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Banning nuclear weapons


On 7 July 2017, 122 states at the United Nations voted in favour of a legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons. This treaty makes the possession of these horrific weapons of mass destruction illegal, along with other related activities such as testing, using, developing, or assisting with nuclear weapons (which includes financing or planning to use the weapons, among other things). The treaty also includes provisions for assisting victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and environmental remediation. It is the first treaty to recognise the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on indigenous people and on women.

Reaching this agreement is an amazing feat of collective action by people who came together to do something that had not been tried before. It is the result of decades of campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and other civil society organisations. Since 2007, WILPF has been part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which has worked with governments, international organisations, academics, and activists to bring this ban to fruition. We worked to generate a renewed focus on the humantiarian consequences of nuclear weapons, which opened space for consideration of the most appropriate political and legal responses to the existence of nuclear weapons.

As we always knew, this treaty has not magically eliminated nuclear weapons over night. But as atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow said in her remarkable closing statement to the negotiating conference on 7 July, “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.” This treaty was conceived of as a tool that could help change the politics and economics of nuclear weapons as a means of facilitating disarmament. It provides a solid foundation to change policies and practices, as well as to shift the thinking and discourse on nuclear weapons even further.

Reaching Critical Will provided daily analysis from the negotiations and has posted all relevant documents online. Check out some great videos from the conference on ICAN’s Vimeo page and Reaching Critical Will’s Facebook page. You can also read RCW and ICAN’s writings at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and view photos on ICAN’s Flickr page. After the negotiations, our director Ray Acheson was honoured to be invited to discuss the treaty with Democracy Now!, Al Jazeera, PRI’s The World, WMNF Community Radio (10 August 2017), and Vancouver Cooperative Radio (12 August 2017, 10:00).

What's next? The support expressed for the treaty over the last several years continues into this new phase where we will need to work even more closely with states and legislators to join and implement it, including the nuclear-armed states that have so far boycotted this process. WILPF will continue to be at the forefront of these efforts.

Relevant publications

  Banning nuclear weapons: prohibitions for a nuclear weapon ban treaty

  This discussion paper outlines Reaching Critical Will’s view of important prohibitions for    a treaty banning nuclear weapons, published between the two negotiating conferences.

 

 

banning-nuclear-weapons-coverBanning nuclear weapons: principles and elements for a legally binding instrument

This discussion paper outlines Reaching Critical Will’s view of important principles, prohibitions, and positive obligations that should be included in a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

 

tbnw-coverA treaty banning nuclear weapons: developing a legal framework for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons

This paper, published jointly by Reaching Critical Will and Article 36, looks at possible principles and provisions of a treaty banning nuclear weapons; how it could be accomplished; and its potential normative and practical impacts.


filling-the-legal-gap-coverFilling the legal gap: the prohibition of nuclear weapons

This table overleaf from Reaching Critical Will and Article 36 summaries the gaps in existing treaty law related to nuclear weapons that could be filled by a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

 

bnw-effective-measure-coverBanning nuclear weapons: an effective measure for disarmament

This paper explores the effective measures for nuclear disarmament presented by the New Agenda Coalition in its 2014 NPT working paper and argues that in the current context the most effective and achievable measure for nuclear disarmament is a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

 

npt-banPreventing collapse: the NPT and a ban on nuclear weapons

This paper examines the complimentarity between the NPT and a ban on nuclear weapons. It argues that rather than constituting a challenge to the NPT, a process to ban nuclear weapons that arises from the discussion around the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has the potential to prevent the NPT’s collapse.

 

unspeakable1Unspeakable suffering: the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons

This publication examines the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and is aimed for civil society actors, academics, and governments that are interested in approaching weapons negotiations with a humanitarian lens.