Highlight 3/2020 – The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force on 22 January 2021
Ana Tskipurishvili, 3 December 2020
“I pray that every human being finds peace.”– Matsumoto Shigeko (Nagasaki survivor)
The 75th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima marked in 2020. “The birth of the United Nations in that same fateful year of 1945 is forever intertwined with the death rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted in 2017 and was opened for signature in the same year. With the deposit of the 50th instrument of ratification by Honduras, the Treaty shall enter into force on 22 January 2021. This represents an important result of the efforts of the United Nations and a large number of non-nuclear States, together with several non-governmental organizations, especially the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with the other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
On 24 October 2020, the UN Secretary General António Guterres considered that “the entry-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the culmination of a worldwide movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.”
This Treaty is the first globally applicable multilateral agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. It establishes a thorough set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The Treaty obliges States parties to take necessary and appropriate measure of environmental remediation in areas under its jurisdiction or control contaminated as a result of activities related to the testing or use of nuclear weapons. It is also the first to include provisions to help address the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use and testing. The first State that ratified the Treaty was Mexico in 2018. It took nearly three years for the Treaty to reach 50 ratifications. Article 12 (universality) obliges States to “encourage States not party to this Treaty to sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to the Treaty, with the goal of universal adherence of all States to the Treaty.” It thus becomes the obligation of fifty States to encourage others to change their policy towards nuclear weapons. The Treaty provides a strong disincentive for their proliferation and signals to all that use, threat of use and possession of these weapons is completely unacceptable. With its entry into force, the ban on nuclear weapons will be another step towards developing a norm against possessing nuclear weapons.
Ana TSKIPURISHVILI, The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force on 22 January 2021, MEIG Highlight N°3/2020, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the author and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.