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A Historic Nuclear Ban Treaty Will Be International Law: Here’s What It Means

On October 24, Honduras became the 50th state to ratify the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, also called the nuclear ban treaty. Ninety days from now, the treaty will enter into force as an instrument of international law. This historic treaty is the first comprehensive ban to place nuclear weapons alongside biological weapons and chemical weapons as illegitimate means of war under international law.

Tim Wright / ICAN

UCS celebrates the achievements of states and non-governmental partners that made the nuclear ban agreement a reality. We believe in nuclear abolition, not just arms control. Nuclear weapons are a threat to human civilization, and the use of even a single nuclear weapon risks catastrophic humanitarian disasters. We know from the testimony of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors that the effects of nuclear use are horrible and last for generations. This is not just a problem for the nine states with nuclear weapons because the destruction of a nuclear war cannot be limited by borders. The only way to eliminate this risk is to eliminate nuclear weapons.

At UCS, we also believe that nuclear eradication requires leadership, innovation and ongoing commitment. We are proud to follow the lead of the communities most affected by nuclear weapons. This leadership includes hibakusha, who survived the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and people who were overwhelmingly victimized by nuclear tests in the colonial regions, the global South, and the territories of indigenous peoples and people of color.

As the nuclear ban treaty comes into force, we have more important things ahead of us than ever. Those who want to help change the nuclear weapons policy can get involved in organizations such as Back from the Brink (co-founded by UCS), which pass local decisions asking for nuclear weapons abolition. Base support to change policy is an important next step towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

Continue reading below for answers to common questions about the nuclear ban treaty.

What is the nuclear ban treaty?

The nuclear ban treaty is the first comprehensive and universal ban on nuclear weapons. The agreement prohibits all states parties from developing, testing, producing, acquiring, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons. States parties are also prohibited from assisting any other state in carrying out such activities.

The nuclear ban agreement was negotiated by most of the UN member states and was adopted on 17 July 2017. Many civil society groups also supported negotiations on the nuclear ban. The most important of these groups is the International Campaign to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on the nuclear ban treaty.

Will nuclear-armed states join the nuclear ban treaty?

None of the nine countries with nuclear weapons participated in the negotiations of the nuclear ban treaty and in various ways have shown their opposition to the nuclear ban treaty. However, even without the participation of nuclear-armed states, the nuclear ban treaty fills an important legal gap by banning remaining weapons of mass destruction. The nuclear ban represents a critical shift in regard to nuclear weapons, moving away from their so-called strategic or security role, towards the catastrophic human consequences of their development and use. This framework prioritizes people and communities damaged by nuclear weapons in the past, present and future.

In addition, the nuclear ban treaty can affect the behavior of states with nuclear weapons, even if they never agree with the treaty. It is true that without the participation of nuclear states, the nuclear ban agreement cannot be the ultimate instrument for disarmament; however, the nuclear ban treaty can increase the political, economic and security costs of reliance on nuclear weapons, even for states not participating in the treaty. The purpose of the nuclear ban movement is to stigmatize nuclear weapons and to encourage nuclear weapons states to take further steps to reduce and eliminate them.

Does the nuclear ban treaty damage the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Critics of the nuclear ban treaty often claim that it undermines or contradicts the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, is considered one of the most successful international agreements in human history and the cornerstone of the global effort to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The NPT recognizes five nuclear-armed states and requires all other parties to cease to possess nuclear weapons.

Like the nuclear ban treaty, the ultimate goal of the NPT is the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. NPT’s VI. Article requires all States parties to “continue in good faith negotiations on effective measures to halt the nuclear arms race at an early date and to disarm”. The states that signed and ratified the nuclear ban treaty are all NPT states and view their participation in the nuclear ban treaty as fulfilling their obligations to run a disarmament treaty.

There are significant tensions within the NPT between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapons states that threaten the long-term stability of the treaty. However, these tensions predate the nuclear prohibition movement. The greatest danger to the sustainability of the NPT is the inability of nuclear weapon states to demonstrate meaningful commitment to disarmament obligations; They must fulfill their side of the bargain by taking steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their security. risk of nuclear conflict. These steps should include the approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the revitalization of arms control efforts, and the declaration of first out of use doctrines.

What happens when the nuclear ban treaty goes into effect?

At review conferences, state parties will jointly develop action plans and benchmarks to measure progress. States parties and civil society groups will continue to strive to universalize the agreement by encouraging new states to join, and will also cooperate to develop peace and disarmament education initiatives. The nuclear ban treaty also invites states parties to assist victims of nuclear use, development and testing, and contribute to environmental improvement.

Posted in: Nuclear Weapons Tags: NPT, TPNW

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