International Disarmament Institute News

October 16, 2017
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Panel at UN on Addressing Nuclear Harm

Side event on addressing nuclear harm during the UN General Assembly First Committee, chaired by Trinidad and Tobago.

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute co-hosted a panel at the UN last Thursday on addressing the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons use and testing.

The session was opened by Ambassador Pennelope Beckles of Trinidad and Tobago and chaired by Elizabeth Minor of Article 36.

Bonnie Docherty of the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic provided an overview of the victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance provisions in the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Erin Hunt of Mines Acton Canada offered insights on lessons learned for victim assistance from implementing such provisions in the landmine and cluster munition ban treaties.

Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute provided a summary of his new report “Humanitarian and Environmental Action to Address Nuclear Harm.” He particularly urged on states to draw on lessons learned from implementing the clearance and demining provisions in other humanitarian disarmament treaties.

The event was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung New York Office.

October 8, 2017
by mbolton
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Humanitarian and Environmental Action to Address Nuclear Harm

The development, production, testing and use of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian and ecological consequences on people and environments around the world. ‘Nuclear harm’ – the damage caused by blast, incendiary and radioactive effects of nuclear weapons use, testing and production, as well as by other nuclear technologies – poses threats to the pursuit of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

A new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute explores possibilities for new global humanitarian and environmental action to address nuclear harm.

Due to advocacy by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), recognized by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) established ‘positive obligations’ on affected states to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and to remediate contaminated environments. To ensure that the burden does not fall unduly on affected states, the TPNW requires all states to engage in international cooperation and assistance to achieve these and the treaty’s other goals. While the TPNW does not explicitly cover all forms of nuclear harm, and the universalization of the treaty may take some time, its implementation offers the opportunity to build a normative framework and institutional architecture for humanitarian and environmental action to address nuclear harm.

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July 28, 2017
by mbolton
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How the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Helped Expose Disarmament’s Weakness on the Environment

In this new report from Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute and the Toxic Remnants of War Project, Doug Weir, explores the implications of the new Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty for the protection of the environment:

The successful adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 was a significant step forward for efforts to stigmatise, and ultimately ban, the final weapon of mass destruction not addressed by a specific legal prohibition. Much has, and will continue to be written on the treaty’s potential impact on ossified state-centric debates about nuclear security. The Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons intentionally posed a direct challenge to the rarefied world of nuclear experts and think tanks, particularly those captured by, and actively participating in, the prevailing state security discourse. However, beyond the conflict between the state and human security advocates, there was another story playing out, and it was a story that highlighted the fact that disarmament doesn’t really do “the environment” as effectively as it should. Addressing this weakness would strengthen future humanitarian disarmament initiatives.

To read the full report, click here.

Weir is Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies’ Marjan Centre at King’s College London and coordinates the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and manages the Toxic Remnants of War Project.

June 23, 2017
by mbolton
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UN Side Event Highlights Importance of Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation in Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Roland Oldham, president of Moruroa e Tatou, an organization representing the rights of victims of nuclear weapons testing in Tahiti, presenting at the UN during negotiations of a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute co-hosted a panel with the Irish Mission on positive obligations in the draft Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty at United Nations Headquarters on 21 June 2017. The event was also co-sponsored by Article 36, Mines Action Canada, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.

We were honored to hear from His Excellency Ambassador David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ireland and Deputy Permanent Representative Tim Mawe, who both expressed Ireland’s strong support for positive obligations of victim assistance, environmental remediation, disarmament education and international cooperation and assistance in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. They suggested that similar provisions in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, negotiated in Dublin, could serve as useful models.

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June 23, 2017
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Op-Ed: Why Strong Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation Obligations Matter

Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, published the following op-ed in the Nuclear Ban Daily on 21 June, regarding positive obligations in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, currently being negotiated at the UN in New York. For more a detailed report on his research regarding positive obligations, click here.

The stories and examples of victims and affected communities have been used as the justifying case for the nuclear ban treaty. For example, the second paragraph of the Humanitarian Pledge asserts that “the rights and needs of victims have not yet been adequately addressed.”

As a result, it is crucial that the nuclear weapon ban treaty include robust positive obligations on states to provide victim assistance and remediate the environment. The provisions in Article 6 and 8 of the current draft treaty enable states to seek and provide assistance for victims and in remediating environment contaminated by the use or testing of nuclear weapons.

But they must be strengthened to ensure that victims and affected communities are treated as people with rights, not objects of charity. In particular, the preamble should be bolstered with references to human rights and environmental law, particularly regarding the impact on victims, indigenous peoples, gender equality, and sustainable development.

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June 15, 2017
by mbolton
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Side Event on Positive Obligations in a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute will co-host a panel on positive obligations in the draft Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty at United Nations Headquarters, 1.15-2.45pm, 21 June 2017 in Conference Room B.

During the March negotiation session of the nuclear weapons ban treaty, 27 states plus the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the ICRC and civil society called for the new legal instrument to include not only a comprehensive set of prohibitions but also positive obligations on states parties. The first draft of the treaty responded to these calls and incorporated general provisions on positive obligations. Negotiating states should now work to expand and strengthen the provisions in order to maximize their effectiveness.

