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Home Articles Flashpoints Australia Needs to Learn to vote "YES" at UN First Committee

Australia Needs to Learn to vote "YES" at UN First Committee

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 SUN 3/MON4 NOV 2019












There is literally not a single resolution at this years UN General Assembly First Committee that is not worthy of support, whether it be the resolution on the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,(L12, adopted by 119 votes to 41 opposed and 15 abstentions), (and which Australia misguidedly voted 'NO' to) or the L47 resolution on 'Joint Courses of Action and Future Oriented Dialogue towards a World without Nuclear Weapons', which Australia did in fact sponsor along with Japan, and which was adopted by 148 votes with 4 opposed and 26 abstentions. The same applies to all 61 of the resolutions on nuclear weapons and other aspects of arms control up for voting at UN First Committee. There is not a resolution (esp on nuclear disarmament) that we should not be supporting, yet for a variety of unworthy and frequently incomprehensible or incoherent reasons we mostly fail to vote 'yes'. We need to learn to vote 'yes'.


Whilst it is indeed true that, as the L47 resolution itself says, '...various approaches exist towards the realization of a world without nuclear weapons', it's also true that practical steps (in the very next sentence of L47) are of vital importance.


Australia has on the one hand failed to back the Ban Treaty resolution – a resolution that would do much to break the existing deadlock between states that have nuclear weapons and seem eager to discover any excuse to hang on to them, - but on the other hand, we have sponsored a resolution that has some good language on risk reduction – a matter of existential importance right now – though it is a watered – down version of a resolution that has been going for a number of years and that has always been regarded as 'lowest common denominator'.


There are a distressingly large number of other resolutions that Australia has also failed to vote for, and that were worthy of support. These include:


--L13 on Humanitarian Consequences of nuclear weapons use, adopted by 136 yes votes to 14 noes and 27 abstentions.


--L19, the traditional NAM resolution on nuclear disarmament that includes good language on risk reduction and to which this campaigner has urged a yes vote for the last decade on the grounds that it is vital to break out of 'bloc' voting, and that the resolution contains much that is good and nothing genuinely objectionable. L19 was adopted 117Y-40N-22A. We were one of the 40N.


--L20, the also 'traditional' (not so) New Agenda resolution, which abolitionists have always supported and tried in vain to get Australia to vote for. We abstained. The resolution contains excellent language on both humanitarian consequences and nuclear risks, and like L19, welcomes the Sept 26th International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.


Australia voted 'No' (as far as can be told) to L21 on ethical imperatives for the elimination of nuclear weapons, adopted 129yesses-37noes-12abstains. The resolution sets out the ethical case for abolition with crystal clarity.


Out of a total of 15 specifically nuclear-weapons-related resolutions that this campaigner has looked at, Australia seems to have voted only for 5.


Generally, the more clear and uncompromising the language of the resolution is the less likely it is that Australia will have voted 'yes'.


Australia need to learn to vote 'yes' to nuclear disarmament and abolition. While there may, as L47 says, be 'various approaches' to nuclear disarmament and/or abolition, there are an even larger number of ways to avoid having nuclear disarmament and to maintain high levels of risk of an entirely avoidable (accidental or otherwise) human-made apocalypse.


Australia needs to learn to say 'yes' a lot more and 'no' a lot less in First Committee and General Assembly. We will be saying 'yes' to human survival.


John Hallam

UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival project

Co-Convener Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group

Australian Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND)

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Last Updated on Sunday, 03 November 2019 16:28