Today is a day of celebration for the Joint Public Issues Team and other advocates for peace around the globe, as the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) comes into legal force.
For the 86 countries who have signed the Treaty, and for any more who decide to do so in the future, this means a stringent commitment to a nuclear-free state. That means signatories cannot develop, test, produce, manufacture, transfer, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, or allow them to be stationed on their territory.
But critics say that because none of the nuclear powers have signed this treaty, it will have a negligible effect. We disagree.
Firstly, international treaties have a huge moral weight, and are able to shift the conversation around humanitarian issues like nuclear weapons. The TPNW has support from the majority of countries in the world, and dismantles the myth that nuclear weapons are universally popular among countries. This is the first step towards nuclear weapons states taking another look at their stockpiles, and asking – can we continue to justify this?
It’s also still possible for nuclear weapons states to start engaging with this treaty at any time. It’s worth remembering that when the treaty to ban landmines was first proposed, the UK Government was ardently opposed; but eventually became a major advocate.
Our Government has actually committed to disarmament before, as well. In 1968 the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was introduced, and by signing it, the UK committed to “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” So we need to remind our leaders about this obligation and encourage them to fulfil it by engaging with multilateral agreements like the TPNW – especially as the UK Government frequently reaffirm their commitment to the NPT.
Finally, a leaked memo from the US mission to NATO states that the TPNW would have a direct impact on NATO and its allies, making it harder to transport nuclear-related materials, and undermining the concept of ‘deterrence’ in the minds of the general public.
There is work to do, but the TPNW is far from without impact.
To celebrate, the Joint Public Issues Team have taken part in an interfaith statement celebrating the introduction of the Treaty. As people of faith, we stand together for a more peaceful world, which is why we call on the UK Government to engage with the TPNW. You can watch that statement here.
It can feel tricky to take personal steps which will help the mission of the TPNW in creating a world free from nuclear weapons. But there’s plenty that individuals can do to help. One really great action is to read the report produced by the UK Nuclear Weapons Financing Research Group about where banks and pension funds invest your money. You can take action on this report by writing to your financial institution to let them know about the TPNW, and ask them to review their policy about investing your funds in nuclear weapons-producing companies in light of the changed international situation. The action has been made really easy here.
This is a time for celebration and a time for action. We thank God for the tangible change in the campaign for a more peaceful world, and pray for guidance in planning the next stages of building a world free from nuclear weapons.
You can read more from our denominations here:
The URC: Activists Welcome the Nuclear Ban