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Analysis

#NuclearBan

It’s Time for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

In 2013, the UN General Assembly designated 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The day provides an opportunity to highlight the urgent need for global nuclear disarmament. This year, as nuclear-armed states engage in war and prepare for new wars, the elimination of nuclear weapons is as imperative as ever. 

Image credit: Tim Wright
Ray Acheson
26 September 2023

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. Join the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons;
  4. Urge your local city or town council to join the ICAN Cities Appeal in support of the TPNW;
  5. Ask your parliamentarians, senators, or congressional representatives to sign the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge and work for nuclear disarmament;
  6. 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;
  7. Find out if the universities in your area are helping to build nuclear weapons and campaign to end those contracts; and
  8. 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.

Resources for more information

Ending Nuclear Tests, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

Oppenheimer: Unveiling the Untold Horror

Don’t Normalise Nuclear Weapons and War—Abolish Them

Russia, Ukraine, and Nuclear Dangers

What Do Feminists Think of Nuclear Weapons?

WILPF Stories of Feminist Peace 2020: Feminists for Nuclear Disarmament

Notes on Nuclear Weapons and Intersectionality in Theory and Practice

Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy

Abolishing State Violence: A World Beyond Bombs, Borders, and Cages

Abolition and the Nuclear Age

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Ray Acheson

Ray Acheson is Director of Reaching Critical Will, WILPF’s disarmament programme. They are author of Abolishing State Violence: A World Beyond Bombs, Borders, and Cages and Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy. They organise for abolition, disarmament, and demilitarisation in their work with various coalitions and provide intersectional feminist analysis and advocacy at international disarmament forums. 

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Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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