The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature on 20 September 2017, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. This was a historic moment, when heads of states and foreign ministers gathered in New York to officially sign this groundbreaking treaty. More than 50 countries signed in the first 8 hours.
As the UK is against this international initiative, Scotland wanted to show solidarity and support for the ban treaty and organised its own Citizens Signing Ceremony in front of the Scottish Parliament. Many MSPs have signed the treaty along with campaigners, tourists from all parts of the word or local people passing by the parliament.
Here are the first 50 signatories to the ban treaty, but many more are expected to sign in the next few days.
Central African Republic
Congo (Republic of)
Guyana (+ ratification)
Holy See (+ ratification)
São Tomé & Principe
Thailand (+ ratification)
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will soon be open for signing by the world’s nations. We are very hopeful that there will be many signings on the day itself and soon after. News of the signings as they come in will be on this website, and via social media outlets – Scottish CND, Scrap Trident Coalition and ICAN UK so you can share widely.
To help us prepare, the founding chair of ICAN, world renowned authority on the impact of nuclear weapons, Professor Tilman Ruff, was on a rare visit to the UK from Australia. As the US and North Korea exchanged threats, Tilman was in Edinburgh describing the catastrophic effects on the world’s climate of even a regional nuclear war. Speaking about the TPNW he told his audience that amongst the international disarmament community the UK was considered to be the nuclear-armed states that is most likely to change its status and sign the Treaty. He even went so far as to say that “ the role of Scotland is of huge global significance”.
Responding to our global role Scotland now has four ICAN partner organisations: Scottish CND, UN House; Medact; Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre. Plans are being made to spread the word and play our parts together.
Here’s some things you can do immediately:
1. Write and tell the UK Prime Minister to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
2. Send ICAN’S parliamentary pledge for the TPNW to your own MP and to your constituency MSP and all your 7 list MSPs. Highlight Scotland’s position in your letters or emails http://www.icanw.org/projects/pledge/
3. Read the Treaty Text. Scottish ICAN Partners will have hard copies to pick up soon, along with a new campaigners’ leaflet which will be distributed to any interested groups.
4. Use the TPNW to re-frame your discussions about nuclear disarmament.
5. Help us stop the #NukesofHazard convoys from taking Trident warheads on public roads. See www.nukesofhazard.co.uk for more information and see nukewatch.org.uk for the new report “Unready Scotland”.
The below letter was published in the Guardian on 31st of Aug. See the article here.
Fourteen medical doctors and scientists call on the British government to join the international treaty demanding the ban of nuclear weapons
As medical doctors and scientists, we write concerning the escalating crisis between North Korea and the US (World running out of diplomatic levers, 30 August). The power to kill millions is in the hands of unstable countries and unpredictable people. Tensions between these two nuclear powers clearly illustrate the dangers of nuclear weapons, which make the world less stable.
Evidence is indisputable that any use of such weapons would have a devastating health impact on populations. Robust scientific studies show that even a limited exchange of nuclear weapons would lead to major crop failures around the world. Such a “nuclear famine” scenario would result in mass starvation, potentially affecting as many as 2 billion people.
On 20 September, countries commence signing the comprehensive treaty banning nuclear weapons adopted on 7 July 2017 at the UN. The treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons agreed by 122 nations finally gives these weapons of mass destruction a similar legal status to biological and chemical weapons. The treaty prohibits signatories from: preparation of nuclear weapons, actual use, and assisting other states or non-state groups in such actions. The UK, alongside other nuclear-armed states, boycotted the negotiations, despite government claims to support multilateral disarmament and despite polling indicating that 75% of the UK population supported UK government participation.
It is not too late for the position of the British government to change. Possession of nuclear weapons undermines a potential leadership role for the UK to enhance security and stability in the world. We call upon the British government to immediately begin the process of joining the treaty. As a first step, it could reduce its threatening nuclear posture, specifically by abandoning its “first-use policy” and ending continuous nuclear-armed patrols – both of which increase the risk of nuclear war.
