Monday, July 10, 2017

Good news for a change

The world seems to be turning into a darker place at the moment, with endless war in the Middle East, and Donald Trump threatening to start even more of them. But over the weekend, there was some light, with the UN formally adopting a treaty to ban nuclear weapons in international law:

More than 120 countries have approved the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons at a UN meeting boycotted by all nuclear-armed nations.

To loud applause and cheers, Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the UN conference that has been negotiating the legally binding treaty, announced the results of the "historic" vote - 122 nations in favour, the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore abstaining.

"We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons," Whyte Gomez said. "We (are) ... saying to our children that, yes, it is possible to inherit a world free from nuclear weapons."

The treaty is simple, committing its parties to being nuclear free: they won't develop, manufacture, test, transfer, use, or even allow the stationing of nuclear weapons within their territory. And while no nuclear-armed state has joined (and NATO, as good little US vassals, refused to participate), they can, by renouncing their weapons and conducting an IAEA-verified disarmament process. While that probably won't happen soon (again, Trump: an aggressive US makes disarmament less likely), it leaves the door open for gradual denuclearisation. Meanwhile, by establishing a clear prohibition in international law, the treaty has effectively redefined every great power as a rogue state, while reducing their operating scope and providing a basis for future sanctions against them.

New Zealand has been at the heart of this struggle, and we're expected to be one of the first states to sign and ratify it (the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 means we're already compliant). Its an actual foreign policy success! Not that National seems proud of it - they blocked a motion in the House to celebrate it last week. But formally prohibiting nuclear weapons in international law is a major achievement, and one all kiwis can be proud of.