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Sunday 22 January marks the second anniversary of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

By: Beret Dernbach

The treaty, which entered into force on 22 January 2021, prohibits the development, testing production, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as the deployment of nuclear weapons on national territory and assisting other states in proliferation activities. This comprehensive ban binds non-nuclear signatories to a policy of nonproliferation and provides the tools and frameworks necessary for nuclear-armed states to disarm.

The impetus for the TPNW came in 2010 when the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons spurred a renewed interest in the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. In the years that followed, the UN General Assembly expressed collective concern about the impact of nuclear weapons and committed to action. In 2013, the General Assembly established a working group to develop disarmament proposals, followed by a series of conferences in 2013 and 2014 studying the effects of nuclear weapons. In 2017, another conference was held to negotiate a legally binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, culminating in the adoption of the TPNW on 7 July 2017. It has since been signed by 92 countries, and ratified by 68, entering into force in 2021 following the 50th ratification.

A key actor in the movement for disarmament, as well as the initial creation of the TPNW, is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN is a coalition of more than 600 non-governmental organizations – including UN House Scotland – seeking urgent action to advance nuclear disarmament negotiations and promoting adherence to the TPNW., which provides a platform for Scottish ICAN partner organizations to speak with a unified Scottish voice for global disarmament, notes Scotland’s importance in the TPNW and its potential to single-handedly disarm the United Kingdom, which is currently not a signatory to the treaty:

“All of the UK nuclear weapons are primed for use from Scotland’s Faslane naval base which depends on the warhead store at the nearby Coulport site. No one has come up with a viable alternative site outside Scotland whose whole parliament and present government oppose nuclear weapons,” the site explains. Should a future independent Scottish Government publicly and specifically commit to the TPNW, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated it would, UK weapons systems could be removed from Scotland without the need for subsequent negotiations.

Until that day comes, UN House Scotland and other ICAN UK-based partner institutions will continue to garner support for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts amongst MSPs. UN House Scotland remains committed to Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace and Security, and the elimination of nuclear weapons across the world. We participate in seminars and lectures, and host open events aimed at collaborating with all levels of society to raise awareness, encourage dialogue, and organize advocacy efforts. More information on UN House Scotland’s Nuclear Disarmament campaign can be found here.

The full text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons can be read here.

Additional information on the TPNW can be found here and here.

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