International Disarmament Institute News

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.

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April 1, 2017
by mbolton
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Positive Obligations in a Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons: UN Side Event

Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute Matthew Bolton chaired a side event on positive obligations at the UN 31 March 2017 during the first round of negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The panel featured Richard Moyes, Managing Director of Article 36, presenting research on stockpile destruction; Bonnie Docherty of the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic presenting research on environmental remediation; and Erin Hunt of Mines Action Canada offering insight into how victim assistance provisions might function.

Dr. Bolton highlighted research by the International Disarmament Institute on possible educational provisions in the treaty. In preparation for the side event he also published an article in the Nuclear Ban Daily on precedents for positive obligations in humanitarian disarmament treaties.

For further information on the side event, read the write-up from Article 36’s Elizabeth Minor.

 

March 30, 2017
by mbolton
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Preambular Provisions on Normative Development in Disarmament Treaties: Relevance to Nuclear Weapons Ban

Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, asks questions on preambular provisions to states negotiating the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty at the UN in New York.

Commentary by Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute in an interactive session on the preamble during the UN negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Thank you for the President’s kind invitation for input from academia, echoed by several delegations this morning. My comments here are intended to offer input derived from my research on preambles of disarmament and arms control treaties. Such preambles often reflect a commitment to ongoing normative development. It would be useful to hear the views of states and the panelists on this matter. In particular, I would like to focus on two elements of this question.

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March 30, 2017
by mbolton
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Op-Ed: The Case for Positive Obligations in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Bonnie Docherty (left) of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Matthew Bolton (right), Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute on a panel regarding positive obligations in the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty at the UN in March 2017.

Republished from Nuclear Ban Daily, 1(4), pp. 2-3.

The case for the nuclear weapons ban treaty has been rooted in the traditions of international humanitarian law and humanitarian disarmament law, which bind states to acknowledging the suffering caused by war, establishing prohibitions on inhuman methods and means of warfare and taking positive harm-limiting measures.

The Geneva Conventions – the most well-known treaties forming the core of international humanitarian law – prohibit states from targeting civilians, wounded soldiers, prisoners of war, the shipwrecked and relief workers. But they also commit states to a positive “duty to ensure respect” for the conventions (Common Article 1). And they mandate the International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Societies to provide relief and to raise awareness of humanitarian norms.

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March 27, 2017
by mbolton
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Op-Ed: Ensuring the Nuclear Ban Treaty Is a Humanitarian Treaty

Republished from Nuclear Ban Daily, 1(1), p. 3.

The nuclear weapon ban treaty negotiations are the culmination of the Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons. It has emerged from conferences (in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna) and UN General Assembly discussions that have demonstrated the horrifying suffering caused by nuclear weapons. Given that the motivation for the nuclear weapon ban is first and foremost humanitarian, diplomats and advocates involved in these negotiations must make sure that the eventual treaty actually meets the norms and standards of a humanitarian disarmament treaty.

Humanitarian treaties seeking to limit the impact of weapons (such as the 1907 Hague Conventions, landmine and cluster munition bans, and the explosive remnants of war protocol) differ from other arms control and nonproliferation treaties in at least three ways:

  1. Humanitarian framing
  2. Strong prohibitions
  3. Harm-limiting positive provisions

Taken together, these three aspects ensure that a humanitarian disarmament treaty establishes a clear normative framework. The power of humanitarian disarmament treaties derive from their ability to generate a stigma around a weapon and address the human suffering it causes.

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August 9, 2016
by mbolton
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Special Section of Global Policy: The Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons

The academic journal Global Policy has published a Special Section on nuclear disarmament edited by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, focusing on the Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons. As states meet in Geneva this week for the UN Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament, it is clear that the  Humanitarian Initiative has created new openings for stigmatizing and prohibiting nuclear weapons.

Below are abstracts of and links to the articles, written by scholars and practitioners involved in the effort to change the way policymakers think about nuclear weapons, reframing them from instruments of security to a potential humanitarian catastrophe in the making.

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