Nuclear Weapons are Illegal: the 2017 Treaty

When it entered into force on January 21, 2022 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, becoming international law, effectively cast the five major powers and other nuclear nations (Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea) as outlaws. We, the citizens of those nations, must mobilize to bring our governments into compliance with this treaty, our most effective means to prevent nuclear holocaust.

The nations, particularly the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, wielding the power of the veto, hold the world hostage in a state of nuclear terror, flouting the growing body of international law enacted to move the world closer to the vision articulated in the preambles of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These two foundational documents and most standards set since then, along with “the nuclear ban treaty” (adopted by the General Assembly on July 7, 2017), all find their origins in civil society. It is through civil society, demanding that all nations accede to the treaty that nuclear abolition is most likely to be achieved. It is through peace education that the treaty could be made known to the requisite number of world citizens mobilized for this purpose.

In yesterday’s post of Michael Klare’s article defining “The New Nuclear Era,” it was suggested that the ban treaty could serve as the vision and ethical principle guide that Pope Francis’sLaudato Siprovides to the movement to stem climate change (a future post will inquire into the interrelationships between the climate and the nuclear crises). Had the participants in the June 12, 1982 anti-nuclear manifestation in New York envisioned an actual strategy for abolition such as that laid out in the 2017 treaty, SSDII might have been an advance rather than the retreat it was from SSDI. In 1982 the demands of “the peoples of the United Nations” were thwarted by the member states that purport to represent them. Such must not be the case in 2022.

With all its flaws, the UN, since its inception, has been an arena in which “We the peoples,” its self identified founders, exercise global citizenship. It is a realm in which international civil society experiences itself as the core of the world community. Citizens committed to overcome the violence, injustice and international animosities of the 20th century were influential participant-observers at the 1945 San Francisco Charter Conference and at the young world organization’s Paris session of 1948 that adopted the UDHR. They were a voice in the articulation of the principles and visions that have been the source of significant advancements the organization has made in confronting poverty, oppression and environmental degradation. Civil society continues to strive to persuade UN member states to “avoid the scourge of war,” to assure human security and survival through disarmament and nuclear abolition.

Representatives of some of the same nongovernmental organizations who helped to birth the United Nations were among those who conceived the treaty, educated governmental delegates, and lobbied it through the treaty process. The majority of them, banded together in these efforts in ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), to release the world from nuclear terror. More of us must now join in a wider campaign to engage larger public attention to the nuclear threat and the promise of the treaty. Peace education has a significant role to play in mobilizing citizens in support of the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The universal implementation of the ban treaty is a challenge the New Nuclear Era poses to all of international civil society. Citizens of every nation have a responsibility to take up this challenge. The major responsibility, however, falls to the citizens of the five members and of those few other nuclear nations and those aspiring to be among them. We are the ones who must persuade our fellow citizens to join in relentless efforts to convince our governments to accede to the treaty and to undertake specific and transparent plans to cease testing, production and deployment and to assure the destruction of all nuclear weapons in their national arsenals.

Universal implementation requires widespread and comprehensive public education. Peace educators are called upon to step up to this challenge in their respective professional arenas, and more urgently to bring their professional capacities to assist in and promulgate the public education endeavors of the myriad civil society organizations now mobilizing for a renewed, vigorous and effective global movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Let us all join our energies to facing down the nuclear terror.

Suggestions for Study of Possibilities for and Educative Action toward the Universal Implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

  1. Read the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to become familiar with its core principles and framework of implementation. Determine how you might summarize these for discussion with fellow citizens.
  2. The text begins with a statement of principles and rationale that underlie the treaty. Each of these will be of special interest to particular groups of citizens, providing the basis of discussion seeking the advocacy for accession to the treaty by those respective groups. i.e. indigenous people, women, and those in storage and testing areas, among others.
  3. Look into the various civil society organizations involved in the anti-nuclear movement to select one with which you would volunteer to assist in developing public education programs and materials to educate for accession to and implementation of the treaty.
  4. Design an inquiry on the urgency of action that considers the values and rationale for the treaty for use in formal education settings.
  5. Review the specifics of implementation to construct a classroom simulation of the processes to enhance student understanding of the politics of implementation.
  6. Send your inquiries and simulation descriptions to the Global Campaign for Peace Education to be shared with other educators and nuclear abolition activists.

-BAR, 6/7/22




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