TPNW entry into force: articles in Global Policy on addressing the consequences of nuclear weapons
By Elizabeth Minor
On 22 January 2021 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force: always immoral, nuclear weapons are now illegal. The countries that have joined the Treaty must now observe its prohibitions and obligations. Its normative and practical impact – including on states outside it, and others such as companies producing and investing in nuclear weapons – will continue to grow.
The TPNW was negotiated as a response to the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. Its positive obligations, articles 6 and 7, require the consequences of the past use and testing of nuclear weapons for people, communities and the environment to be addressed, and for the international community of states in the TPNW to assist affected countries in doing this.
Developing a way forward for implementing these obligations will be a key task for parties to the TPNW, including at the first meeting of states parties, which will now be held within a year.
New articles on addressing the consequences
As a starting point for assisting with this through compiling key information and research, and timed for the entry into force of the TPNW, Dr Matthew Bolton of Pace University and Article 36’s Elizabeth Minor have co-edited a special section of articles for the academic journal Global Policy on “Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear Weapons.” This was released for the 22 January online, and will be published in the journal’s February issue.
Aimed at providing some baseline information and key questions and opportunities for consideration in implementing the positive obligations of the TPNW, the articles in the section: give a global overview of past nuclear detonations and their consequences; outlines 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.
The series of articles (which will be available open access for the next two weeks) are:
- Addressing the Ongoing Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear Weapons: An Introductory Review: This article by Matthew Bolton and Elizabeth Minor gives a global overview of the facts about past nuclear weapons activities in different countries and some of the known and potential ongoing consequences of the blast, heat and radioactive energy released by past nuclear weapons detonations. It aims to inform the development of policy around the TPNW and the gathering of further relevant information to develop global humanitarian, human rights and sustainable development policy assisting communities affected by nuclear weapons.
- Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Tests: A Case Study of UK and US Test Programs at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands, Republic of Kiribati by Becky Alexis-Martin, Matthew Bolton, Dimity Hawkins, Sydney Tisch and Talei Luscia Mangioni, which reviews the consequences of nuclear testing in Kiribati and the opportunities presented by the TPNW’s obligations
- Policy Approaches Addressing the Ongoing Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear Weapons: A Commentary by Alicia Sanders-Zakre and Nate Van Duzer of ICAN, which reviews existing programmes for victim assistance and environmental remediation, and key considerations for policymakers
- Commentary on Addressing the Legacies of Nuclear Weapons Use and Testing: Perspectives from survivors edited by Elizabeth Minor and Hana Umezawa, is an interview with Terumi Tanaka and Sueichi Kido, survivors of the atomic bombings of Japan, and Dmitriy Vesselov a resident of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan (where Soviet nuclear testing was carried out). To develop an effective and responsive global policy framework for addressing the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons, survivors and communities affected by nuclear weapons use and testing, and their perspectives and expertise on what is needed, must be included. This article aims to start highlighting perspectives from affected communities on these matters, and encourage further work by the community of practice around the TPNW to bring more such perspectives, individuals and organisations into the international policy discussion.
- A Singular Opportunity: Setting Standards for Victim Assistance under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by Bonnie Docherty proposes strong standards for assisting victims to inform the work of the first meeting of states parties of the TPNW, drawing on humanitarian disarmament’s victim assistance norms and principles for assisting victims of toxic remnants of war
Article 36 will be working on this key area of implementation of the TPNW as the first meeting of states parties approaches, to support a strong plan of action in this area amongst the global community that supports the Treaty.
Featured image: ‘Nuclear weapons now illegal’ projected onto UN Headquarters in New York, 22 January 2021 Photo: ICAN/Seth Shelden