The Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament (OEWG) has called for the start of negotiations by the United Nations general assembly for a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons.

The proposal, agreed Friday August 19, says

The Working Group recognized that there was a recommendation which received widespread support for the General Assembly to convene a conference in 2017, open to all States, with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society, to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.

The working group was established in December 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly to address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that would need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.

The proposal to begin negotiations on a global ban at the UN general assembly in 2017 is a very significant political step. Supported by a majority of states, it is a reminder of the overwhelming and enthusiastic support by the international community to make practical steps towards international disarmament.

A global ban is no panacea – there is much political work to be done. The UK refused to take part in the working group and parliament voted to replace Trident last month at a cost of £205 billion. We can also expect that the nuclear powers will attempt to delay progress on this proposal.

However, as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said last Friday: “achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons will take more than a prohibition treaty on its own. But we are as close as we have ever been to launching a concerted, credible challenge to nuclear weapons and we have the momentum and the moral authority to succeed.”