Organizations have an important role to play in international decision-making. The participation of civil society in shaping our world and guarding its most precious ideas and values is vital. While governments remain the ultimate decision-makers, it is NGOs that allow citizens across the globe to partake in the political process and make their voices heard. The role of women’s organisations, in particular, has been recognized as a building block to sustainable security- especially in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).
As the 2003 Canadian working paper on NGO participation in the NPT review process noted, “Nuclear disarmament NGOs make key contributions to building and nurturing public concern and thus political will, advancing global norms, enhancing transparency, monitoring compliance, framing public understanding, and providing expert analysis.”
In 2004, NGOs were given a few more options for formal interaction with the CD. As you’ve seen this morning, we can distribute our documents in front of the conference hall, twice per year. We can submit documents as official documents of the conference. Last year, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom submitted a Model Nuclear Inventory- to provide baseline data necessary for negotiating a fissile materials treaty. Greenpeace International submitted a model fissile materials treaty. NGOs are at liberty to provide food for thought, ideas that could help to break the CD from its stalemate and that can encourage creative solutions to international security challenges.
The CD continues to be the world’s sole multilateral disarmament treaty negotiating body. It is the only body wherein all nuclear weapons states- both those recognized under the NPT and those who remain outside the treaty- can sit down and come to agreements on how to increase our collective security. On 24 January 1946, the UN General Assembly passed its first Resolution. Five months after the American destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is no surprise that this Resolution sought to deal with “the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy.” Resolution 1.1 called for plans “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” Sixty years later we still have no plan. It is you, the delegates in this room that are charged with making that plan, and with taking steps to have it implemented.
During the General Assembly in 2005 the CD appeared to be faced with a threat – either begin working or the work will leave and begin elsewhere. It seems to outsiders that because of that particular initiative, this body has begun to work. We fully recognize the creative and conscientious work of the six presidents of 2006 and the continued collaboration and good work of this year’s P-6 team that have also moved this body to work. We know that it is not easy, however, we can no longer blame the ‘lack of political will’ for a lack of any forward progress. Right now, you’re preparing yourself for the ripe political moment. Now is the time to prepare the legal and technical groundwork. Another political opportunity- as there was in 1992, when the end of the cold war was pronounced, or in January 1946 when only one state actually had nuclear weapons, will emerge in due course. If the preparatory work has not been done- on all the core issues of the CD agenda- then that political moment too will be lost.
This body was charged with specific tasks, and it has not yet achieved these. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, while negotiated, has still not entered into force. There has been a lot of discussion, and even a draft text of a fissile materials treaty, yet no negotiation. The need for a treaty preventing an arms race in outer space grows more pressing each and every day. While any item can be introduced into the plenary at any time, it is absolutely necessary for the sixty-five of you to get down to work and do what you’ve been charged with. Perhaps you should look at what you need to do to be able to sit down and negotiate. What is holding you back? Maybe, if you examined each of these pieces individually, you might find that you agree on a lot more than you thought you did.
The International Panel on Fissile Materials, a new collaboration of independent nuclear experts from fifteen countries, including both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear countries, has suggested a number of items that would further discussions and eventual negotiations in this body on a fissile materials treaty. These include: Declarations by all nuclear weapon states of their total fissile-material stockpiles that would provide a basis for further balanced reductions in their nuclear arsenals; Measures to limit the proliferation of national uranium centrifuge enrichment and reprocessing plants, and; Total or near-total elimination of the use of highly enriched uranium as a reactor fuel. This would greatly reduce the danger of HEU falling into the hands of potential nuclear terrorists.1
There are other unilateral steps that can be taken, and reported back to this fora, to move this disarmament agenda forward. UN SC Res. 1540 calls upon all states to criminalize WMD activities undertaken by non-state actors. National parliaments – supported by their governments – should go even further and adopt national laws prohibiting and penalizing all forms of nuclear weapons activities, expanding the scope of such legislation to state actors. Nuclear weapons activities are immoral and illegal2, and the perpetrators of these activities must be held accountable. Taking such action, and reporting the results, challenges, and successes back to the CD would build confidence and demonstrate a modicum of ‘good faith’.
There are also a number of questions that should be considered when looking at how to move forward for our collective security.
