Susi Snyder, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
In February 2022, Vladimir Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons.
The threat of nuclear war hasn’t reached this level of public attention for generations. From the front page of the Economist, to a New York Times opinion piece by the US president, nuclear weapons are gathering public attention and concern. People are scared, and they should be.
Nuclear weapons are designed to be indiscriminate, and devastating. Instead of ducking and covering, many states are taking action. From June 21-23, governments will gather for the First Meeting of States Parties of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
This meeting is a major milestone for the TPNW since its entry into force. The meeting will be the first time that the states that have joined the treaty will come together to discuss progress and iron out technical details and next steps.
Governments participating in this meeting are expected to:
- Adopt a political declaration that responds to the recent threats of use of nuclear weapons, and the increased risk of nuclear conflict.
- Develop procedures for providing assistance to victims of use or testing of nuclear weapons, and for remediating the environment affected by nuclear weapons contamination.
- Decide on key aspects of the implementation of the TPNW, including the deadlines for destruction of nuclear weapons by nuclear-armed states joining the treaty.
- Expand and reinforce efforts to increase the membership of the treaty in face of increasing nuclear weapons threats.
The TPNW came about because of a shift in nuclear weapons discussions to focus on the humanitarian impact of the weapons. A series of conferences examining these impacts took place in 2013 and 2014. Since then, new information and studies were conducted further elaborating the catastrophic consequences of any nuclear weapon use. These will be presented in a one-day conference organized by the Austrian government on June 20. This conference is a way to confront the worrying trend of military and political analysts, both in Russia and in NATO countries that try to normalize the threats to use of nuclear weapons and downplay the humanitarian impact of any use.
The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been uniquely shaped by civil society, who pushed for some of the treaty’s most groundbreaking articles on victim assistance, gender, and environmental remediation. That’s why, at the First Meeting of States Parties, we want to promote participation and give everyone the chance to be a part of this crucial moment. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is organizing a major two-day forum in advance of these meetings (June 18-19), with sessions available to be watched from anywhere.
For more on Nuclear Ban Week, Vienna, see: vienna.icanw.org.