As an organisation established 37 years ago to call for a nuclear weapons free world, the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is delighted and warmly welcomes the agreement by over 120 UN member states to a treaty banning nuclear weapons. (1)
The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty was agreed at a special conference of the United Nations concluding on the 7th July. At the end of the conference 120 nations voted to accept the Treaty with just one against (NATO member The Netherlands) and one abstention (Singapore). Disappointingly, all existing nuclear weapon states, most NATO members and countries under the ‘nuclear weapons umbrella’ boycotted the conference. Nevertheless, the historic vote finally starts a process similar to that which led to the abolition of landmines, cluster munitions, chemical and biological weapons.
Key elements of the Treaty include:
- The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comprehensively bans nuclear weapons. It makes it illegal for countries to undertake any activities related to nuclear weapons – it bans the use, development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring, receiving, threat of use, assisting, stationing, installation or deploying of nuclear weapons.
- The treaty requires states to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and requires environmental remediation of contaminated areas.
- The treaty obliges states to provide international assistance to support the implementation of the treaty.
- It requires states that possess nuclear weapons to remove their operational status, and destroy them. The treaty provides for a verifiable, time-bound, transparent, and irreversible destruction of nuclear weapons programs and the implementation of safeguards.
- It bans assistance with prohibited acts, and as such it should be interpreted as prohibiting states from engaging in any military preparations to use nuclear weapons, financing the development and manufacture of nuclear weapons, or permit the transit of nuclear weapons through its territorial waters or airspace.
- The text requires states to join the Treaty, and to encourage others to join, as well as to meet regularly to review progress.
For the NFLA, this treaty shows the widespread rejection of nuclear weapons across the world by the large majority of states and civil society, who through groups like the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Mayors for Peace, and NFLA, have tirelessly worked for this aim for many years. The process to develop the treaty was motivated by the catastrophic humanitarian impacts that would result of any use or detonation of a nuclear weapon. It makes nuclear weapons illegal as well as immoral.
The first part of this process is now complete, as the world nears the 72nd anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons. The priority now is to challenge and persuade nuclear weapon states to stop prevaricating and engage with a process that so many countries have worked consistently to achieve. That includes the United Kingdom Government. It should not be looking to develop new Trident submarines but actually talking to its fellow UN members over sensible ways to actively reduce the global stockpile of over 15,000 nuclear weapons. In this NFLA welcomes the leadership of the Republic of Ireland Government in the UN nuclear ban treaty process, where it had wide cross-party support to participate within it. The key now is to achieve the same cross-party support in the UK. NFLA will work with its partner organisations to achieve this critical aim.
NFLA welcomes the statement of the Mayor of Hiroshima and President of Mayors for Peace, Kazumi Matsui, who said:
“Now that the new treaty has been adopted, our next challenge is clear: We need to encourage all countries to join this treaty, including the nuclear-weapon states and their allies. Mayors for Peace will work together with our diverse partners in the world to encourage world leaders to take decisive leadership towards nuclear abolition. Reliance on nuclear weapons is not only useless for solving current challenges of international security, but will also endanger the survival of the entire human species. The entire world community, therefore, needs to cooperate and work together to ensure that the new treaty will become a fully effective legal instrument to achieve nuclear abolition. Let us begin this work today.” (2)
NFLA Steering Committee Vice-Chair Councillor Norman McDonald said:
“NFLA is delighted that, almost 72 years after the terrible bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United Nations has agreed to a treaty banning nuclear weapons. It is about time and the suffering of the hibakusha should be remembered by all. But the hard work now begins. The hollow and depressing debate that has existed amongst a number of UK political parties on nuclear weapons has to change. The world has spoken, now is the time for the UK to listen to it and work harder for what is supposed to be government policy – full and total multilateral nuclear disarmament. NFLA calls on Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron (and his likely successor Vince Cable), Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood, Caroline Lucas and the leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland to come together to discuss the implications of the UN decision and engage with the majority will of much of the world. A nuclear weapons free world is now very much possible. Let us work together to achieve it.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) ICAN media release, 7th July 2017 http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/the-united-nations-prohibits-nuclear-weapons
(2) Mayors for Peace statement, 10th July 2017 http://www.mayorsforpeace.org/english/statement/openletter/data/MfP_Statement_20170707_E.pdf