TPNW obligations to address nuclear harm and the first meeting of states parties
By Elizabeth Minor
Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) – on victim assistance, environmental remediation, and international cooperation and assistance – provide the first international framework for addressing the ongoing humanitarian, human rights, and environmental consequences of the past use and testing of nuclear weapons.
Addressing this ongoing harm to people and places will be a long-term commitment under the TPNW. It is a key part of its humanitarian character and practical role. Given the complexity of the issues, and the resources available to the TPNW, prioritising and sequencing work will be crucial as states approach the first Meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, which is scheduled to take place in January 2022.
In a new short paper, Article 36 provides some food for thought on how states parties might commence their approach to implementation in the runup to the first Meeting of States Parties. It outlines the significance and potential of these obligations in Article 6 and 7, and some of the factors and approaches states parties may wish to consider in starting work in this area.
Under Articles 6 and 7, the TPNW creates a framework of solidarity to support affected states parties in addressing humanitarian and environmental harm, and working towards the full enjoyment of individuals’ rights where these are affected by nuclear weapons. For the first Meeting of States Parties states could focus on developing a positive culture of work and agreeing practical time-bound steps. Parties could aim to agree steps they can take with the knowledge they have now, and identify challenging issues that can be addressed as work develops. Initial actions could focus on states parties with populations identifying themselves as affected. The inclusion and centring of affected people should be prioritised.
The TPNW gives states the opportunity to better address the continuing legacies of past nuclear weapons use and testing – and states currently outside the framework have an opportunity to constructively engage with work under the treaty, and take steps towards joining it, through contributing information and capacity to these efforts. For many countries, this could be beneficial to their affected citizens, and for countries involved in past use or testing, give an opportunity to enhance their responses.
Article 36 recently contributed to a report by ICAN outlining why NATO members should join the TPNW, which includes an analysis of the benefits and contributions these countries could make in the areas of victim assistance, environmental remediation, and international cooperation and assistance (see chapter 4).
For further reading, a series of articles aiming to provide baseline information and key questions and opportunities for consideration in implementing the positive obligations of the TPNW was recently published in a Global Policy special section on Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear Weapons (which Article 36 contributed to). The articles give a global overview of past nuclear detonations and their consequences; outline policy interventions in different countries to assist victims and remediate environments so far; and considers the opportunity the TPNW and its obligations present for making progress to address the continuing consequences of past nuclear weapons use and testing.
Featured image: ICAN campaigners in Geneva © ICAN/Aude Catimel