One year ago today, the world made history. Surrounded by atomic bomb survivors, antinuclear activists, members of the Red Cross, and UN officials, 122 governments adopted new international law prohibiting nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) outlaws all nuclear weapon-related activities including possession and use, sets out measures for disarmament, and addresses victim assistance, environmental remediation, indigenous rights, and women’s empowerment. Its adoption was a groundbreaking moment at the United Nations. As Setsuko Thurlow, atomic bomb survivor from Hiroshima, said in her concluding remarks, “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”
(Read the complete analysis of “How Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons Changed the World” by Ray Acheson, WILPF Disarmament Programme Director)
WILPF has been at the centre of this work from the beginning, and our commitment has not waned. We have been an integral part of the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition that drove the treaty process forward in collaboration with governments. We were present in Oslo in December as leaders of ICAN when it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And we continue to be active in shaping the strategic direction of the campaign and working for the Treaty’s entry into force now!
In March we launched a resource in English, French, and Spanish for WILPF Sections and members through a webinar.The guide breaks down what the TPNW is all about it, highlighting its gendered provisions, and outlines what WILPF have contributed to the campaign over the last several years. The guide ends with where you can find more information and suggestions for taking action.
WILPF-UK built on the information in the resource guide and elsewhere to provide an interactive training day with a focus on negotiation and lobbying skills in April 2017. Following a presentation about the Treaty and how it fits into the UK context, participants were divided into groups to test arguments and practice talking points when meeting with members of parliament.
In May, WILPF Italy carried out a Treaty-related action at a concert. It has planned nonviolent actions to oppose the modernisation of the military bases of Ghedi, where US nuclear bombs are kept, and Camp Darby, the biggest US logistics base in Europe. It will be participating in COP24 in Poland, where it aims to draw attention to the environmental impact of nuclear weapons.
There has been strong continued activism from the Scottish section of WILPF UK, with outreach to the Scottish parliament and challenging British nuclear convoys that pass through Scotland. A large demonstration is planned for September 2018 at Faslane, the British nuclear submarine base.
WILPF staff in New York have helped organised an initiative to encourage the divestment of the city’s pension funds from nuclear weapon producers. Working with city council members and unions, this initiative is part of global Don’t Bank on the Bomb efforts to ensure divestment from nuclear weapons in accordance with the TPNW. This initiative also involves direct action, such as when several of the ICAN NYC contingent joined CODEPINK outside of the BlackRock office in New York during an annual shareholders meeting. The activists called for divestment from the company, which has been described by CODEPINK as “the world’s largest shadow bank,” with billions of US dollars invested in the world’s top weapons manufacturers.
In Australia, ICAN members, WILPF staff, and environmental activists embarked on a Radioactive Exposure Tour that Friends of the Earth Australia has been organising for the past 30 years. The “Rad Tour” featured visits to uranium mines, bomb test sites, and proposed radioactive waste dumps in South Australia and is a unique way to introduce urban-based activists to the people that are directly confronting the nuclear industry in rural or lesser-populated areas.
As an extension of our work on nuclear disarmament and the TPNW, we have lifted our voices to call for peace and denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula and for women to have a seat at the table in those discussions. WILPF’s International President and the Director of WILPF Colombia participated in the #WomenPeaceKorea delegation visit to Seoul, South Korea in May 2018, together with Women Cross DMZ, Nobel Women’s Initiative, and representatives of 30 women’s peace organisations from South Korea.
WILPF International staff meet regularly with diplomatic missions at the United Nations in New York to advocate for signature and ratification of the TPNW. We’ve also with coordinating high-profile events such as the Treaty’s opening for signature during the UNGA High Level in September 2017 and in connection with the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in December 2017. We are helping to organise the next signing ceremony, to be held 26 September 2018.
We continue to raise the public profile of the TPNW in numerous ways. The Director of WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will, has delivered presentations at universities in the US and Canada while also publishing articles and speaking to the media. Our writing and publications have advanced the Treaty’s profile in other disarmament fora too, such as during the 2017 UNGA First Committee and at the Preparatory Committee of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in April 2018. In both spaces the Treaty has come under attack from its opponents, either for being “moralistic”, ineffective, or divisive to the international community. But we know better: this treaty is a signal to the world that we will no longer accept the unacceptable, and that the global majority is creating new law to protect human life and our planet.
On this one-year anniversary of the TPNW’s adoption, there is time for celebration but not self-congratulation. Work remains to be done to bring on board the additional states parties that are necessary to trigger the Treaty’s entry-into-force—eleven states have ratified the TPNW already, and there are many indications that several other countries that have signed it will ratify later this year and into 2019. Beyond that, continuing to stigmatise these weapons and challenge the structures that support and enable them will be a mainstay of our work, until we reach the goal of a nuclear weapons free world.