Vienna, 20 January 2017
At an international NGO consultation held earlier today in Vienna, Austria, the President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Köchler, called for a consistent and comprehensive approach towards nuclear disarmament, with the ultimate goal of a general prohibition of the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear arms. Referring to the slow progress in the implementation of the Treaty on Nuclear Non-proliferation (NPT) and the indefinite delay of the entering into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), he emphasized that - in a global environment where unresolved conflicts and threats to security abound, and where states may consider nuclear arms as weapons of last resort - it is highly unlikely that those states will consider abolishing an existing nuclear capacity or abandoning their (undeclared) nuclear aspirations. The president of the I.P.O. particularly referred to the regions of the Middle East and South Asia where unresolved conflicts and disputes have prevented key states from supporting any initiatives towards non-proliferation, not to speak of the total prohibition of nuclear arms. He also highlighted the ambiguity in the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons of 8 July 1996 according to which "the Court is led to observe that it cannot reach a definitive conclusion as to the legality or illegality of the use of nuclear weapons by a State in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which its very survival would be at stake."
Dr. Köchler further stated that the existing non-proliferation régime under the NPT is being continuously eroded due to the lack of effective disarmament measures on the part of nuclear weapons states and the continued stalemate concerning negotiations for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, called for by the periodic Review Conferences under the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty since 1995.
The President of the I.P.O. also stressed the need for consistent regulations in the fields of international humanitarian and international criminal law. He criticized, in that regard, the position of France, a State Party to the International Criminal Court. Upon ratification of the Court's Statute, the Republic of France had deposited a Declaration according to which the country considers the use of nuclear weapons as beyond the scope of jurisdiction of the Court. However, Dr. Köchler stated, the provisions of international humanitarian law become utterly meaningless if use of the very weapons that make the distinction between military and civilian targets impossible is considered beyond the scope of jurisdiction over war crimes.
Recalling the fate of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, adopted on 10 September 1996, but never entered into force, and whose Preparatory Commission recently "celebrated" its 20th anniversary in Vienna, Dr. Köchler stated that nuclear policy cannot be conducted in the world of ideas alone, but has to take stock of the facts and constraints of realpolitik. As regards the ambitious goal, stated by the UN General Assembly on 14 October 2016, "to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination" (Para. 8 of the resolution), decision on the basis of consensus among all member states is not a realistic expectation. Linking the entry into force of a future convention, decided by a majority of states, to ratification by the existing nuclear weapons states, whether declared or undeclared, may be an equally insurmountable hurdle, as has become obvious in the case of the CTBT.
This means, the President of the I.P.O. concluded, that the international community, in order to be credible in its efforts, will have to pursue the avenue of a comprehensive policy of peaceful co-existence, at the global and regional levels. As long as regional tensions and conflicts, whether in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia or other regions, are not properly addressed, it will be virtually impossible to convince states concerned about their security and very survival to agree, and subsequently adhere, to a global non-nuclear régime, which for certain states would mean the dismantling of their nuclear arsenal.
The consultation in Vienna was convened at the initiative of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and UNFOLD ZERO, a platform for United Nations-focused initiatives and actions for the achievement of a nuclear weapons free world, in co-operation with the NGO Committee on Peace at the UN Office at Vienna. The meeting was addressed by Mr. Alyn Ware (New Zealand), Global Coordinator of PNND, Chairman of the consultation, and by representatives of the governments of Austria and Iran, Amb. Robert Gerschner, Head of Unit: Nuclear Weapons, IAEA, CTBTO Prep Com and NPT, at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vienna, and Mr. Mostafa Shishechi Ha, Minister Counselor at the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Vienna. Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation (VCDNP, among others, also participated in the consultation.
The International Progress Organization (I.P.O.) has been addressing the issue of nuclear arms since the 1980s, in particular at the International Conference on Terrorism, convened by the I.P.O. in March 1987 in Geneva, Switzerland. Together with Nobel Peace Laureate Seán MacBride (Ireland) and international NGOs, the I.P.O. launched an initiative vis-à-vis the General Assembly of the United Nations to request an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the threat or use of nuclear arms. In the Geneva Declaration on Terrorism of 21 March 1987, sponsored by the I.P.O., the delegates dealt with the issue of nuclear arms in the context of state terrorism. In June of that year, the I.P.O. jointly launched with the International Peace Bureau (IPB) the Lawyers' Appeal against Nuclear War.