Dr Michael Orgel Medact Scotland
Dr Stuart Parkinson Executive director, Scientists for Global Responsibility
Dr Philip Webber Chair, Scientists for Global Responsibility
Dr Ira Helfand Co-president, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and recipient of the 1985 Nobel peace prize
Professor Peter Ware Higgs Nobel laureate physics
Professor David McCoy Director, Medact UK
Professor Alan Robock Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
Professor John CM Gillies
Dr Judith McDonald Medact Scotland
Dr Lesley Morrison Medact Scotland
Professor David Webb
Professor Malcolm Povey University of Leeds
Dr Margaret McCartney GP, Glasgow
Dr Guy Johnson Medact Scotland
In the month since the agreement on the Nuclear Ban treaty in New York coverage of this momentous event has been a little thin in the Scottish main stream media, but more thorough in the social media. You can read the full summary here so you can see if you missed any.
The Scottish CND Global Ban Treaty Working Group are organising a public meeting on on Wed, 23rd of Aug at 7 pm in the Rainbow Room of the Quaker Meeting House (38 Elmbank Crescent Glasgow G2 4PS).
The United Nations Treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was adopted in July in New York. A Scottish Civil Society Team, including Scottish CND, and other Scottish partners in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons attended and participated.
This will be a participative meeting, so following a report back from those involved, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and raise issues.
Getting to Glasgow is not an option for all of us. However, we will try our best to stream this event online either via independencelive.net or our Facebook page. In addition, similar events will be organised in other areas.
Anyone who is interested is very welcome to attend this meeting.
Please pass the word round.
On the 20th of September, the treaty opens for signatures and becomes law when 50 UN Member States have signed. We still have lots to do so please keep checking our website regularly.
Download the leaflet for this meeting Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Meeting leaflet.
The already dangerous crisis in Korea has escalated further with the reckless rhetoric emanating from both the United States and the Democratic Republic of Korea. The wild threats issued by both sides only inflame an already explosive situation. If acted on they could lead directly to the death of tens of millions of people in both countries and beyond their borders. They must stop.
At a time of similar confrontation in 1994 the United States and the DPRK chose to enter into negotiations and they were able to work out an arrangement that met both nations’ security needs until the United States suspended the talks in 2002. There is an urgent need to resume direct negotiations without preconditions to defuse this dangerous crisis.
At the United Nations last month 122 nations pointed out the path forward by voting to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty recognized the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that will result from nuclear war and prohibited the possession of these weapons. The United States, the Democratic Republic of Korea, and all of the nuclear-armed states need to acknowledge the unacceptable danger posed by these weapons, and clearly illustrated by the current crisis. They need to understand that nuclear weapons do not enhance their security, but pose the greatest risk to their own security and the security of all peoples. And they need to negotiate the time bound, verifiable, and enforceable elimination of their arsenals.
There is a great opportunity to hear the author of this article, Tilman Ruff, at a public meeting on the evening of Friday 8th September at the Quaker Meeting House, Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh. Tilman is an Australian public health and infectious diseases physician and a leading advocate of the global health imperative to eradicate nuclear weapons. The article is in context at http://www.powertopersuade.org.au/blog/why-the-new-un-nuclear-weapons-ban-is-important-including-for-social-health-environmental-policy/28/7/2017 but it is pasted below for convenience.
WHY THE NEW UN NUCLEAR WEAPONS BAN IS IMPORTANT, INCLUDING FOR SOCIAL, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
You could be forgiven for not having heard much about it, but a big and important thing happened in New York on 7 July. In Conference Room 1 at the United Nations, at 10:47 am, representatives of 122 governments voted to adopt the text of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
There was only one state which voted against the treaty, the Netherlands, hosting US nuclear weapons on its soil and member of NATO, unreformed and unrepentant, but there because of the weight of public and parliamentary pressure. There was only one abstention, by Singapore, unexpected and apparently as a result of last-minute instructions from the capital, most likely as a result of US pressure. Regrettably, this was the first time that regional solidarity among the 10 states of ASEAN was broken during these negotiations and the lead-up to them.
A number of other states, particularly smaller and poorer countries more vulnerable to political and economic pressure from nuclear-armed bullies, simply stayed away or did not vote. This pressure, particularly from the US, France and Russia, escalated dramatically during the last week of the conference when it became clear that the adoption of a treaty was in sight.
The forthright ambassador of South Africa was the only one to publicly call out the “incredible pressure” brought to bear on African states in an attempt to discourage them from supporting the treaty.
