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Nuclear weapons ban agreed


ICAN, UN, nuclear weapons ban, 7 July 2017“We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age.”

More than 120 states have adopted a new “legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons”.

The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was agreed at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 7 July 2017, and marks a new phase in the seven-decade long effort to prevent nuclear war.

Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation.

Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992.

For the first time since the invention of the Bomb, nuclear weapons development, the production, possession, use, threat of use, and “stationing” of another country’s nuclear weapons on a state party’s national territory are all expressly prohibited in a global treaty.

The treaty also requires states to provide assistance to those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing.

While the treaty itself will not immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons, it can, over time, further delegitimise nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use.

The next step is for 50 governments to ratify it.

The new Treaty also aims to reinforce the key disarmament component (Article VI) of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires its 190+ states parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.

Under the new treaty, states may not “test” nuclear weapons or any other nuclear explosive devices.

This reinforces the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” and has been signed by 183 states, including the UK, the United States, Russia, France and China.

The new treaty is an expression of the deep concern felt by many about the enormous risks posed by nuclear weapons and the growing frustration with the failure of the nuclear-armed states to fulfil their nuclear disarmament commitments.

The initiative underscores the need for the nuclear weapons states to meet their existing legal obligations to end the nuclear arms race and pursue disarmament.

And stop any state initiating the possibly catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use.

Additional and difficult work now lies ahead to make this treaty a total reality, and prohibition treaty supporters, sceptics and opponents need to focus on advancing new and effective disarmament measures – and pursue policies that ease the growing tensions between nuclear-armed states and increase the danger of nuclear weapons use.

Such measures include, but are not limited to:

securing the remaining eight ratifications, including the United States, China, Iran and Israel, still needed to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force;

reviving the moribund US-Russian arms control and risk reduction dialogue, including resolving US-Russian treaty compliance disputes and extending the New START agreement beyond 2021;

bringing China, India, and Pakistan further into the nuclear risk reduction and disarmament process;

avoiding the introduction of new and destabilising nuclear weapons systems and capabilities;

concluding an agreement on legally-binding negative nuclear security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states;

continuing to implement and build upon the agreement between Iran and six world powers that verifiably limits its weapons-relevant nuclear activities; and

engaging in pragmatic and sustained diplomacy with North Korea, coupled with smart sanctions, to halt and reverse that country’s dangerous nuclear pursuits.

This ban comes after a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Speaking on the adoption of the treaty, ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said: “We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age.

“It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security.

“No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable – no matter the circumstance – yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do.

“Today the international community rejected nuclear weapons and made it clear they are unacceptable.

“It is time for leaders around the world to match their values and words with action by signing and ratifying this treaty as a first step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.”

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