What the UN is Doing Now to Ban Nuclear Weapons and How You Can Help

What the UN is Doing Now to Prohibit Ban Nuclear Weapons and How You Can Help

by Lilly Adams


In March, 132 states took a pivotal step forward by participating in historic negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. The US was not one of these countries. Negotiations will form, “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” (United Nations. Conference to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Online at https://www.un.org/disarmament/ptnw/)The US boycott of these negotiations is an embarrassing and irresponsible decision, but will not hinder the momentum of this global movement.

Negotiations were set in motion after a UN General Assembly decision in late 2016.

This is the culmination of 72 years of work in the UN and the international community, since atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Previous international actions have moved us in the right direction: the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 committed nuclear armed states to pursue disarmament, and the 1996 International Court of Justice advisory opinion found that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to international law. Now, the ban will provide another, definitive legal tool to aid in the path towards a world without nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons states currently cling to misguided Cold War-era perceptions of the utility of nuclear weapons. Global disarmament efforts have stalled, and there are still roughly 14,900 nuclear warheads in the hands of nine states, with 6,800 in the US alone. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is asserting that such indiscriminate and devastating weapons are intolerable on the world stage. The treaty will place nuclear weapons under the same legal status as other weapons of mass destruction: biological weapons, chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and anti-personnel landmines. In doing so, it will strengthen global norms against these weapons.

The final negotiation session runs from June 15-July 7 and a finalized treaty is expected at the end of the current session.

Along with the US, none of the nuclear-armed nations are participating in the conference. As the US was the first country to develop a nuclear weapon, and the only country to have used them in war, it should recognize the moral imperative to eliminate them and lead the charge.

I encourage readers to join me in calling on our Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to express their support of the ban negotiations, and push for US participation in the resulting treaty.

If you do write, here are some suggestions to make your letter more effective by making it personal:

  • Why do YOU care about these negotiations, or having a ban on nuclear weapons? Put this front and center.
  • Make it local – we live under the threat of the Trident submarines at Bangor Naval base, we see the legacy of Hanford in the tri-cities, we lived with missiles at the Fairchild base. What do you connect most with?
  • Share our work locally – how are you involved in nuclear weapons activism? Talk about the coalition, (The Washington State Physicians for Social Responsibility Coalition http://www.psr.org/chapters/washington/peace-nuclear-weapons/washington-states-connection-nuclear-weapons.html Seattle FOR is a member) and the work we’re doing!
  • Take the sample above as a suggestion. Please edit, put things in your own words, move things around, e You can use pieces, but we can’t all submit the same article.

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