International Disarmament Institute News

Education and Research on Global Disarmament Policy

March 27, 2017
by mbolton

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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