UN Nuclear Treaty will enter into international legal force in 2021

By Agencies
October 26, 2020

On 24 October 2020, the United Nations confirmed that the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) had been ratified by its 50th state party, Honduras, and will therefore enter into international legal force 90 days later, on 22 January 2021.

"This Treaty bans nuclear weapons production, testing, possession and use, along with other activities that could enable and assist anyone to acquire or use these weapons of mass destruction ever again", said Dr Rebecca Johnson, a former Greenham peace activist and first president of the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). "This treaty is the culmination of 75 years of humanitarian activism, from the 'Hibakusha' and indigenous survivors of nuclear weapons and testing, to the Aldermaston marchers and Greenham Common Peace Women who helped to ban nuclear testing and get cruise missiles banned and off the roads. 

"Together we've persuaded UN governments to bring this ground-breaking nuclear disarmament treaty into international humanitarian law. Our task now is to bring all the nuclear armed and dependent countries into working with the non-nuclear majority to eliminate existing arsenals and universalise, implement and verify the Nuclear Ban Treaty."

Ben Donaldson, from United Nations Association UK (UNA-UK), highlighted the symbolism of the TPNW reaching its 50th ratification on UN Day, 75 years on from the founding of the United Nations, and recognised that nuclear weapons were first used against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago in August 1945.

Noting that this UN-negotiated multilateral treaty was recently described by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as an important pillar to strengthen nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Mr Donaldson said, “The ground is moving under the UK’s feet. We now have this significant new UN treaty which will sit alongside the other major global treaty on nuclear weapons, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and drive forward the international community’s shared vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Governments, international organisations and civil society are sending a clear message to nuclear-armed states that they have lived in fear of fallout for far too long, and want tangible action on disarmament now.”

As well as banning the activities and practices that make nuclear acquisition, proliferation and use possible, the TPNW provides two legal pathways by which nations holding nuclear weapons, like the UK, can eliminate their arsenals. From 2021 onwards, TPNW states parties will now work on establishing the strong legal framework to build adaptable verification systems and oversee nuclear disarmament compliance and implementation.

Speaking from UN House Scotland, ICAN Steering Group member, Janet Fenton said, “The Scottish Peace Covenant expressed our desire for a Scotland that can contribute to international peace and justice, rather than being a launch pad for waging war. Now that aspiration is within our grasp. The TPNW shows the will of the sane majority of the world, and will ensure that we have unambiguous protection under international law when we stand strong in demonstrating our desire for nuclear disarmament and peace."

Commenting on the announcement, Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND in the UK said: “This is a momentous occasion for the future of our planet and for the survival of humanity and all forms of life. This is a major step towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the ending of the existential threat that they pose. We pay tribute to those countries that have brought this Treaty into law, who wish for a different world, without the ever-present threat of nuclear disaster. We also recognise the role of all those who campaign for peace and global nuclear abolition, in the development of this Treaty. Civil society has played a significant role in this achievement and we will continue our work until nuclear abolition is complete.

“We now hold our key goal to be UK support for this Treaty. Successive governments have claimed to back the aim of a world without nuclear weapons, but they have failed to even engage with the process that has led to this Treaty. In these dangerous times, when our resources need to go to ensure genuine security - from climate change, from pandemic threats - our government must rethink security and join the global majority for nuclear abolition.”

The ellowship of Reconciliation has published this prayer:

God of Peace and Justice
We give thanks for Honduras and all
50 states around the globe
who ratified the prophetic call for a
world free from nuclear weapons.
We celebrate the witness of ICAN
and the many staff, supporters and agencies
that have worked together for years
to turn an idea into a global agreement.

We give thanks for today's milestone
on the journey to a world
free of nuclear weapons.
We hear your ongoing call for us to be peacemakers.
Strengthen and support
in the days and years ahead
As we continue to protest,
and work for a world of lasting peace.


* International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons https://www.icanw.org/

* Campaign for Nuclear DIsarmament https://cnduk.org/

* The Fellowhip of Reconciliation https://for.org.uk/


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