2015 Highlights and What’s Next in 2016

January 7, 2016

During a busy 2015, ICAN UK helped to blockade the London DSEI Arms Fair with a large Don’t Bank on the Bomb banner, wrote about the impact of a ban treaty on the UK, worked on an interfaith approach to the campaign, raised concerns over nuclear safety, busted some myths about nuclear weapons, reported back from the NPT in New York, and planned the nuclear disarmament sessions at Medact’s Health Through Peace Forum. Amnesty International signed a joint letter with ICAN published in the Guardian, adding their influential voice to calls for the prohibition of nuclear weapons as a human rights necessity.

The international humanitarian impacts and ban treaty agenda was raised at Westminster by several MPs and peers from different parties at parliamentary debates, as well as in a number of written questions and Early Day Motions. There was good cross-party discussion at an APPG meeting about nuclear weapons divestment, at a parliamentary briefing to report on the Vienna Conference, and at a briefing at the European Parliament which was hosted by UK MEP Julie Ward.

Scotland continued to be a beacon to the rest of the UK – and the world – with strong commitment from both campaigners and parliamentarians to the humanitarian and ban treaty approach. ICAN UK’s Rebecca Sharkey spoke at two meetings at the Scottish Parliament in 2015 - one on gender aspects with WILPF which had Ambassador Kmentt of Austria as a special speaker, and one to launch Don’t Bank on the Bomb in Scotland. We were honoured to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who signed ICAN’s Parliamentary Appeal for a Global Nuclear Weapon Ban.

ICAN UK’s 2-day Campaigners’ Meeting in London made it into ICAN International’s list of Campaign Highlights of 2015. These also include successfully persuading 121 states to endorse the humanitarian pledge and getting the United Nations General Assembly to formally adopt the humanitarian perspective and humanitarian pledge and set up a working group to start talks on new legal measures in 2016 (more on this below).

The UK was in a minority of countries which voted against all four of the resolutions that ICAN worked hard to promote over the last few months:

  1. “The Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons”
  2. “The Humanitarian Pledge for the Prohibition and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”:
  3. “Ethical Imperatives for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World”
  4. “Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations”.

As in its Statement to the NPT in May, the UK government continues to show how out of touch our country is with the prevailing and progressive attitudes held by the majority of countries on this issue. It’s important that we continue to hold the government accountable for not condemning the humanitarian and ethical concerns related to nuclear weapons, as well as for trying to block progress on multilateral disarmament negotiations. It will get harder and harder for the detractors of a ban treaty to resist joining the right side of history.

Huge thanks to all of ICAN UK’s partner organisations and supporters for working with us in 2015 – we couldn’t do it without you!

Coming up in 2016

In addition to campaigning for the UK to scrap Trident and support an international ban treaty, ICAN UK is going to be focusing on a new project to highlight the risks and dangers of the nuclear weapon convoys, which regularly cross the country on ordinary roads carrying fully assembled nuclear warheads. More on this exciting project to follow soon.

Internationally, the newly established open-ended working group (OEWG) will be a great opportunity for governments and us to start substantive work on elements of a treaty banning nuclear weapons. ICAN will make sure that governments use these meetings to discuss the legal gap and what elements a new legally binding instrument needs to contain in order fill that gap. To brush up on ICAN’s position on principles of a treaty banning nuclear weapons, check out this paper.

The OEWG will meet for up to 15 days in Geneva in 2016. The first session of the OEWG will be 4 working days during either the week of 15-19 February or 22-26 February. The second session will be held during 8 working days between 2-13 May. The third session will focus on finalizing and adopting the report and will take place in mid-August.

ICAN is planning to organize a campaigners meeting in Geneva, which will most likely take place during the May session. More details shortly when the date is confirmed.

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