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Topnews, Statements

14. September 2018

JOINT STATEMENT ON THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS DELIVERED BY THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA, AMBASSADOR SEOKOLO ON BEHALF OF 48 COUNTRIES, AT THE IAEA BOARD OF GOVERNORS ON 14 SEPTEMBER 2018, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Mr. Chairman,

1. I take the floor on behalf of the following countries Algeria, Angola, Austria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malawi, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palau, Palestine, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, San Marino, the Sudan, Thailand, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe, as well as my own country, South Africa (48). 

2. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (also known as the Ban Treaty) is an historic and ground-breaking agreement. Since it opened for signature in New York last year, 60 States have already signed and 14 have ratified.  Many more have begun their national procedures to enable ratification, and the Treaty is well on its way to reaching the 50 ratifications necessary for entry into force.

3. The threat posed by the existence of nuclear weapons remains among the most pressing issues facing humanity.  Furthermore, Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) are modernizing their arsenals and delivery systems, overshadowing the limited progress on nuclear disarmament that has been achieved and undermining the implementation of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

4. Indeed, the implementation of the nuclear disarmament obligation of the NPT remains unsatisfactory. Regrettably, existing commitments have not been fulfilled and are being called into question by the words and actions of some States.  In this situation, it is more urgent than ever to strengthen the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime with the NPT as its cornerstone.  Quite simply, prohibiting, and ultimately eliminating, nuclear weapons is the only way to guarantee that they will never be used again.

5. The Ban Treaty does exactly this.  More than seventy years after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as thousands of nuclear tests, the United Nations has finally adopted a legally-binding instrument that, once and for all, outlaws the most lethal and indiscriminate category of weapons of mass destruction.  This new treaty offers the international community an opportunity to collectively deal with the greatest threat to life on our planet since the dawn of humanity.

6. The Ban Treaty and the NPT are fully compatible and, indeed, complementary. After all, both the TPNW and the NPT have the same goal at their core – the abolition of nuclear weapons.

7. In particular, the new treaty complements and strengthens the NPT in at least two ways. First of all, it provides a legal framework for the implementation of Article VI of the NPT. In addition, the Ban Treaty strengthens the IAEA safeguards system based on the NPT.  It reaffirms the safeguards standard enshrined in NPT Article III, obliges States which already have a higher standard in place to maintain it, and encourages all States to further raise their level of commitment in terms of safeguards.

8. The Ban Treaty strengthens the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime in general, including the Treaties establishing Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). All of these instruments are complementary and are working hand in hand. The Ban Treaty is now a fact, which cannot be ignored and may, in time, have implications for our work in Vienna.

9. It finally bans the only category of weapon of mass destruction not yet to be subject to a global prohibition, following the example of the existing conventions proscribing biological and chemical weapons.  It does so with a pronounced humanitarian approach.

10. The Ban Treaty also sends a strong message that the vast majority of the international community reject weapons of mass destruction as a basis for their national security because they do not enhance national or international security.  They are, on the contrary, an existential threat to all peoples and have no place in the international architecture that we envisage for the 21st century and beyond.

11. In adopting the Treaty, UN Member- and Observer States were firmly convinced that any use of nuclear weapons, for any reason, would be incompatible with the dictates of public conscience and contrary to the principles of international humanitarian and Human Rights law.

12. Disarmament is a cross cutting issue. The detonation of a single nuclear weapon would have catastrophic consequences for global efforts on Climate Change and the Environment; Sustainable Development; Humanitarian objectives and aid; Migration; Gender equality; Cultural Heritage and Cyber Security. We must step outside of narrow security concerns and embrace a holistic approach.  We warmly welcome the positive reference to the Treaty in the new disarmament initiative of the UN Secretary General.

13. The Ban Treaty is fully inclusive and opens a pathway for States possessing or hosting nuclear weapons to join in through a time-bound, verifiable and irreversible process of nuclear disarmament. Our ambitions for global peace and security are tempered by the need to proceed in a prudent and practical fashion.  The Treaty takes into account the complexities involved, including those related to verification, without being overly proscriptive. Rather than trying to spell out all the details of this process, it envisages arrangements to be agreed upon with the accession of States possessing nuclear weapons.

14. While the Treaty is neither the proverbial silver bullet nor the final word on nuclear weapons, it seeks to establish an international norm, delegitimising and stigmatising the possession of nuclear arms. It aims to contribute towards achieving the objective set out in the very first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1946 to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction.

15. Civil society has been a key partner, providing ideas and support throughout the process leading to the adoption of the Ban Treaty. With the adoption of the Treaty last year, we now enter a new phase of implementation and universalization, which we are confident will move us forward in our shared goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.  

16. The majority of the world’s nations believes there is no further room for procrastination. Let us be reminded that former President Mandela, whose centenary we are celebrating this year, once noted that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

17. Let me end with a call on all states to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as soon as possible. We do not have the luxury of complacency; we must be brave enough to challenge the status quo in order to make meaningful progress.   As a tribute to the former UN Secretary General, the late Mr Kofi Annan, and to his legacy in acknowledging nuclear weapons as the greatest threat facing mankind, I conclude by echoing his words: “let’s not wait till we face down a major crisis to act; the stakes are simply too high.”

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

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