By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

GENEVA (IDN) – More than 163 parliaments from around the world, constituting the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), have adopted a landmark resolution urging parliaments to “work with their governments on eliminating the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines” and to “urge their governments to start negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or package of agreements to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world”.

The resolution, Toward a Nuclear Weapon Free World: The Contribution of Parliaments, adopted on March 20 also implores parliaments to “use all available tools including committees to monitor national implementation of disarmament commitments, including by scrutinising legislation, budgets and progress reports” and promote and commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26.

The resolution, adopted after 12 months of consultations and negotiations, further asks parliaments to work together with their governments and civil society to build momentum for a constructive Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2015, ratify and implement existing non-proliferation and disarmament treaties and agreements, including the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Convention on Nuclear Terrorism, IAEA nuclear safeguards agreements and the Action Plan from the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and strengthen existing nuclear-weapon-free zones as well as support their expansion and the establishment of new zones, especially a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The Resolution also welcomes the first conference in Oslo (Norway) and the second in Narayit (Mexico) on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and the emergence of other multilateral approaches and initiatives including the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations. It also encourages parliamentarians to engage in multi-party networks like Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) in order to support effective parliamentary action.

Alyn Ware, PNND’s Global Coordinator says in a web posted statement: “This resolution demonstrates the growing understanding by parliamentarians that their responsibilities extend beyond those of their political parties and national positions to a shared obligation to the global common good and the security of future generations. Parliamentarians from non-nuclear countries, nuclear-armed countries and countries under extended nuclear deterrence doctrines came together to challenge governments to emerge from behind their complacency or cloaks of nuclear deterrence, and to act resolutely to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

The issue of nuclear weapons was chosen by the IPU, from among a number of key security issues, as its focus for peace and security for 2013-2014, due to the importance of this topic for human survival.

Destructive effects

“On-going efforts by a few States to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them threaten regional and global peace and security,” said Blaine Calkins from Canada, one of the co-rapporteurs of IPU Standing Committee on Peace and International Security which facilitated the drafting, deliberations and adoption of the resolution.

PNND Co-President Saber Chowdhury from Bangladesh, who also served as the President of the IPU Standing Committee for the past four years, introduced the resolution by quoting the historic conclusion of the International Court of Justice that “the destructive effects of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in time or space”.

“Parliamentary action worldwide should aim to eliminate the concept of nuclear deterrence once and for all,” said Yolanda Ferrer from Cuba, the other co-rapporteur of the IPU Standing Committee. “It encourages the perpetual possession of nuclear weapons and justifies the use of huge sums to modernize nuclear arsenals, funds that could be invested to solve the most pressing problems facing the world’s population, such as hunger, poverty and unhealthy living conditions.”

“Parliamentarians can play a key role in moving governments to implement their shared commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons,” said Calkins. ”Among other things, they can: hold governments to account and ensure compliance with commitments and responsibilities under the NPT; convince governments to accept new commitments, mechanisms and responsibilities as required; and, mobilize public opinion and civil society to demand faster and deeper action.”

The IPU published in cooperation with PNND a Handbook in 2012 that comprehensively outlines good policies and practices that can be pursued to complement governmental efforts in non-proliferation and disarmament, said Calkins. “It is precisely by pursuing such work and partnering with governments and civil society that parliamentarians can ensure that the aspiration of a world free of nuclear weapons will finally be realized.”

PNND and the Swiss Foreign Ministry co-hosted a parliamentary roundtable at the IPU Assembly following the adoption of the resolution, to discuss the humanitarian imperative and the cooperative security framework for a nuclear weapon free world.

The roundtable focused on effective actions parliamentarians could take in their parliaments, using examples of exemplary practice from the Handbook, as well as actions they could take in regional bodies such as the Parliamentary Assemblies for NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It also focused on key priorities from the IPU resolution on which parliamentarians and the IPU should follow-up, particularly the start of negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention – possibly by a like-minded group or through a UN resolution – and the renunciation of nuclear deterrence including through an increased focus on cooperative security mechanisms and approaches as the best alternative. [IDN-InDepthNews – March 21, 2014]