By Ray Acheson

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has reached the 50 ratifications required for its entry into force!

Honduras deposited its instrument of ratification on 24 October, United Nations Day, which marks the 75th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter in 1945. The governments of Jamaica and Nauru deposited their instruments of ratification on 23 October, the eve of this anniversary. Their collective efforts mean the TPNW has reached the requisite 50 ratifications to enter into force, which will happen in 90 days, on 22 January 2021.

This is truly a historic moment for nuclear abolition, achieved only by the relentless efforts of generations of activists and diplomats around the world. In January, nuclear weapons will be unlawful to possess, develop, deploy, test, use threaten to use, or assist in any way, shape, or form for TPNW states parties. Nuclear weapons will be on the same legal footing as biological and chemical weapons, as landmines and cluster bombs, as blinding laser weapons. Just as chemical weapon stockpiling and use is so rightly condemned, so too will be the possession of nuclear weapons.

Speaking at the First Committee side event where Jamaica and Nauru announced their ratifications on Friday, 23 October, Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow said that when she heard the news of the TPNW’s imminent entry into force, she found herself communing with the spirits of hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

I was immediately in conversation with these beloved souls — my sister, my nephew Eiji, other dear family members, my classmates, all the children and innocent people who perished. I was reporting to the dead, sharing this good news first with them, because they paid the ultimate price with their precious lives. Like many survivors, I made a vow that their deaths would not be in vain and to warn the world about the danger of nuclear weapons, to make sure that no one else suffers as we have suffered.

Condemning the “barbaric behavior of nine nations who continue to develop more horrendous weapons, prepared to repeat nuclear massacres,” Thurlow rejoiced that so many activists and governments persisted in spite of being confronted by indifference and ignorance; in spite of being ridiculed by nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states. “Nuclear abolitionists everywhere can be incredibly encouraged and empowered by this new legal status. Now, with greater intensity and purpose, we will push forward.” While we have a long path to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons, she noted, “with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we can be certain that that beautiful day will dawn.”