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The TPNW and stigmatization in action

An end of year message from ICAN

In 2021, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force. This made using and threatening to use nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, threatened to use nuclear weapons and put its nuclear forces on high alert status. The TPNW has been an effective tool for stopping Russia from using nuclear weapons and here's how:

  1. States, international organisations and civil society supporting the TPNW gathered in Vienna to respond to the threats and increasing risk of nuclear war. On 22 June, the 65 member states of the TPNW issued the strongest condemnation of threats to use nuclear weapons that a UN body has ever made, declaring that any use of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, and setting the bar high for how governments must respond to Russia’s threats.

  2. Then 147 states at the United Nations declared in New York on 22 August that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable “under any circumstances”.

  3. Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO said on 27 September that “any use of nuclear weapons is absolutely unacceptable”. This is the first time a NATO Secretary General has said this.

  4. German Chancellor Scholtz mirrored this on 8 October, “We need to give a clear answer to nuclear threats: They’re dangerous for the world, and the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable”.

  5. China's President Xi said on 4 November echoed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by calling on the world to “jointly oppose the use of, or threats to use, nuclear weapons.”

  6. Indian Prime Minister Modi cancelled a summit with Putin in Shanghai reportedly over objections to Russian threats to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine invasion.

  7. In Indonesia on 16 November, the G20, which includes many nuclear armed and nuclear endorsing states, asserted that threats and use of nuclear weapons is “inadmissible”, a clear paraphrasing of the language set in Vienna by the TPNW states parties.

The strong global condemnation of nuclear threats and use of nuclear weapons is based on the new law we achieved through the TPNW, and ICAN has worked tirelessly to advocate, promote, and mobilize our network to enable this progress.

The strength and universality of this response took Russian leadership aback, and in late October, we saw Putin walk back his threats. And both the US State Department and German Chancellor Scholtz concluded that the strong international condemnations shifted Russia’s behaviour. We are by no means clear of the danger -- the risk continues to be very high and as we have experienced this year, the situation can change very quickly in any of the nuclear armed states based on the whim of one of their leaders. The world will never be safe until all nuclear weapons are eliminated, and 2023 will be a crucial year for making this happen.

Three years after the Cuban missile crisis, the NPT was negotiated.

Three years after the near nuclear war due to the exercise Able Archer, US President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev met in Reykjavik and started to negotiate unprecedented nuclear reductions.

Faced with the horrors of nuclear threats, the world might have a window of opportunity in a couple of years to finish the job and get started on a process of nuclear disarmament. 2023 is our opportunity to set the stage for that.

In 2023, ICAN and our partner organisations around the world will grow our campaign efforts to make sure that we turn this year's horrific nuclear threats into a strong movement for stigmatizing, banning and eliminating nuclear weapons.

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