International Conventions and Green Cross

For those pursuing global, equitable change through collaboration and multilateralism, as Green Cross is committed to doing, there is no substitute for United Nations conventions establishing norms and standards for states to follow. As former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter said at the Conference for a Green and Inclusive Economy, “The United Nations still has the best institutions – we need to support it, and think more seriously about the meaning of ‘sovereignty’.”

Green Cross in particular stands behind a number of relevant UN conventions, and calls on states to sign, ratify, and then to fulfill their obligations under each of them. This will benefit their own populations and the world as a whole.

Arms Control and Environmental Security
Green Cross has been a leading voice in support of universal, multilateral and collaborative law-making to control the build-up and use of the most dangerous weapons by governments and non-government groups alike:

  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of disarmament. The Treaty establishes a safeguards system under the responsibility of the IAEA, which also plays a central role under the Treaty in areas of technology transfer for peaceful purposes. Since the failure of the latest NPT Review Conference to agree on a final declaration, it is now more important than ever to push for constructive engagement with both nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states to overcome deep divisions among the parties.
  • Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (NOT IN FORCE!) – The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground. This makes it very difficult for countries to develop nuclear bombs for the first time, or for countries that already have them, to make more powerful bombs. It also prevents the huge damage caused by radioactivity from nuclear explosions to humans, animals and plants. One hundred and eighty three countries have signed the Treaty, of which 163 have also ratified it (as of September 2014), including three of the nuclear weapon States: France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. But 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries must sign and ratify before the CTBT can enter into force. Of these, eight are still missing: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the USA. India, North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the CTBT. Green Cross continues to call for renewed efforts to have this treaty enter into force.
  • Sea-bed Treaty – The Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof (Sea-Bed Treaty) entered into force in 1972. The States Parties to this Treaty agree not to place any weapons of mass destruction on or under the sea-bed or ocean floor (outside of a territorial sea-bed, at least), or to build structures, launching installations or any other facilities specifically designed for storing, testing or using such weapons.
  • 1925 Geneva Protocol – The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (Geneva Protocol) is a treaty prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts. It was signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925 and entered into force on 8 February 1928. It is understood to be a general prohibition on the use of chemical and biological weapons but has nothing to say about production, storage or transfer, which are subject to later treaties (the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention).
  • Chemical Weapons Convention 1993 – The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. States Parties, in turn, must take the steps necessary to enforce that prohibition in respect of persons (natural or legal) within their jurisdiction.
  • Biological Weapons Convention 1972 – Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) agree not to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain microbial or other biological agents, (or toxins of any origin or method of production), nor to build weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict. Strengthening the BWC remains a top priority for Green Cross’ ESS Programme. The treaty has only 173 States Parties today, and new methods are needed to ensure its proper implementation – including more effective and solid legal instruments for enforcement. There have been proposals to revisit the current implementation of the agreement, as the next Review Conference approaches in 2016. This will be an important time to pay attention to this Convention.
  • Convention on Certain (Inhumane) Conventional Weapons – The Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW or CCWC), which entered into force in December 1983, seeks to prohibit or restrict the use of certain conventional weapons which are considered excessively injurious or whose effects are indiscriminate. The convention covers landmines, booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons and clearance of explosive remnants of war.
  • Convention on Cluster Munitions – The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international treaty that addresses the humanitarian consequences and unacceptable harm to civilians caused by cluster munitions, through a categorical prohibition and a framework for action. The Convention prohibits all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. In addition, it establishes a framework for cooperation and assistance to ensure adequate care and rehabilitation to survivors and their communities, clearance of contaminated areas, risk reduction education and destruction of stockpiles.
  • Mine Ban Convention – The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction is the cornerstone of the international effort to end the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines. It came into force in 1999 and to date, 161 States have formally agreed to be bound by the Convention. It bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. In addition, States that accede to the Convention accept that they will destroy both stockpiled and emplaced anti-personnel mines and assist the victims of mines.
  • Treaty on Antarctica – The Antarctic Treaty was originally signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 by the twelve countries whose scientists had been active in and around Antarctica. It entered into force in 1961 and has since been acceded to by many other nations. The Treaty stipulates that Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only, that freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end shall continue, and that scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available. It explicitly states that none of the scientific studies or other activities carried out in Antarctica should be made the basis of a claim to Antarctic territory.
  • Environmental Modification Convention – The Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD), formally the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, is an international treaty prohibiting the military or other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects. It opened for signature on 18 May 1977 in Geneva and entered into force on 5 October 1978. The Convention bans weather warfare, which is the use of weather modification techniques for the purposes of inducing damage or destruction. It would also ban some forms of weather modification or geoengineering. A particularly contentious issue is the use of herbicides in warfare, such as Agent Orange, which some states consider environmental modification and others not.

The status of each of these treaties – how many countries have signed, how many have ratified, and what is required to bring each treaty into force – is tracked on the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs’ Disarmament Treaties Database.