Let’s for a second look at some of the regional security arrangements currently in place in the world. Just sit back for a moment, and think about how many states are covered under some kind of bilateral, regional or plurilateral nuclear sharing agreement. How many of the states in this very room sit under a nuclear umbrella? How many of you sit in a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone? As Security Assurances are one of the core issues under discussion in this body, it is important to bear those umbrellas in mind and to look for a moment at the actual value of this type of sharing. Is being protected by someone else’s nuke really going to provide long-term security for your nation? What is the trade-off? What must a nation relinquish in order to receive such protections? When nuclear weapons have been recognized as militarily obsolete, how are they in any way relevant to, for example, transatlantic relations (as in the NATO agreements)?
We need to make clear to people and leaders everywhere that all nuclear weapons are created equal. They are all weapons of terror and should be seen, without exception or qualification, as immoral, illegal and illegitimate in all contexts and for all purposes.
This is also a confidence building fora. It is here that states have the opportunity to share information, to increase their national transparency, especially around nuclear weapons and other related devices. It is in the spirit of increasing transparency that we suggest states build on the 2000 NPT Review Conference agreement around reporting requirements. The CD is a good body to build confidence and increase transparency and this can be done when states submit reports to the conference that are substantive and which detail measurable steps taken to implement their disarmament obligations, rather than declaratory statements; The NWS and Annex II States (to the CTBT) in particular to submit formal reports, insofar as participation in this practice grows, so will transparency; NWS, in particular, to report on national holdings of warheads – both within national borders and without, delivery vehicles and fissile materials; operational status of nuclear weapons; disarmament initiatives and reductions strategies; strategic doctrine; and security assurances.
These measures would then serve a number of purposes- they would increase confidence that obligations undertaken under the very first UN General Assembly Resolution and the NPT are being taken seriously, they would build a sense of security and open exchange which would facilitate negotiations in an open and transparent manner. This should include a requirement that a public disarmament impact assessment be submitted by all states to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations to accompany any planned investments in nuclear facilities and capabilities that are relevant to the development or maintenance of nuclear weapons or the production of fissile materials.
If not here, then where? In his recent statement, Dr. Kim Howells of the UK indicated that it was the flexible framework of the CD that allowed for landmines to be discussed, and eventually led to the mine ban treaty. however, it is fitting to remember, during this anniversary week, that the landmine convention was NOT negotiated in this body. This body could not move forward on it. sometimes, we must look elsewhere to set the customary norms that allow for such treaties to take place.
We are seeing this type of movement again in regards to cluster munitions. The 23rd February 20073 declaration signed in Oslo by 46 states is a progressive step forward and we applaud the goal of 2008 to conclude a new agreement banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. We hope that this can go even one step further, and ban cluster munitions outright.
However, this body, the Conference on Disarmament has been offered an opportunity to provide a great gift to humanity- a nuclear free world. It is in this room that all of you with nuclear weapons sit. It is in this room that the gift to future generations must be given. In 2005, at the NPT Review Conference a statement was given by youth representatives. An excerpt of that is here, hopefully it will remind you of the humanity that relies on your work.
We ask you: What do you intend to turn over to us, the next generation? Will you give us a world in which disarmament exists on paper while billions are spent to develop the ultimate in war technology and the means of mass murder? Will you give us nations that, while deploying and developing their own nuclear weapons, are quick to go to war when enemies appear to be obtaining similar weapons? Or will you give us a world united under a common constitution that limits military armaments and eliminates entirely the possibility of nuclear holocaust? Will you be able to explain your choice in good conscience to your children and grandchildren? Can you explain to us how a tiny minority is able to completely block negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention? How can it be that this minority is made up of governments that claim to champion democratic values?
Remember again and again the preamble to the UN Charter, which all members of the UN have signed! The most important of your tasks, obligations and responsibilities is established there: to preserve future generations from the scourge of war. But this is not possible if you bequeath to us a world full of nuclear weapons. We demand, in the name of all the children of our one world, the immediate, unqualified, total abolition of all nuclear weapons for the well-being of humankind and our common future. We are ready to step forward to a more peaceful and secure world for the sake of our common future!
Are you ready to join us?
Submitted by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Peace (part of the Geneva NGO Committee on the Status of Women)
1This was cited by Dr. Zia Mann, in a presentation to the UNGA First Committee, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/1com/1com06/statements/NGO2oct19.pdf
2While we acknowledge that their illegality remains to be formalized under a treaty that prohibits their possession, testing, manufacture, transport and use, nuclear weapons have characteristics and effects – to an even more catastrophic degree – of weapons of mass destruction that have already been declared illegal under international law. Therefore we assert that nuclear weapons are, by their nature, already outside the norms of international law and that ratification of their illegality in a formal agreement is not only rational but obligatory. The International Court of Justice came to the same conclusion in its 1996 advisory opinion on the illegality of nuclear weapons.