A GLOBAL SHIFT
Nevertheless, the outcome could hardly have been more decisive, and the world is changed. Indeed as delegates began filling the conference room earlier and in larger numbers than at any other time during the negotiations, it was clear that the nuclear bullies had failed to derail this historic effort and that the treaty text would be agreed.
And just as well, because the General Assembly mandate for these negotiations ended on 7 July, so if agreement had not been possible to reach, it would have been an even longer and harder road to ban nuclear weapons than the current 71 year one since the very first resolution of the UN General Assembly, on 24 Jan 1946, called for the “elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons”. There was in fact an extraordinary degree of determination and goodwill in the room to get the job done, and a willingness to put aside national differences that is unprecedented in my 35 year experience of following these issues closely.
Finally, nuclear weapons are prohibited, filling a gaping wound in international law, which has seen the last and worst weapon of mass destruction, the only ones posing an acute existential threat to all humanity and to the biosphere that is our only home, as the only major class of indiscriminate and inhumane weapon not specifically prohibited by an international treaty. States that continue to possess nuclear weapons and claim some special right to wield these global suicide bombs are now pariahs: international outlaws.
One reason you may not have heard much about this landmark treaty to date is that the treaty negotiations were boycotted by the nine nuclear armed states, and the other states who fuel nuclear proliferation and obstruct nuclear disarmament by claiming that there are some circumstances in which they would want US nuclear weapons to be launched on their behalf. These are the 28 member states of NATO, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
HOW DID THE TREATY COME ABOUT?
The negotiating conference was convened “to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” All UN member states were able to and encouraged to participate. There were three main sets of factors that led to this mandate.
The first is the longest unfinished business of the UN to eliminate nuclear weapons being unacceptably delayed by all the nine nuclear-armed states failing over decades to fulfil their legally binding obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament.
Worse, all of them are doing the opposite – massively investing for the indefinite future in extensive refurbishment and renewal of their nuclear arsenals. The rest of the world, who almost without exception understand the gravity of the threat to all humanity posed by the nuclear sword of Damocles wielded by a few, have grown increasingly frustrated and impatient with discussions about nuclear weapons being dictated by the states wielding the weapons and with waiting for what meagre crumbs might fall from the nuclear disarmament table.
Secondly, in contrast to the paralysis in nuclear disarmament, there has been substantial progress in the prohibition and progressive elimination of the other major kinds of indiscriminate and inhumane weapons – biological and toxin weapons, chemical weapons, antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions.
In each case, the experience has been consistent. The first crucial step has been codifying in law that the relevant weapon has intrinsically unacceptable effects, should never be used under any circumstances and must be eliminated – as former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said, “There are no right hands for the wrong weapons”. These prohibitions have provided the basis and motivation for elimination regimes.
Thirdly, the last seven years have seen a growing humanitarian initiative regarding nuclear weapons. Renewed political space was created by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn in 2007; and then by President Barack Obama, for the idea of a world free of nuclear weapons.
Just prior to the 2010 Review Conference of the non-proliferation treaty, Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, articulated with renewed vigour and priority that, for the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons is an urgent humanitarian imperative. This resulted in the recognition by the RevCon of the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”.
On the back of this recognition, Norway, Mexico and Austria in 2013-4 organised the first ever intergovernmental conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The conclusions of these evidence-based conferences drove a growing movement of the vast majority of states through NPT and UN forums, and the Humanitarian Pledge initiated by Austria, for a humanitarian imperative to fill the existing legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
A UN Working Group on nuclear disarmament recommended to the 2016 UN General Assembly (UNGA) that a treaty prohibiting and providing for the elimination of nuclear weapons was the next best step that the world could now take. This led to the mandate for the ban treaty negotiations being supported by over 120 states at the UNGA in late 2016. Throughout these processes, and a new broad civil society campaign coalition, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) became the principal civil society partner for governments serious about disarmament. ICAN was founded by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), and launched in Melbourne in 2007 by IPPNW’s Australian affiliate, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War.
WHAT’S IN THE TREATY?
