In an interview with Japan's NHK, Senior Programme Advisor and Arms Proliferation Cluster Responsable Mr Marc Finaud cited the potential humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons as the reason why the United Nations' Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament is pushing for change.
Though nuclear-armed states have resisted the efforts of the states who comprise the OEWG, Mr Finaud said that the movement towards a world free of nuclear weapons will continue. The nuclear states would be better served by participating in and shaping the discussion, rather than dismissing the actions of the OEWG.
Unofficial translation of NHK's article:
Start of Negotiations on Convention on Nuclear Weapons Recommendend by United Nations Working Group
The Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) of the United Nations (UN) related to nuclear disarmament decided to recommended that the UN General Assembly start the negotiation of a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons next year. However, since the nuclear powers did not participate in the OEWG and some opposition was also voiced by some of the non-nuclear countries who participated, the harsh difficulty of advancing nuclear disarmament was again highlighted.
In the working group, which was held at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, since February of this year, countries have discussed issues such as legal steps towards nuclear disarmament. On the last day, the start of the negotiation of a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons next year was called to a vote on whether or not to recommend it to the United Nations General Assembly, and was adopted by a vote of 68 in favor, 22 against, with 13 abstentions, including Japan. Toshio Sano, the disarmament ambassador, said, "It is a pity that the report was not adopted by consensus by all countries and was brought to a vote." In addition, according to him, the fact that nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia did not participate, arguing that nuclear disarmament should be considered while looking at the security situation, does not make a treaty banning nuclear weapons realistic. In this working group, not only the nuclear-weapon states did not participate from the outset, but some of the non-nuclear countries that participated also expressed opposite opinions, highlighting the harsh reality of the challenges in advancing nuclear disarmament.
Russia: "Rather Hamper Nuclear Disarmament"
During the time of the OEWG, in a separate meeting at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, the Russian delegate, a representative of the nuclear powers, said that he shared "Japan's hope for the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons, but at the same time, haste in beginning negotiations for the prohibition of nuclear weapons by radical activists would rather hamper nuclear disarmament". He considered that the countries participating in the Working Group and supporting a nuclear weapons ban without taking into account the international situation surrounding the security of each country and forcing nuclear powers to eliminate their nuclear weapons would lead to deepen the confrontation between the nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states rapidly. As a consequence, he hinted that he would not participate in the negotiations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Experts Evaluate the Debate
Once in charge of disarmament at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Marc Finaud, who now researches nuclear disarmament at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), considered in an interview with NHK that, "because of the growing awareness of the potential humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, a sense of urgency to act led to the convening and the decisions of the OEWG." He considered that, in abstaining from participating at all in the OEWG, the nuclear powers, who are bound by the common goal of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons, could not stop the movement towards the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Even if there is a gap in the way of thinking, participating in the discussion would have allowed them to reflect their opinion. Eventually, the negotiation of a nuclear weapons ban without the nuclear powers will create a strong incentive for them to negotiate seriously on actual nuclear disarmament.