This panel discussion and dialogue will assess the positive obligations in the first draft of the treaty, suggest ways to improve them, and highlight why such revisions would be particularly important to the prohibition treaty. Including positive obligations would enhance the treaty, its operation and impact and is consistent with recent international weapons prohibition treaties. Such positive obligations could include:

  • Rights and remedial measures (e.g. environmental remediation, risk education, victim assistance),
  • Promotion of the treaty and of its norms (e.g. universalization and disarmament education),
  • International cooperation and assistance to implement the above two sets of obligations.

By promoting the inclusion of strong positive obligations in the new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons, this event will help ensure that the treaty not only builds on previous humanitarian disarmament treaties but it also contributes to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.

Featured speakers include:

  • H.E. David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN
  • Roland Oldham, Moruroa e Tatou (MET), President of an organization advocating for the rights of victims of nuclear testing in Tahiti
  • Bonnie Docherty, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, expert on humanitarian disarmament law
  • Erin Hunt, Mines Action Canada, expert on victim assistance
  • Elizabeth Minor, Article 36, expert on humanitarian disarmament
  • Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute

This event in co-sponsored by the UN Mission of Ireland, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, Mines Action Canada, Article 36 and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Click here for the full flyer.

To read an analysis of positive obligations in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty by the International Disarmament Institute, click here.

June 15, 2017
by mbolton
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Report on Strengthening Positive Obligations in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Accepted as Official UN Working Paper

A summary of Pace University International Disarmament Institute research on strengthening positive obligations in the draft Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty has been accepted as an official working paper by the UN negotiating conference.

The working paper recommends:

  • Strengthening the human rights and environmental framing of the preamble, particularly regarding the impact on victims, indigenous peoples, gender equality and sustainable development,
  • Making victim assistance an obligation and elaborating further on its necessary activities and institutional arrangements,
  • Making environmental remediation an obligation and elaborating further on its necessary activities and institutional arrangements,
  • Including a risk reduction education obligation in the environmental remediation provision,
  • Establishing obligations to promote and universalize the norms stigmatizing nuclear weapons, condemn violations and support disarmament education,
  • Specifying further the types of national implementation measures to be put in place including legal, administrative and other measures,
  • Adding transparency and reporting obligations to ensure accountability in implementation,
  • Specifying further international cooperation and assistance measures, including the establishment of a voluntary trust fund to aid implementation of positive obligations and other provisions.

To read the working paper, click here.

To read the full research report, click here.

May 31, 2017
by mbolton
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Improving Positive Obligations in the Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The humanitarian framing of the Draft Convention for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (DCPNW) and its positive obligations – on victim assistance, environmental remediation, universalization, national implementation and international cooperation and assistance – offer the potential for tremendous normative progress on nuclear weapons. They focus policy and legal attention on the unacceptable harm caused by nuclear weapons to people and the environment, rather than abstract and unverifiable notions of “deterrence.”

However, a new report from the International Disarmament Institute compares the DCPNW with other humanitarian disarmament instruments – such as the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty, Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War and Convention on Cluster Munitions, showing that there is room for improvement as states turn the DCPNW into a final treaty at the UN in New York in June and July 2017.

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May 31, 2017
by mbolton
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International Disarmament Institute Report on Positive Obligations in the Nuclear Ban Treaty Accepted as Official UN Working Paper

The object and purpose of the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty is to address and prevent the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. As such, the political process that has led to the beginning of negotiations is rooted in humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate the suffering caused by problematic weapons.

A new report by the International Disarmament Institute, accepted as an official Working Paper of the UN negotiation conference on a nuclear ban, argues that the international community should seize the opportunity to achieve the humanitarian aims of this process by ensuring the nuclear weapons ban treaty includes strong positive obligations as well as prohibitions. Positive obligations would make the process of stigmatizing and limiting the harm of nuclear weapons the responsibility of all states, including those affected and not directly affected by nuclear detonations. Such provisions would encourage states to engage directly in extending and universalizing the norm, working toward a nuclear weapons free world.

Existing weapons treaties, especially humanitarian disarmament ones, provide important precedent for positive obligations. Their relevant provisions tend to fall in three categories:

  • Rights and remedial measures (e.g. environmental remediation, risk education, victim assistance),
  • Promotion of the treaty and of its norms (e.g. universalization and disarmament education),
  • International cooperation and assistance to implement the above two sets of obligations.

The working paper discusses each of these categories in more depth and argues that they offer a foundation on which to build positive obligations in the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

To read the full report, click here.

 

April 28, 2017
by mbolton
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Humanitarian Positive Obligations for a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations at the UN in New York, March 2017. Photo courtesy of ICAN.

The object and purpose of the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty is to address and prevent the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. As such, the political process that has led to the beginning of negotiations is rooted in humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate the suffering caused by problematic weapons.

A new report authored by Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, argues that the international community should seize the opportunity to achieve the humanitarian aims of this process by ensuring the nuclear weapons ban treaty includes strong positive obligations as well as prohibitions. Positive obligations would make the process of stigmatizing and limiting the harm of nuclear weapons the responsibility of all states, including those affected and not directly affected by nuclear detonations. Such provisions would encourage states to engage directly in extending and universalizing the norm, working toward a nuclear weapons free world.

Existing weapons treaties, especially humanitarian disarmament ones, provide important precedent for positive obligations. Their relevant provisions tend to fall in three categories:

  • Rights and remedial measures (e.g. environmental remediation, risk education, victim assistance),
  • Promotion of the treaty and of its norms (e.g. universalization and disarmament education),
  • International cooperation and assistance to implement the above two sets of obligations.

Continue Reading →

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