Drawing on other disarmament treaties, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons provides a categorical and comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons and any activities supporting their possession, deployment and possible use. Its preamble articulates deep concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences from any use of nuclear weapons, the consequent need to eliminate them completely, and that they should never be used again under any circumstances.
It notes that the risks posed by nuclear weapons threaten the security of all humanity and that therefore all states share the responsibility to prevent any use. It recognises that the consequences of nuclear weapons use cannot be adequately addressed, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socio-economic development, food security and the health of current and future generations.
For the first time in a nuclear disarmament instrument, tribute is paid to hibakusha (nuclear survivors), and it recognises the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls, and on Indigenous peoples, including of course the Aboriginal people subjected to British nuclear tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in the 1950s.
The treaty commits each State party never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise aquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons. It also prohibits the transfer, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; and to assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any prohibited activity.
The treaty is carefully crafted to enable states that own nuclear weapons, owned them previously, or have them stationed on their territory, to accede to the treaty. It requires that nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons programs and facilities be eliminated under verifiable, irreversible and time-bound plans to be agreed with states parties.
The details of these elimination regimes clearly require the participation of the states that possess the weapons, but the treaty provides a clear framework and non-discriminatory principles for these regimes. It provides for the possibility of additional protocols to the treaty being developed. The treaty also provides for safeguards standards consistent with obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and that these may change – hopefully strengthen – in the future.
No state can reasonably argue that this treaty in any way undermines or contradicts the NPT, or that it could not join this treaty. Indeed these provisions to allow for the future joining of the treaty by states not in the negotiating room and with no current desire to do so was the most difficult part of the negotiations, reflecting the seriousness of the desire to craft not only a prohibition instrument, but one that provides for the elimination of nuclear weapons, as required by the conference’s negotiating mandate.
HUMANITARIAN AND HUMAN RIGHTS NORMS
One important aspect of the treaty is that it builds on the humanitarian and human rights based norms powerfully developed in the landmine and cluster munitions treaties, providing for needs-based assistance to victims and feasible clean-up of contaminated environments as core obligations for states joining the treaty.
This is the first treaty related to nuclear weapons which addresses these matters. It calls on states to provide assistance to people affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, without discrimination, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as providing for their social and economic inclusion.
The treaty also enshrines an obligation for states to take necessary and appropriate measures towards environmental remediation of areas contaminated by nuclear weapon use or testing. Clearly much of the harm caused by nuclear weapons cannot be undone in the way traumatic injuries may be able to be treated, and that discrete munitions can be removed, but these provisions should help ensure that the ongoing needs of survivors and for environmental monitoring and where possible clean-up are not forgotten.
States in a position to assist in these tasks are obliged to do so; and the responsibility of states that have used or tested nuclear weapons draws specific mention.
States parties will meet at least every two years to review and promote the implementation of the treaty. It will be possible for a two thirds majority of states parties to agree on amendments to the treaty. The treaty will be of unlimited duration, and its provisions must be accepted in toto by states joining; reservations by which states may specify particular provisions of the treaty they do not accept, will not be possible.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The treaty will open for signature on 20 September 2017, during the opening week of this year’s UN General Assembly session. It will enter into force 90 days after 50 governments have ratified it.
Given that the mandate for the negotiating conference and the conference’s adoption of the treaty text were both supported by over 120 states, it can be expected that more than 100 states will sign the treaty before the end of this year, and that it will enter into force by the middle of next year.
The next article will consider how this historic treaty can be best utilised by governments, parliamentarians and civil society in Australia and elsewhere to advance the elimination of nuclear weapons.
There has been a written question to the Defence Secretary as a follow up to Patrica Gibson’s question in the house last week. Apparently there are different kinds of multilateral disarmament and we’ve picked the wrong one!
Nuclear Weapons: Written question
Asked by Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his oral Answer of 10 July 2017, Official Report, column 23, to the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran, for what reasons it is Government policy that the nuclear ban treaty should not apply to the UK.
Answered by: Sir Michael Fallon
The UK will never sign, ratify or become party to the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. We do not believe that it will bring us closer to a world without nuclear weapons as it fails to address the key issues that must first be overcome to achieve lasting global nuclear disarmament. We consider that the best way to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach within existing international frameworks. The UK continues to work towards global nuclear disarmament through the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty