Nuclear bombs are the most destructive weapon of mass destruction ever created. They are also a racket.
Through gaslighting, victim blaming, denial of lived experience, and gendered assertions about credibility and rationality, the nuclear-armed states and some of their allies have constructed a myth that nuclear weapons preserve peace and stability in the “global world order”. These governments talk about nuclear weapons in the abstract, as magical tools that keep the world safe.
But nuclear weapons are not abstract. They are made of radioactive materials. They are made to destroy flesh and bone. They are designed to turn human beings and animals into shadows. To melt the skin from bodies. To reduce entire cities to ashes.
Nuclear weapons are instruments of destruction, not deterrence. They do not prevent conflict; they exacerbate it. The nuclear-armed states right now are investing billions of dollars a year into their arsenals of mass destruction, at the same time as they engage in war with each other through proxies and continue to ratchet up tensions amongst each other.
Through their use, threat of use, testing, and production nuclear weapons have been causing harm to people and the planet since their creation in 1945—an event that this year was brought back to the public’s attention due to the blockbuster movie Oppenheimer. While the movie offers a glimpse into the scientific quest to build the atomic bomb, its selective focus omits the true horror and suffering caused by these catastrophic weapons and the present danger they continue to pose to humanity.
Today, Russia’s war in Ukraine, repeated threats to use nuclear weapons, and decision to station nuclear weapons in Belarus; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s expansion and retrenched nuclearism; China’s build-up of its nuclear arsenal; the United States’ growth of its nuclear weapon facilities; the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) military alliance and sharing of nuclear-powered submarines have all increased tensions, military spending, and the risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear war.
The time for nuclear disarmament is now.
Prohibition, divestment, and abolition
The urgency of the task at hand has motivated WILPF Sections and members to work for nuclear disarmament since the dawn of the nuclear age. In 1946, WILPF recognised “that the development of the atomic bomb and other modern weapons is only the culmination of the efforts to invent ever more deadly instruments of destruction and reaffirms its conviction that the only defence against such weapons is the abolition of war.” At its Congress in 1949, WILPF members urged states to prohibit nuclear weapons and destroy existing stockpiles.
Since then, WILPF has organised in countries around the world to demand an end to nuclear testing and closing of test sites, decommissioning of nuclear weapon production facilities, remediation of affected land and water and compensation and right to return for displaced and affected communities, and of course, total nuclear disarmament.
Most recently, for many years WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will worked within the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to build momentum for the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). This international agreement, which was negotiated in 2017 at the UN General Assembly, outlaws the development, possession, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons. It entered into force on 22 January 2021 and its First Meeting of States Parties met in Vienna in June 2022, where participants adopted a strong Declaration and Action Plan setting the path for the Treaty’s implementation.
Hundreds of cities, towns, and municipalities around the world have joined the ICAN Cities Appeal in support of the TPNW. Many banks and pension funds have pulled their money out of investments in nuclear weapon production and modernisation. Parliamentarians have voiced their support for the Treaty, as have former leaders from nuclear-supportive countries. Intersessional work for the TPNW, leading up to the Second Meeting of States Parties to be held later this year, has advanced the implementation of several of the Treaty’s provisions, even as the nuclear-armed and nuclear-supportive governments refuse to join.
WILPF Sections and Reaching Critical Will have been strong advocates and activists in each of these initiatives. We have also led in promoting feminist perspectives and calling for an intersectional approach to nuclear weapon issues, including through the implementation of the TPNW’s gender-related provisions. RCW has also worked to make clear the connections between nuclear weapons and other structures of state violence, and to collaborate with other abolitionist movements for justice and peace.
Join the action to eliminate nuclear weapons
All those working for de-colonisation, racial justice, ecological regeneration, social and economic justice, disarmament, and peace can take action to help end nuclear weapons. On this International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, you can:
- Call on your government to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which prohibits all nuclear testing as well as the development, possession, and use of nuclear weapons, and all other related activities;
- Demand that nuclear-armed states immediately cease their nuclear weapon modernisation programmes and redirect that money towards nuclear disarmament, decommissioning and clean-up of nuclear sites, and a just transition for workers to socially and ecologically safe industries, among other things;
- Join the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons;
- Urge your local city or town council to join the ICAN Cities Appeal in support of the TPNW;
- Ask your parliamentarians, senators, or congressional representatives to sign the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge and work for nuclear disarmament;
- Get involved in ICAN’s Don’t Bank on the Bomb initiative to remove your money from nuclear weapons and compel your bank, pension fund, or financial institution to stop funding nuclear weapon production;
- Find out if the universities in your area are helping to build nuclear weapons and campaign to end those contracts; and
- Use the Campaigners’ Action Kit from ICAN and the Abolitionist Viewing Guide from NYCAN to write letters to newspapers and talk to your friends about the new Oppenheimer film, providing facts about the real story about nuclear weapons and nuclear testing.