Parliamentary Actions for Nuclear Disarmament: Roundtable Discussion

Monday October 24, 2011
Hosted by the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations

On October 24, 2011, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Parliamentarian Network for Conflict Prevention (a project of the East-West Institute) co-sponsored a roundtable discussion amongst parliamentarians, parliamentary organisations, diplomats, UN officials, disarmament experts and  non-governmental organisations on Parliamentary Actions for Nuclear Disarmament, with a specific focus on building the framework for a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Parliamentarians and parliaments have vital roles in building political momentum, government commitment and elements of the framework for a nuclear-weapons-free world.  Parliaments consider security mechanisms including those for lowering or eliminating the role of nuclear weapons. They allocate funds for the diplomatic and technical work required to establish a disarmament regime. They adopt domestic implementation measures including for border control, policing, securing nuclear facilities and materials, criminalising banned activities, ensuring cooperation between government agencies and public education to support nuclear disarmament. They also liaise with colleagues in other parliaments to develop coordinated approaches between countries and regions.

The workshop explored actions already being taken by parliamentarians, how these can be expanded and improved, additional actions required, the relationship between parliaments and governments in forging a nuclear-weapons-free world, and the roles of experts and civil society to support parliamentary action.

The roundtable was hosted by Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann from Germany, and included over 40 participants. Parliamentary organisations represented included PNND, the Parliamentarian Network for Conflict Prevention, Parliamentarians for Global Action, Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

The discussion included actions that parliamentarians could take in their domestic legislatures in addition to collaboration between parliamentarians on regional and global measures.

A number of recommendations were proposed including:

1.     Nuclear Weapon Free Zones:

a)     Parliamentarians around the world are called upon to endorse the Joint Parliamentary Statement on a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and other WMD;

b)    Parliamentarians in circumpolar nations are encouraged to advance the proposal for an Arctic Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone;

c)     Parliamentarians in Japan and South Korea are encouraged to endorse the Joint Parliamentary Statement supporting a North East Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, and to hold hearings in their respective parliaments on the draft treaty released by former foreign Minister Katsuya Okada;

2.     Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:

a)     Parliamentarians are encouraged to hold events in parliaments on the UN Day Against Nuclear Tests, demonstrating the value of the CTBT (and the CTBTO) as a measure for nuclear non-proliferation and environmental protection, and as a contributor to Tsunami early warning and radionuclide monitoring from nuclear accidents;

b)    Parliamentarians from countries that have not ratified the CTBT are encouraged to take action in their parliaments to advance such ratification;

3.     International Humanitarian Law and nuclear weapons:

a)     Parliamentarians are encouraged to join with their national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in public education on the incompatibility of nuclear weapons with IHL and the requirement to achieve nuclear abolition;

b)    Parliamentarians are encouraged to endorse the Vancouver Declaration: Law’s Imperative for the Urgent Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, and to cite it in parliamentary speeches and debates;

c)     Parliaments are encouraged to adopt resolutions affirming the incompatibility of nuclear weapons with IHL, and supporting efforts by their government and others to start the process for global nuclear abolition without waiting for an elusive consensus in the Conference on Disarmament;

4.     Domestic legislation prohibiting nuclear weapons and divesting from nuclear weapons corporations:

a)     Parliaments are encouraged to adopt legislation to prohibit and criminalise nuclear weapons, similar to the legislation adopted by Austria, Mongolia, New Zealand and the Philippines;

b)    Parliaments are encouraged to take action to move public funds (such as Pension Funds) to divest from any corporation involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, components, delivery systems or support structures (similar to the divestment of public funds undertaken in Norway and New Zealand);

5.     Reducing role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines: Parliaments and parliamentarians of nuclear weapons States and their nuclear allies (those covered by extended nuclear deterrence relationships) are encouraged to examine the role of nuclear deterrence (including its risks and negative impact on non-proliferation and disarmament), and to consider and advance the further development of security through non-nuclear means in order to quickly phase out reliance on nuclear weapons;

6.     UN Secretary-General’s Five Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament and the Nuclear Weapons Convention:

a)     Parliamentarians are encouraged to adopt resolutions in their parliaments supporting the UN Secretary-General’s Five Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament including his proposal for negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention or framework of agreements;

b)      Parliaments are encouraged to hold hearings on the legal, technical, political and institutional elements for a nuclear-weapons-free world, guided by the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention that has been circulated by the UN Secretary-General. These hearings could also include consideration of the diplomatic process to advance and achieve a nuclear weapons convention or similar framework for a nuclear-weapons-free world.

7.     Nuclear weapons budgets

a)     Parliamentarians in nuclear weapon States are encouraged to act for the reduction of spending on nuclear weapons, and the reallocation of such funds to assist disarmament and economic and social needs;

b)    Parliamentarians in non-nuclear weapon States are encouraged to urge their governments to raise the nuclear weapons spending issue in international forums including the UN Security Council (to implement Article 26 of the UN Charter) and the UN General Assembly.

A number of documents were circulated supporting the recommendations above, including:

1.      PNND brochure;

2.      Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention flyer;

3.      UN Secretary-General’s letter to all parliaments on the role of parliamentarians to advance nuclear disarmament;

4.      Annotated list of parliamentary resolutions adopted (and those submitted but not yet adopted) supporting the UNSG’s five-point plan and/or the nuclear weapons convention;

5.      Report from the IPU on parliamentary actions for nuclear disarmament;

6.      PNND letter to the P5 meeting in Paris on actions that should be undertaken by the P5;

7.      Joint Statement of Japanese and South Korean parliamentarians supporting a North East Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone;

8.      Article by PNND Canada Chair on an Arctic Nuclear Weapons Free Zone

9.      Paper by Rob van Riet (World Future Council) on National Legislative Measures to Advance Nuclear Abolition

10.  Freeze the Nukes: Fund the Future, Congressional letter from PNND Co-President Ed Markey endorsed by 65 other members of the US Congress.

11.  Short report from the Bi-Partisan Security Group  on developments in Washington (including in the US Congress) with respect to nuclear weapons funding, nonproliferation and the CTBT.