Representatives have gathered in New York for five days of milestone discussions that could prevent nuclear annihilation — but Britain was absent.
The talks aimed at agreeing a treaty to ban nuclear weapons were agreed by 123 countries at the general council last year.
They will discuss a motion to establish a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”
But many of the declared and non-declared nuclear powers voted against the move and will not be attending.
The British government is a founding signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and claims to be committed to multilateral nuclear disarmament. This was reinforced in a Commons vote backing the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system in July last year as the motion included an agreement to press for “key steps towards multilateral disarmament.”
A YouGov poll found last week that three-quarters of Brits thought officials should attend the talks. However earlier this month Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan told Parliament: “The UK did not participate in the organisational meeting on negotiating a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons on February 16 and will not attend the substantive negotiations on March 27. We do not believe these negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament. The best way to achieve this goal is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach and within existing international frameworks.”
RfPUK Chair Jamie Creswell said “The government says it supports multilateral nuclear disarmament, so why is it boycotting a serious attempt by the overwhelming majority of the international community to do just that?”
RfPUK CEO Jehangir Sarosh agreed with CND general secretary Kate Hudson that the government wants a ‘step-by-step’ process to disarmament, but wonders when those steps will be taken. ‘After all, what’s lost by participating? One way forward is to sit down with world leaders and talk.”
RfPUK Director of Shared Security, Stephen Herman, will be continuing to invited faith communities and their representative in the UK to gather to examine the ethical challenges posed by continued investment in nuclear weapons and to offer an unequivocal voice in support their elimination. The aim is to raise awareness of the topic of multilateral nuclear disarmament within their faith communities at grass-roots levels, where it has been largely invisible.