Nuclear Ban Daily, Vol. 3, No. 1

Building a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
20 June 2022

By Ray Acheson

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This historic moment of the First Meeting of States Parties (1MSP) to a treaty that categorically prohibits nuclear weapons is taking place during a time of active war among nuclear-armed states. Explicit threats to use nuclear weapons have been made, and fearmongering on all sides is running rampant. There have been attempts by mainstream media and political leaders to downplay the impacts of a potential nuclear war and normalise nuclear threats and risks, while simultaneously blaming each other for the deadly dangerous game afoot. It is against this bleak backdrop that responsible governments are gathering in Vienna to undertake the serious work of establishing the roadmap for implementing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The treaty itself is a landmark accomplishment. Supported by more than two-thirds of the members of the United Nations during its adoption in 2017, the TPNW has since been ratified by 61 countries and signed by 86. More governments are joining all the time, and others are attending 1MSP as observers. Hundreds of cities and towns around the world have called on their governments to join the TPNW and thousands of parliamentarians across the political spectrum have pledged to make that happen. Substantial amounts of money are being withdrawn from nuclear weapon producers by financial institutions like banks and pension funds. Organisers across the globe are working locally, nationally, and internationally to raise awareness of the TPNW and mobilise public support for nuclear abolition.

The nuclear game has changed. Over the last five years, and the many years leading up to the TPNW’s adoption, nuclear deterrence theory has been challenged and the nuclear orthodoxy has been undermined. The perspectives and experiences of those with lived experience of nuclear weapons, including from Indigenous and other affected communities, have finally started to be heard as an alternative to those who traditionally operate without accountability in the corridors of power. New relationships have been built, while strategies and lessons have been shared amongst those seeking justice and peace in our fraught world.

Over the next three days, this work continues. States gathered here at 1MSP will need to make decisions about key aspects of the TPNW’s implementation. They will need to discuss and agree deadlines for disarmament and an end to nuclear sharing, institutional structures, provisions for victim assistance and environmental remediation. Recommendations from civil society for these measures are included in this preview edition of the Nuclear Ban Daily.

We are often told that we cannot make a difference, that the nuclear-armed states will never disarm, that we are just playing at the margins of great power politics, wasting our time. Despite these warnings, together we created the TPNW. At this meeting, we will solidify the framework to advance its goals.

We must constantly question the idea of what is possible and impossible. We must always challenge the notion of who gets to say what is possible and impossible. The nuclear-armed states deliberately designed and built weapons to commit atrocities. To destroy entire cities, to annihilate entire populations, to cause lasting harm to generations. This was their creation. Ours is a treaty that seeks to eliminate these heinous crimes against humanity and build a lasting foundation for international cooperation without weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear abolition is not a fanciful ambition, it is a practical possibility—and it is imperative for survival, for peace, and for justice.

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