Good Faith Challenge
Every bargain relies upon the good faith of its parties for its fulfillment – the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is no exception. Indeed, “good faith” is explicitly mentioned in Article VI of the treaty which deals to nuclear disarmament. When the International Court of Justice was asked to rule on the legality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons it underscored, referring to Article VI, that good faith means “bring to conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”
The U.S. Conference of Mayors – of cities with populations over 30,000 – has referred to this obligation when addressing the U.S. Government. It’s most recent resolution (June 2014) expresses “deep concern” that the United States was not properly represented at international disarmament forums, or has boycotted them. The Good Faith Challenge will encourage other national – and regional -- associations of local governments to take similar stances if their national governments – or regions – are not fully engaged.
The approach of the Good Faith Challenge is straight-forward: all possible avenues for progress should be explored in a constructive spirit. Since the nuclear-weapon-states-preferred step-by-step approach is moving at a snail’s pace, other approaches need to be explored. Until one or another approach demonstrates a reliable capacity to make more headway than others, it makes no sense to claim that work one forum is a “distraction” from work in another. Indeed, such accusations show a lack of good faith. This perspective applies equally well to proposed lines of action from nongovernmental organizations as it does to those of governments.
So in the coming years, Mayors for Peace will promote constructive engagement in a multiplicity of forums, trusting that one or two will emerge as the most fruitful in due course. With a view to the good faith engagement by all key parties in negotiations, we will monitor and lobby:
(1) The Conference on Disarmament. Despite its dismal record of not engaging in negotiations for seven consecutive years, it is not inconceivable that it will become productive again.
(2) The NPT review process. While the review process more and more resembles an elaborate delaying mechanism, it has from time to time played a useful role.
(3) The Humanitarian Initiative. While so far it has focused on understanding the probability and impact of the nuclear war, it has potential to set new legal norms.
(4) The Open-Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Negotiations for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. This UNGA creation’s title says it all; it met in 2014, will it meet again?
(5) The High-Level Conference. Slated for 2018, this UN Conference could mark a turning point in the global effort to establish a nuclear weapon free world.
Good faith also requires that states honor their existing treaty commitments. So we will pursue such developments as:
(6) Breach of Contract Suit. The Marshall Islands have taken the nuclear armed states to the International Court of Justice for their failure to negotiate in good faith.
(7) Retry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Signed in 1996, and now ratified by 176 states, the treaty awaits ratification by eight states in order to enter into force.
As in the past, the Ypres Secretariat will send out Action Alerts as needed regarding these various forums to the Mayors for Peace global network of cities. We will continue to have representation at all relevant meetings and will send delegations of mayors to the more important ones.
Engagement with civil society is one of the guiding principles of the 2020 Vision Campaign. In our dealing with other NGOs, we will encourage them both to advocate and to practice good faith engagement. To that end, we cooperate with:
- Abolition 2000 which has been promoting negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention since 1995.
- ICAN which has recently called for a prohibition on the possession and use of nuclear weapons to be agreed upon by interested states outside the United Nations.
- UNFOLD ZERO which focuses on movement within the UN system.
- And other groups such as the Red Cross, the Middle Powers Initiative, Global Zero, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament.
The global nature of the nuclear threat means that each citizen, each city, and each country has both a right and a responsibility to promote the establishment of a nuclear weapon free world. Our 2020 Vision will be readily realized when more people, cities, and governments address this challenge in good faith.
Historical Background Good Faith Challenge
The very first action of the United Nations General Assembly, on 24 January 1946, was to initiate negotiations for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, before they could yield results, these talks were undercut by the Cold War. A nuclear arms race ensued, with one country after another join in. To keep the entire situation from getting out of control, a sensible agreement was struck between those who had already acquired nuclear weapons and those who had not yet:
- There would be negotiations to end the nuclear arms race and to achieve nuclear disarmament
- In the meantime, no one else would acquire nuclear weapons.
That was the bargain states were bound to in 1970 under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Since there was at that time no end in sight to the Cold War, the “non-nuclear-weapon states” anticipated that the bargain might not be completed within twenty-five. But they did expect the nuclear arms race to be stopped “at an early date” as the treaty stipulated. Indeed the Cold War ended in 1991 and when the treaties extension came up in 1995, they had reason to believe that its indefinite extension would facilitate the achievement of nuclear disarmament. At the time, nuclear weapons were being dismantled at a rate which, if just sustained, would result in their total elimination in the early years of the 21st century. Indeed, at their 1987 Reykjavik Summit, Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev had envisioned establishing a nuclear weapon free world by 1997.
But instead of adopting the comprehensive approach of Reykjavik, the “nuclear-weapons states” continued with the piecemeal approach to arms control of the Cold War. Two decades later the main result of these negotiations has been a deceleration of the pace of nuclear weapon dismantlement. Worse still, a new type of arms race has emerged: “modernization.” The non-nuclear-weapon states face the prospect of an ever receding horizon for nuclear disarmament. Not surprisingly, many states feel the original bargain has been betrayed.
Immediately below you will find the most recent Challenges (also known as Action Alerts), please make use of them as soon as possible.
In the right hand column you will also find earlier Action Alerts that are still current, if you have not already acted on them, please check them out and take action as appropriate. (For historical purposes, no-longer-current Action Alerts have been archived. Feel free to explore them.)
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