We are here with a common goal: to eliminate nuclear weapons

Statement by Mirjana Spoljaric, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, delivered at the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York, 27 November 2023

Mr President,

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to representthe International Committee of the Red Cross in this important multilateral forum, and to contribute to our meaningful collective efforts to advance nuclear disarmament.

We are here with a common goal: to eliminate nuclear weapons, one of the biggest threats to humanity.

We are here because a determined coalition of States, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, civil society organizations and dedicated individuals, refused to accept that a world free from these weapons of mass destruction was an illusory aspiration. Instead, they chose to take concrete action to make it a reality.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is proof that progress is possible even in the darkest of times. Against the backdrop of growing nuclear risks, alarming rhetoric and unacceptable threats, we owe it to all the victims of past nuclear weapons use and testing, as well as to future generations, to keep moving toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.

How do we do that? First and foremost, by keeping humanitarian considerations at the centre of our actions.

The TPNW is premised on the fundamental principle of humanity – so simple and yet so often absent in nuclear debates. We must continue bringing the focus back to this principle with unwavering determination.

What does humanity mean in relation to nuclear weapons?

First, it means never losing sight of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that any use of nuclear weapons – be it strategic or tactical, offensive or defensive – would have. We in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement came face to face with the horrors the first atomic bombings inflicted upon tens of thousands of men, women, boys and girls in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The ICRC and the Japanese Red Cross Society experienced first-hand the unimaginable scale of suffering and destruction left behind by the mushroom cloud, and the heartbreaking limits of our capacity to provide any effective humanitarian response. This is why we have never stopped saying: never again.

Second, humanity means persisting with stating the obvious: that nuclear weapons are not some mythical creation that stands above and beyond the law. Just like any other weapon, the use of nuclear weapons is subject to the rules and principles of international humanitarian law, the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience. It is extremely doubtful that nuclear weapons could ever be used in compliance with IHL. And any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.

Third, humanity means taking a realistic look at nuclear deterrence and its professed benefits through the lens of human security. In contrast to national or regional security, human security encompasses the security and well-being of the entire planet, as well as future generations, which are gravely threatened by the continued existence of nuclear weapons. Far from guaranteeing peace and security, by perpetuating the existence and role of nuclear weapons as political and military tools, nuclear deterrence theories put humanity at unacceptable risk.

Mr President,

The path towards nuclear disarmament goes through the universalization of the TPNW, its norms and fundamental tenets. Expanding the membership of the TPNW is now more important than ever. I warmly welcome the States that signed or ratified the treaty since the first Meeting of States Parties, and call on all others to join it without delay. I am pleased to see a [large] number of Observer States here today – a testament to the fact that nuclear disarmament is a common interest and shared responsibility of the international community.

Effective implementation of the treaty is crucial. The first Meeting of States Parties last year established a clear and ambitious framework for putting the treaty's obligations into effect and for measuring progress. I am confident that this second Meeting will advance on several important aspects. These include the establishment of a competent international authority to oversee and verify the elimination of nuclear weapons, when States possessing them do join the treaty, as well as victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations.

The ICRC looks forward to the adoption of clear and impactful outcomes at the end of our deliberations that will generate progress both within the framework of the TPNW and beyond.

The TPNW is unique and it does not stand alone. It complements and reinforces the other instruments making up the broader nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation framework, including the cornerstone Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the regional Treaties establishing zones free from nuclear weapons. We must build on this complementarity to replace polarization and divisions with trust, cooperation and synergies.

The complete elimination of nuclear weapons is an unwavering priority for our Movement. We will continue to work tirelessly to strengthen the norm against nuclear weapons and prevent their catastrophic humanitarian consequences from ever occurring again.

Lasting peace and a secure, humane future are only possible out of the nuclear weapons' dark shadow. The time is now to move into a brighter future, and together we can achieve it.