Nuclear Fear

After states ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons it will not necessarily be a smooth road to eliminate them

30/01/2018 13:44 GMT | Updated 30/01/2018 13:44 GMT
Nuclear power plant at night in South Ukraine

On 17 December 2017 Mexico became the fourth country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

This comes at a time where the World Economic Forum has recently disclosed that fear of a nuclear attack is one of the top things people all over the world fear most at the beginning of 2018.

This is a legitimate fear. With North Korea and the USA using threatening rhetoric about the size of their nuclear arsenals and stating that the nuclear option is on the table, who would have thought that the world would return to nuclear attack being a primary concern for so many people.

Now, more than ever, is the time to rally governments to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

This treaty makes the production, transfer and selling of nuclear weapons illegal and if we had created and ratified this early, North Korea would not have been able to develop their nuclear weapons. But it is still not too late, over 50 states have already signed the treaty, the next step is for each state to ratify it, making it part of their national law. Once 50 states send the official letter saying they have ratified the treaty (known as an instrument of ratification) to the UN headquarters in New York, the treaty becomes law and every country in the world has to respect it, including North Korea.

North Korea is already facing crippling sanctions from the USA which will hinder it from its economic growth plans. Banning these weapons means that it will not be able to continue developing its nuclear weapons programme. Of course the other side of the coin is that USA, UK, India, Israel and Russia will also have to freeze their production and focus on creating a plan to denuclearize their arsenals. That would mean all states would essentially be getting rid of their nuclear capabilities together.

It may seem like an unlikely reality but I want to remind everyone it is possible. Let’s look at the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Prior to its creation, countries thought it was ok to stockpile a weapon that gets planted in the ground of any country it is used in and can go off at any time. A landmine can remain active for up to 50 years, so an innocent person or child can be walking in a field 50 years after a conflict which he/she had nothing to do with and have their leg blown off (or another part of their body). What a horrific weapon! Similarly to nuclear weapons, the effects are long lasting, with victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs still being born today with respiratory problems because of the nuclear attacks in 1945. The effects of the Chernobyl attacks are still being felt by the local population too.

The answer isn’t to increase these weapons and see if each country can win this death stare competition, trying to call each other’s bluff. Countries that had stockpiled landmines did not think there would be a consensus on a treaty banning them either, but it happened, and now countries no longer consider it a legitimate weapon of war and have disinvested in it. We can do the same with nuclear weapons

After states ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons it will not necessarily be a smooth road to eliminate them. To this day new countries are still ratifying the Treaty on Landmines, e.g. on 3rd January this year Palestine ratified the Treaty on Landmines. But this is why we need to take action NOW and lobby our MPs and UN representatives to make this issue of primary importance in their current and future meetings. Let’s put this issue at the front of the UK Defence Agenda so that a nuclear attack won’t be the number one fear for the next generation.

See ICAN’s page for ways to get involved: