“The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” said Elayne Whyte Gomez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the U.N., referring to the nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 during World War II.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was officially adopted after months of negotiations by the U.N. General Assembly and many NGOs, with the Friday vote. It bans the development, testing, production, manufacturing and also the acquisition, possession, or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.
122 countries voted in favour, including Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Iran, which reached a diplomatic accord in 2015 with the U.S. and five other world powers curbing Tehran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon also voted for the treaty. The Netherlands, which has U.S. nuclear weapons on its territory, was urged by its parliament to send a delegation but voted no and Singapore abstained.
The nine countries that have nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel — boycotted the talks and did not adopt the treaty, which does not technically apply to them, but strengthens the moral and legal case against using nuclear weapons.
In 2016 ICAN supporter Setsuko Thurlow was named Arms Control Person of the Year for 2015 in recognition of her tireless work to free the world of nuclear weapons. As a 13-year-old student in Hiroshima when a US nuclear bomb destroyed the city, she welcomed the vote, saying survivors “have worked all our lives to make sure that no other human beings should ever again be subjected to such an atrocity.”
In a joint statement, the U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France said their countries don’t intend to ever become party to the treaty which “clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment” and is incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has kept the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years. The treaty offers no solution to “the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program.
But we take heart:
Kate Hudson (CND) writes:
“The treaty is a significant pointer towards changing international attitudes to nuclear weapons. Previous treaties prohibiting chemical and biological weapons helped to stigmatise them in the minds of the public. Can you imagine being part of a chemical weapons alliance, as the UK continues to be part of NATO, a nuclear alliance?
“While we welcome the treaty, it’s important to be realistic. Given that the UK parliament voted almost a year ago to give the £205bn project to replace Trident the green light, it is unlikely that Theresa May will be signing up to the treaty any time soon. CND will continue to work with all our partners in Parliament and across civil society to oppose the replacement of Trident, as well as raising awareness of the treaty and the potential it has to bring about positive change”.