Latin American states making waves for a ban on nuclear weapons

04 September 2013

Latin American and Caribbean states have again demonstrated a united front in the call for the end of the status quo in the nuclear disarmament movement.

Two major regional organisations, CELAC and OPANAL, each representing the 33 sovereign states in Latin America and the Caribbean, held high-level summits in August, where they demanded new thinking on nuclear disarmament and expressed support for a treaty banning nuclear weapons as a vital next step in finally breaking up the status quo which only serves to perpetuate the existence of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of a handful.

The “Declaration on Nuclear Disarmament”, issued by the Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), an organisation which represents 33 member states and almost 600 million people,  unequivocally denounced the continued possession of nuclear weapons, expressing “their greatest concern at the humanitarian impact of vast proportions and global effects of any accidental or intentional nuclear detonation.” The resolution, issued on August 20, encouraged active participation by Latin American and Caribbean states to lead the way for universal nuclear disarmament, building upon the region’s status as the first densely-populated area in the world to form a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.

An important step in a similar direction was taken by the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). On August 22, the body created to ensure the enforcement of the aforementioned Treaty of Tlatelolco, approved the Strategic Agenda, with one of the three guiding principles being to achieve general and complete nuclear disarmament by promoting the negotiations for and adoption of a legally binding universal instrument banning nuclear weapons.

“The current disarmament machinery is failing to meet expectations and its mandate to start negotiations to rid the world of nuclear weapons is stuck in the mud of procedure. The lack of meaningful progress poses a great threat to humanity, and the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe due to a nuclear detonation, either accidental or intentional, is significant,” said Hector Guerra, ICAN’s Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, “These resolutions are the proof that more and more states are hearing the warnings about the risks of the current nuclear weapon regime that civil society and international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as United Nations agencies like UNDP, ODA and OCHA, have made at the Oslo conference in March 2013.”

States will meet in Mexico next February to bring forward the discussion that was started last March in Oslo on the health, environmental and socioeconomic consequences of nuclear weapons. The recent declarations by OPANAL and CELAC have proven that the humanitarian approach continues to resonate, and that there is a clear momentum for a bold new direction in the nuclear disarmament movement. ICAN encourages states to seize the opportunity presented by the Mexico conference as a launching pad for negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.