Parties to Nuclear Ban Treaty Agree Nuclear Deterrence is the Problem

By the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

The Second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW has successfully concluded and agreed that nuclear deterrence is a significant security problem, requiring urgent attention by the international community, that more research on the impacts of nuclear weapons is needed, and that the harms caused by nuclear weapons use and testing require ongoing attention.

94 countries participated in the meeting as states parties or observers including some that currently endorse the use of nuclear weapons in their defense doctrines. These countries engaged in a robust and interactive debate during the week, adopting a political declaration and package of decisions.

Nuclear deterrence is a cause of global instability and insecurity

One of the adopted decisions included, for the first time ever, an agreement to work together to challenge the false narratives of nuclear deterrence. States parties mandated states, the International Committee of the Red Cross and ICAN and other stakeholders and experts, “To challenge the security paradigm based on nuclear deterrence by highlighting and promoting new scientific evidence about the humanitarian consequences and risks of nuclear weapons and juxtaposing this with the risks and assumptions that are inherent in nuclear deterrence.” 

There remains an information gap between what would actually happen as a result of nuclear war and the policies of the nuclear-armed states and their allies, and efforts to bridge this gap are the primary responsibility of those whose policies include the use of nuclear weapons. 

New evidence on the impacts of nuclear weapons demand action from the global community

New research was presented during the meeting as well, including that there is much greater understanding of the cascading effects on food supplies, the financial system and energy supplies that help us better predict the likely effects of nuclear detonations.

It was understood that research alone cannot reduce the risks of nuclear weapons, but that it can inform the public and policy makers about the harm existing in their arsenals or security doctrines. 

Additionally, the Scientific Advisory Group presented research findings showing that  the elimination of nuclear weapon facilities is possible and that there are ways to achieve conversion of facilities to civilian use; and there are ways to develop processes for arms control, such as weapon counting and warhead authentication.

Importantly, the Scientific Advisory Group also called for a new UN study on the consequences of nuclear war given the last comprehensive studies were done in the late 1980s.

Centering affected communities

The states heard testimony from members of communities affected by the use, testing and development of nuclear weapons, and heard their calls for recognition by governments of the harms they did to people, particularly Indigenous peoples.

They also heard about the efforts made so far to repair the damage that has scarred people and the land, as well as to open official records and do more research on the health impacts and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons.

These representatives, supported by wider civil society, called for the clean up and remediation of lands – through Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW – in which Indigenous peoples must be involved as the Traditional Owners, and research on nuclear weapon impacts on intangible cultural heritage.

A joint statement endorsed by 26 nuclear affected community-led organizations, and supported by a further 45 allied organizations  said “We have the right and responsibility to speak about what nuclear weapons really do… We call on States Parties to the TPNW to push relentlessly for its universalization.”

Other stakeholders

A delegation of 23 parliamentarians from 14 countries mostly from countries that are yet to sign the treaty met on the margins of the conference, and delivered a statement denouncing nuclear threats while urging governments to sign and ratify the treaty urgently.

The financial community was also present, delivering a joint statement by more than 90 investors, representing over $1 trillion in assets under management, encouraging states to work with the financial community to further strengthen the norms and objectives of the treaty, including by ending financing relationships with the nuclear arms industry.

During the week, more than 65 events, including art exhibitions, concerts, panel discussions, awards ceremonies and more were held on the margins of the meeting. 

The Third Meeting of States Parties to the treaty will take place 3-7 March, 2025 in New York.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of non-governmental organizations promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty. ICAN is the international campaign to stigmatise, prohibit & eliminate nuclear weapons.

This article was published on December 1, 2023 at ICAN.

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