Campaigners will remember that when we celebrated the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entering into force in January 2021, 90 days after the fiftieth country had signed and ratified, we looked forward to the first meeting to progress the TPNW, within a year. The Pandemic had already delayed the review of an older treaty, the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to August, and more recently the NPT has been scheduled for January 2022.

 ICAN image: Bill KiddMSP handing over letter from First Minister to HE Alexander Kmentt at the Vienna 2014 Conference

This has meant that first meeting of states parties (“1MSP” – not the acronym for Scottish Parliamentarians!) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will take place from 22 – 24 March 2022 and The United Nations Secretary-General has now invited all the UN Member States to participate. (The delay could mean some extra ratifications are added before the meeting).

If UN member States are not able or willing to ratify or accede to the treaty in time they may observe the 1MSP. This is not a substitute for full commitment to the TPNW, but can show support for the it’s aims. Outline draft procedures mean that observers can show support through speaking, submitting papers and receiving official reports, but they cannot take part in decision-making nor can they challenge decisions made. The detail of how these opportunities can be managed will be determined at the 1MSP, in the agenda item that concerns the Rules of Procedure for the Treaty’s conferences.

Scotland cannot observe the TPNW 1MSP as a country, any more than sign it, until and unless we become an independent country and join the UN as a member state, and the UK Government is at this point, unlikely to send any delegation to attend, let alone one that included representatives of Scotland, the country where they deploy their nuclear weapons! However, as stipulated in Article of the TPNW, civil society has an essential role. Academics and medics, campaigners, survivors and parliamentarians all made a huge contribution to the drafting and adopting of the TPNW, and their voices will be heard at the 1MSP and beyond. The international parliamentarian friends of the TPNW include Scottish elected representatives.

The treaty sets out observeration: “States not party to this Treaty, as well as the relevant entities of the United Nations system, other relevant international organizations or institutions, regional organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and relevant non-governmental organizations, shall be invited to attend the meetings of States Parties and the review conferences as observers.”

ICAN, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on the treaty have been nominated as the NGO coordinator for the MSP, and are encouraging all TPNW supporting NGOs and Parliamentarians to take the time and make the effort to travel to Vienna to participate in the 1MSP. Maybe a Scottish representative could speak ‘in the room’ as part of civil society and there will certainly be the opportunity to meet with campaigners, diplomats, experts and survivors from around the world, and express Scotland’s support for the treaty and abhorrence of the bomb.

Please make sure that you ask your MSP if they will attend the 1MSP,and also consider if you and /or your group can get the Eurostar to beautiful Vienna, and join in this historic and exciting event. There will be a special ICAN briefing on 21st Septemer in the Scottish Parliament to fully explain the 1MSP and how Scotland can make itself heard – despite Westminster. Email if you are interested in attending.

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