Asia and the Pacific look towards Vienna

What role can nations in Asia and the Pacific play in banning and eliminating nuclear weapons? This was one of the questions discussed at a two-day roundtable meeting in the Philippines earlier this month, organised jointly by ICAN, the International Law and Policy Institute and our Manila-based partner, the Center for Peace Education.

Government officials from the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Viet Nam, and Mongolia participated actively in the discussion, together with ICAN campaigners from the Philippines, Indonesia, Fiji, Canada, and Australia, and a representative of Malaysian Red Crescent.

Many participants commented on the new momentum and positive atmosphere created by the Oslo and Nayarit conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Much of the discussion at the roundtable meeting focused on what states and civil society in the region can do to prepare for the forthcoming Vienna conference, which promises to take things to the next level.

Dr Loreta Castro, a co-organizer of the event, said that she hoped that South-East Asian states in particular would be able to reach “a common regional position on the humanitarian initiative and the proposal for a treaty banning nuclear weapons” in the coming months. She and others made suggestions for facilitating further regional dialogue on this topic.

Participants also discussed the need to build a stronger civil society movement in the region. We hope to see more non-government organizations signing up as ICAN partners and contributing actively to the campaign. The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement also has plans in place to increase its activities in this area.

“The governments that participated in this roundtable meeting are all part of nuclear-weapon-free zones. They share a strong desire to move towards a total, global ban on nuclear weapons,” said Tim Wright, Asia Pacific director of ICAN. “We plan to work in close partnership with these and other supportive governments to achieve our goal.”