NPT and the TPNW at the UN

This year, our Scottish Parliamentarians have a unique opportunity to join diplomats and governments to advocate for nuclear disarmament, not just from Scotland but for the world. Can you help make that happen? Here’s the background and why it’s important.

This year, the Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) gets closer to ‘entry into force’, that is the point at which it will become binding on those who join. For that to happen we only need 16 of the states who have already signed to complete ratification by putting it through their national legislation. All Greens, SNP and a good number of Scottish Labour Parliamentarians have signed a pledge to support the TPNW. The unique opportunity for our parliamentarians will arise because the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is due for Review in New York in early May 1.

The United Nations established the NPT more than fifty years ago, to prevent proliferation, that is, to curb new nation states from entering an arms race that already threatened all humanity. The world expected the UN to create legislation to prevent any repetition of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The treaty has three main purposes, described as the three pillars; states have taken some action on the first two: no new state that has signed can develop nuclear weapons; no states that sign to be prevented from developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The third pillar2 was a commitment by the (at that time 5) nuclear-armed states to complete nuclear disarmament. No legal route was established to determine how that would happen in the NPT, and while the size of their nuclear arsenals has diminished, the nuclear-armed states still have the capacity to destroy the world as we know it. Nuclear-armed member states have just been at loggerheads with the disarmament movement over multi- or unilateral approaches for years, proliferation has continued, and there are now nine nuclear-armed states. The treaty is reviewed at the UN every five years, with Preparatory Conferences between the Reviews.

In 2017, after a decade of global action by ICAN-partner-organisations’ supporters and diplomats, a new treaty, The Treaty On The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by the UN. It spells out how we can ban the bomb and what that means. The nine nuclear-armed states (and the UN member states which have capitulated to their pressure) have opposed the TPNW from the outset, suggesting that it somehow compromises the NPT. This highlights the hypocrisy of their position as NPT signatories. They have not disarmed, preferring policies like reduction of the numbers of weapons, no first use policies, implying that second use is OK, or other activities that allow them to retain the capacity to annihilate life on the planet. The TPNW actually complements the NPT and gives it the capacity to finish the job it set out to do, complete global disarmament. That’s why ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for its contribution to its adoption.

This NPT Review will be the first since the TPNW was adopted and it will be an important opportunity for the relationship between the two treaties to be highlighted. Scotland’s voice can be heard. MSP’s and Scottish MP’s can attend meetings that will take place, even if they are not part of the UK diplomatic delegation, so that in the international community Scotland is not misrepresented by UK ambassadors when they claim that the UK has a democratic mandate to renew its own nuclear weapons.

Nobel prize or no, ICAN has not finished its work yet, the campaign aims to abolish nuclear weapons! This means that the ICAN staff and the International Steering Group will be supporting the many UN member states who want to see the Treaty succeed, and even if Scotland is not a member of the UN, all parliamentarians who support the TPNW can meet and exchange ideas, experiences and opportunities to work for the TPNW. We can also lobby the nuclear armed states to make sure that they accept and discuss the impact of the TPNW on the NPT.

Scottish MPs and MSPs can meet with, for instance, the diplomats from Ireland and Austria who have worked so hard for nuclear disarmament, and talk informally together at the UN. This would be much hard to arrange in Scotland for diplomatic reasons.

ICAN is planning a special side event at the NPT where parliamentarians can meet. Off record meetings can be arranged with civil society organisations, nuclear weapons victims, scientists and academics. There will be a social event around the same time where informal exchanges can take place. Scottish MPs and our MSP’s can be accredited to attend through ICAN and its partner organisations.

Can you write to your elected representative(s) and urge them to attend?

SCND has a working group for the TPNW and members, as well as SCND staff can support you in making approaches. We have a model letter template which you can find on the nuclear website and we hope that you can adapt this to suit your regional and constituency MSPs and your MP.

SCND will also be looking for additional financial support, to make sure that we are appropriately represented at the meeting and able to provide briefings, and facilitate meetings in New York, so please consider if you can help in that way also.

This is a critical year for Scottish MPs and MSPs to support nuclear disarmament across the world by being in attendance at the NPT’s first Review Conference since the TPNW was adopted. Further details for any MSP’s interested in accreditation from Janet Fenton.

1The 2020
Review Conference
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
will take place from 27 April 2020 to
22 May 2020 in
New York, United States. The first or second weeks are likely to be
the best time for input from parliamentarians.

Nuclear Non-Proliferaton Treaty,

of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in
good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the
nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and
on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and
effective international control.

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