Because of the unique destructive capacity and uncontrollable effects of nuclear weapons, the almost indescribable horror associated with their use informed the very first resolution of the U.N. General Assembly in 1946 and has been a recurring theme ever since in blue ribbon international commissions, NPT review conferences and preparatory committee meetings, and General Assembly committee debates.

Given the presently stalled nuclear disarmament agenda, the most productive way forward for both committed state and civil society actors to generate political momentum for the cause may be to emphasize the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. The only way to guarantee their non-use ever is their total, irreversible and verifiable elimination under effective international control.

On Oct. 21, speaking in the U.N. General Assembly's First Committee on behalf of 123 countries and the Holy See, New Zealand's outgoing disarmament ambassador Dell Higgie issued a statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.