On 24 January 1946, the first resolution of the newly created United Nations General Assembly established a commission with a mandate to make specific proposals for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Today, seventy four years later, on 24 October 2020 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into force when the 50th state ratified it.
To repeat the words uttered yesterday by Setsuko Thurlow, a Hibakusha who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”
This is a victory for citizen action, led by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of almost 60 civil society groups around the planet. States are only following where citizen action has led. Now, for the first time, people on whom nuclear weapons were tested will now have rights.
The nine nations, who terrorize us all with omnicide, and who have kept the entire world and all its citizens hostage for the past 75 years are now being called out on their actions. Their nuclear weapons are not just immoral now but illegal.
The TPNW bans development, testing, production, manufacture, transfer, possession, stockpiling of nuclear weapons. It bans the use, or threatened use of nuclear weapons. It prohibits any state party to the treaty from allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits states party to the treaty from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities.
States party to the convention are obliged to provide assistance to all victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons and to take measures for the remediation of contaminated environments.
The preamble acknowledges the harm suffered as a result of nuclear weapons, including the disproportionate impact on women and girls, and on indigenous peoples around the world.
States which join the convention must agree to destroy any nuclear weapons in their possession with a legally binding, time-bound plan. Any state which joins the convention and has another states nuclear weapons on their territory must agree to have them removed by a specified time.
The obligation to universalize the Treaty can have profound impact.
Following the 50th needed ratification, the convention enters into legal force in 90 days time, on 21 January 2021.
The embrace of the TPNW by the global community stands in stark contrast to the United States where just a few days ago it sentenced one of its citizens to almost 3 years in prison for protesting the continued existence and threat of use of nuclear weapons by the US.