Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly prohibited by international law. Now, most of the world’s governments are working to change that- but a few countries haven’t yet made up their minds- despite massive public and political pressure to join the majority. Is democracy getting nuked?
In August, 107 countries clearly said they want a conference in 2017 to negotiate a new treaty to make nuclear weapons illegal. A handful of (mostly) western countries however, are trying to stop negotiations before they start. It’s not surprising that the countries that have nuclear weapons are using all the tricks they can- from procedural procrastination to diplomatic arm-twisting - to block the start of negotiations. But, can they block democracy?
Countries like Norway and the Netherlands both have parliamentary support to prohibit nuclear weapons. Earlier this year the Dutch parliament overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on the government to support negotiations on a nuclear prohibition treaty- and to encourage other NATO members to join. In March, the Norwegian parliament also sent a clear message to the government to work towards a total ban on nuclear weapons. Just this past Monday, thousands of people emailed the Dutch foreign minister asking him to vote yes to start nuclear weapon ban negotiations. In Norway, 8 out of 10 Norwegians recently polled want the government to vote yes- and protests have been held outside the foreign ministry each week supporting this.
Governments must recognize that this vote is a demonstration of their commitment to democracy. Will they vote to ban the last legal weapon of mass destruction? Or will they submit to the ones who want to keep these bombs forever, and deny their people’s democratic wish?