Explanation of Vote in the First Committee on Resolutions L.5: Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, and Resolution L.17: Ethical Imperatives for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World

Ambassador Robert Wood
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament
New York City
October 27, 2017


Mr. Chairman, I am speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom, France, and my own country, the United States, and would like to explain our vote against the draft resolutions L.5, “Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons,” and L.17, “Ethical imperatives for a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

Many have argued that devastating humanitarian consequences would result from the use of nuclear weapons. We agree. But neither the consequences nor the concerns are new: they were written into the preamble of the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968, and captured in the outcome document of the first Special Session on Disarmament in 1978.

The question is what conclusions we draw. Some of those who continue to promote the humanitarian consequences narrative contend that the route to the goal of nuclear disarmament is to prohibit the possession and use of nuclear weapons now, even if those states in possession of the weapons do not sign up to, and are not bound by, the prohibition.

We find this approach to be deeply flawed. We believe the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Prohibition Treaty) risks undermining the review process of the NPT by making consensus difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, the Prohibition Treaty risks creating a less secure world of the sort we inhabited before the NPT entered into force and became nearly universal. That was a time when many regions were faced with the prospect of nuclear proliferation, and uncertainty and mistrust impeded access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Prohibition Treaty fails to account for the security considerations required for nuclear disarmament and will not eliminate a single nuclear weapon. Rather, it sets back the cause of implementing and strengthening the NPT regime in all its aspects by deepening the divide among NPT states parties.

We are committed to pursuing the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and we are active in this area, as set out in our respective national statements earlier in this session. Creating and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons, however, cannot take place in isolation from the very real international security concerns that we face. We believe that an approach that addresses the challenges to the international security environment that make nuclear deterrence necessary is the only way to combine the imperatives of general and complete disarmament, in accordance with the goals of the NPT, and of maintaining global stability. Working together, we can create the conditions in which nuclear weapons would no longer be needed.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.