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Nuclear Ban Treaty Milestone Achieved

"Its potential to end the threat of nuclear destruction is a gift for future generations."

A significant milestone towards a world free of nuclear weapons was achieved on United Nations Day, 24 October, when Honduras became the fiftieth state to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which activated its entry into force.

New Zealand played a leading role in the diplomatic process that led to the adoption of the TPNW by the United Nations General Assembly on 7 July 2017, and it will now enter into force on 22 January 2021.

The TPNW bans the development, testing, production, manufacture, possession, transfer, use or threat of use, deployment, installation or stationing of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, as well as assistance, encouragement or inducement of any of these prohibited activities. It provides a pathway for nuclear-armed states to join the Treaty and destroy their nuclear weapons in a time-bound, verifiable and irreversible manner.

The TPNW recognizes the urgency of achieving a nuclear weapon-free world and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It acknowledges the unacceptable suffering of the atomic bomb and nuclear test survivors, and the disproportionate impact that nuclear weapons and related activities have on indigenous peoples, women and girls.

It contains provisions for assistance to those affected by nuclear weapons testing and use, as well as for environmental remediation of areas affected by nuclear weapons testing and use - a welcome development for the Pacific, a region that has been irreparably harmed by more than 350 full scale nuclear weapon detonations conducted by Britain, France and the USA since 1 July 1946.

Ten Pacific island nations have already joined or are covered by the TPNW: the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tokelau*, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The full list of Pacific signatories and state parties to the TPNW is available on the iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand site, http://www.icanw.org.nz

In a statement marking the activation of the entry into force provision, the United Nations Secretary-General commended the States that have ratified the TPNW and saluted “the work of civil society, which has been instrumental in facilitating the negotiation and ratification of the Treaty. Entry-into-force is a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this Treaty.”

He stated: “The entry-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the culmination of a worldwide movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It represents a meaningful commitment towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.” (António Guterres, 24 October 2020).

Our congratulations to all who have worked to achieve this significant milestone - as we said at the time the TPNW was adopted, “its potential to end the threat of nuclear destruction is a gift for future generations". (iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand, 8 July 2017). Our deepest hope is that this potential will soon be fully realised.

* A notice of territorial application of the TPNW to Tokelau was deposited by New Zealand on 31 July 2018 because Tokelau currently does not have a separate international legal personality - New Zealand enters into binding treaty obligations on Tokelau’s behalf following consultation and a decision by the General Fono

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