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UN Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons to become international law on 22 Jan 2021


A popular UN treaty - the ​The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)​ - will enter force tomorrow. This development will be widely reported across the globe, as a major new era in disarmament diplomacy is ushered in, putting significant pressure on those countries who continue to renew and upgrade their nuclear arsenals, including the UK.

The TPNW currently has 51 states parties who will be legally bound by the treaty, and an overall supporter-base of at least 130 countries - over two thirds of the international community - many of whom will be joining the treaty over the coming months and years.

The Treaty also has the support of the United Nations Secretary-General, who sees it as an “important element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime” as well as the support of the civil society ​International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN, 2017 Nobel Prize Winners)​.

While observing Covid restrictions, British-based ICAN partners will be marking this important milestone in many ways, working with MPs, Mayors and local leaders as well as raising awareness via billboards, banners and bell ringing (see ​here​ for more details).

● Media contact: or Dr Rebecca Johnson 07733 360955

Photos and further information on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Letter from UK organisations to Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Short briefing on how the Treaty will affect the UK

UK events and activities to mark this milestone

Watch this space for a further update tomorrow More info and quotes from civil society leaders below

How will it affect the UK?

The UK’s dismissive stance towards the treaty will have diplomatic ramifications for the Treaty, as it tries to build its Global Britain brand. The impacts will also increasingly be felt in the UK:

● Scotland’s First Minister and Government are unambiguously committed to the TPNW, seek to be in a position to join and publicly oppose all aspects of the UK’s nuclear weapons policy including the transportation of potentially lethal warheads between Faslane, Coulport, and Berkshire's bomb factories, Aldermaston and Burghfield.

● Major international banks and financial institutions are divesting from nuclear weapons production, informed by ICAN's "Don't Bank on the Bomb" campaign.

● From Manchester to Oxford to Edinburgh, cities across Britain have signed up to support the Treaty’s implementation. Many more cities will follow.

● Since October,​ ​Anglican​ and​ ​Catholic​ leaders in the UK and a range of Scottish and other UK celebrities have openly endorsed the TPNW and called on the UK government to change its stance.

Do nuclear weapons keep us safe?

Nuclear weapons are dangerous security risks, not assets. They are useless for tackling today's major threats like the COVID-19, climate and ecological emergencies.

This cannot be confined to a national debate. Whether intentional or accidental, any nuclear weapons use would have catastrophic and global humanitarian consequences.

The UK therefore has a responsibility to listen to the concerns of the global community.

The UK is not about to give up its nuclear weapons overnight, what should it do?

ICAN UK partners have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge his government to engage constructively with this Treaty.

Until such time that the UK is able to join the Treaty, ICAN UK partners have called on the UK to participate in meetings of states parties as an observer and contribute to discussions including on disarmament verification, environmental remediation and victim assistance.

Quotes from UK organisations

Noting that nuclear weapons continue to be a major security problem, Dr Rebecca Johnson, author of a forthcoming report on the TPNW's implications for the UK, said, "​This Treaty is an example of UN multilateralism in action. Britain needs to be at the table, taking the next steps towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons."

Speaking from UN House Scotland, ICAN Steering Group member, Janet Fenton, said: “​Scotland can contribute to international peace rather than being a launch pad for waging nuclear war. The TPNW shows the will of the sane majority of the world, and will ensure our protection under international law if we can accede to the TPNW”

Ben Donaldson of United Nations Association-UK said, ​“The ground is moving under the UK’s feet. This significant new UN treaty will sit alongside the other major global treaty on nuclear weapons, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and drive forward the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a global threat and two-thirds of the global community want action on disarmament. The UK has a legal and moral responsibility to act.”

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