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Australian Red Cross welcomes historic nuclear ban treaty

Saturday 8 July 2017

Australian Red Cross has joined the chorus of voices around the world this morning celebrating the formal adoption in the United Nations of a treaty which categorically prohibits nuclear weapons.

Some 72 years after their invention, today's historic events at the United Nations are an important step towards the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons and a safer world, free from the threat of nuclear catastrophe.

Australian Red Cross National Manager, International Humanitarian Law and Advocacy, Yvette Zegenhagen said the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has called for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons since 1945.

"Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992," Ms Zegenhagen said.

"In a world that sometimes seems increasingly divided, today's treaty adoption is an inspiring reinforcement of international humanitarian law principles and shared humanitarian values."

Nuclear-armed States and most of those under the US nuclear-umbrella, including Australia, were among those choosing not to participate in these historic talks. However, a growing majority of the world's nations have made their intentions clear. They want a treaty to clearly prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination.

"The international community has shown that they do not permit moral indifference in the face of the terrifying effects of a weapon that calls into question the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, the lives of billions and threatens the very essence of our common humanity. There is now an opportunity for all Governments of the world - now or in the future - to stand on the right side of history and pursue all opportunities available to them to bring about a prohibition and eventual complete elimination of these most terrible of weapons.

"Beyond the absolute destruction in the initial detonation, the effects of nuclear weapons cannot be limited in space and time. There is also absolutely no capacity for an adequate humanitarian response to the use of a nuclear weapon."

The treaty comprehensively bans the use of nuclear weapons and related activities. It also creates a path for nuclear states which join the treaty to eliminate weapons, stockpiles, and programs.

The treaty will open for signature by states at the United Nations in New York on September 20, 2017.