International Disarmament Institute News

October 8, 2017
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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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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.

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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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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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