Abolishing nuclear weapons

WILPF has been demanding the elimination of nuclear weapons since the dawn of the nuclear age. As part of this effort, Reaching Critical Will worked with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to achieve the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we monitor global nuclear weapon forums and treaty bodies, and we are active in various local and national efforts for disarmament around the world.

Reaching Critical Will's activities on nuclear weapons include:


On 7 July 2017, 122 states voted in favour of a legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons. Negotiated at a United Nations conference, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons 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 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.

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.


The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Gender, Feminism, and Intersectionality

This briefing paper outlines the gender-related provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and offers recommendations for states parties and others to consider ahead of the Second Meeting of States Parties (2MSP).

Abolishing State Violence: A World Beyond Bombs, Borders, and Cages

This book, published by Haymarket Books, connects movements for social justice with ideas for how activists can support and build on this analysis and strategy. It includes chapters on police, prisons, surveillance, borders, war, nuclear weapons, and capitalism.


Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy

This book, published by Rowman & Littlefield, offers a first hand feminist account of the process to outlaw nuclear weapons at the United Nations.


resource guide cover Banning nuclear weapons: prohibitions for a nuclear weapon ban treaty

This resource guide is meant to brief WILPF members about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is available in English, Français, and Español.


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.


WILPF has long raised concerns with the humanitarian and environmental catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons. We have been part of efforts in the United States, Australia, and elsewhere to collect and disseminate information about the effects of nuclear weapon production, testing, and use.

Reaching Critical Will participated in the series of conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway (2013), Mexico (2014), and Austria (2014). We coordinated and edited a global study on this subject ahead of the first conference in Norway, and we have since then supported activist colleagues in disseminating further work, including on the gendered impacts of nuclear weapons.


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. 



All of the nuclear-armed states are currently engaged in programmes to "modernise" - upgrade or refurbish - their nuclear arsenals. This includes the bombs, delivery systems (like missiles, aircraft, and submarines), as well as related facilities used in the production of nuclear weapons. Since 2010, Reaching Critical Will has published an annual study that explores in-depth the nuclear weapon modernization programmes of China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and analyses the costs of nuclear weapons in the context of the economic crisis, austerity measures, and rising challenges in meeting human and environmental needs. The chapters are written by country experts with detailed knowledge of the programmes and their costs.

















Reaching Critical Will monitors and provides reporting and analysis on several nuclear weapon-related forums, including:

We have also provided coverage of other forums and meetings, including:


In addition to WILPF Sections' national and local work to abolish nuclear weapons, Reaching Critical Will also participates in and supports nuclear weapon divestment efforts and other local initiatives to raise awareness about nuclear weapons and hold governments to account. Some of this work has included:


Interviews and media

Additional resources

Collection of articles, books, and reports related to the TPNW
Compiled by Dr. Nick Ritchie of the University of York