Reading Room

The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Nears the Finish Line!

July 6, 2017
Posted by: Marylia Kelley

At the United Nations today, negotiations are wrapping up on the “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination,” also known as the ban treaty. The treaty text has been sent out for translation into the six official UN languages, and tomorrow, on Friday, July 7, the states that have participated in the negotiations will be asked to vote on its adoption.

The negotiations have not been without struggle. What stands out, however, is the incredible motivation and true good faith effort demonstrated by 140 states parties and the President of the negotiations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica. This ambassador and these countries have forged a far-reaching and historic agreement to outlaw all nuclear weapons globally in less than 30 days!

While no treaty is perfect, it is worthwhile to examine the wording of the ban treaty’s prohibitions, contained in Article 1 of the text:

“Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(c) Receive the transfer or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(d) Use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(e) Assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;

(f) Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty

(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.”

Tri-Valley CAREs and other nuclear disarmament organizations have long said that these instruments of indiscriminate mass murder and societal suicide are immoral; this treaty finds its foundation in international humanitarian law and renders them illegal.

Further, the treaty’s preambular language specifically calls out the catastrophic health and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons, including their disproportionate impact on women and girls (an allusion to gendered radiation effects) and the suffering of indigenous peoples.

Our colleague Rebecca Johnson notes that even at this late hour, there is concern over the nuclear weapons states, which have boycotted the treaty negotiations, pressing one or more countries in the room tomorrow to stymie or try to run out the clock on the adoption process.

That hasn’t happened yet. We are mere hours away from the ban treaty’s “crunch day.” For those who are not at the United Nations, the vote will be televised on UN TV. It’s scheduled to begin at 8 AM eastern tomorrow and run until 11 AM.

To many of us, it’s shocking that the vote will not also be live on every major TV network, but there you have it. The most important nuclear disarmament initiative in the nearly 50 years since the Non-Proliferation Treaty was negotiated in 1968 is also the most underreported!

Nevertheless, a legal and moral victory of immeasurable proportion is near. We stand on the brink of delegitimizing nuclear weapons and declaring there are no right hands for them.

We citizens the world over will hold breath, hold each other, hold truth and good will – and hold on to good thoughts. We will cheer the ban treaty as it crosses the finish line. We are ready!

Click here to read the near final treaty text.