Friday, 7 July, gave everyone cause for celebration, not just because it was finally the weekend, but because the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons! This wonderful step towards greater international peace and security was achieved after years of tireless campaigning which brought more than 140 states together in the negotiating rooms of the United Nations Head Quarters in New York.
Last month I was lucky enough to attend the final negotiations in New York. It was extremely heartening to witness so many people from all over the world, civil society and diplomats alike, to come together and send the world a clear signal that nuclear weapons are inhumane, illegitimate and unjustifiable. Because the treaty is rooted in concerns of a humanitarian nature, it became possible to globally unite for the protection of human and environmental safety, and successfully shift the debate out of the stalemate of security arguments.
The treaty prohibits member states from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons. Neither is it allowed to assist, encourage or induce anyone to participate in such activities. Furthermore, it is also forbidden to allow nuclear weapons to be stationed or deployed on their territory. Not any less important are the positive obligations to provide adequate victim assistance and to take measures towards the remediation of environments contaminated as a result of use or testing of nuclear weapons.
Participating countries were not discouraged by the marked lack of participation by nuclear weapons states and their NATO allies (except for the Netherlands, who under pressure of Dutch civil society had participated in the negotiations, but voted against adoption). That this Treaty enjoys broad support from most countries in the world is a strong indication that the world does not accept nuclear weapons policies. The delegitimising impact of the treaty can put considerable pressure on nuclear weapons states to work towards disarmament, as has happened in the case of other treaties banning weapons of mass destruction.
Therefore, the treaty is a great cause for celebration as the world moves into the direction of greater universal safety. The adoption process of this treaty shows what can be achieved when we acknowledge that there are more things that unite us than divides us, the important role of civil society in pointing our leaders in the right direction, and above all, that the world is no place for nuclear weapons!