On 29 October 2018, the launch of Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor 2018 took place at a side event of the General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. The new publication measures progress related to signature and ratification of and compliance with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
The launch event featured a panel organized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Austria, Ireland and New Zealand to the United Nations.
Katy Donnelly, New Zealand’s First Secretary for Disarmament and the event’s moderator, opened the discussion by providing an overview of the Monitor. She stated that it was researched and published with funding from the Governments of Austria, Ireland and New Zealand. In her view, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor continues the work of “monitor” reports covering other weapon types.
The first panelist was Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations and the Conference on Disarmament. Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger noted that the TPNW is gaining signatories more quickly than anticipated, and she said the international community increasingly believes that banning nuclear weapons is the right thing to do.
Ms. Grethe Østern, Managing Editor of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor and a member of ICAN’s International Steering Group, noted the key findings from the 2018 edition: 69 States have signed the TPNW and 19 have ratified or acceded to it, including 75 per cent of all States in Oceania.
“The TPNW is well on its way to entry into force,” remarked Ms. Østern. The Monitor report assessed that while a majority of signatory and non-signatory States were in compliance with the prohibitions contained in the Treaty, 40 States were not in compliance with at least one prohibition. Overall, the majority of non-compliant States were in Europe, and the majority of European States were assessed as non-compliant.
Ms. Østern pointed out that the number of signatures and ratifications remains low in comparison to treaties outlawing other weapons of mass destruction. She also highlighted that some States have been outspoken against the TPNW and that States in every region except Africa engage in practices contravening the Treaty.
Ms. Østern said that nuclear-weapon-free-zone security policies, which have been adopted by 80 percent of States, place their participants in compliance with the prohibitions of the TPNW. She added, though, that 40 States still accept a role for nuclear weapons. She argued that States endorsing or depending on nuclear weapons bear responsibility for nuclear risks.
Dr. Stuart Casey-Maslen, Policy and Research Coordinator at ICAN, elaborated on the legal interpretations underpinning the Monitor. He contended that all States can lawfully sign the TPNW, but signing and ratifying it may result in new obligations. He explained that while a State acceding to the Treaty will not be required to withdraw from a nuclear alliance or refrain from participating in exercises with nuclear-armed States, such a State will be required to refrain from or cease participation in assisting, inducing or encouraging nuclear-related activities.
Ms. Donnelly then took comments and questions from the floor.
An audience member called the Monitor “fantastic” and cited three areas where New Zealand has acted to successfully implement the TPNW at the national level: legislation to prohibit nuclear weapons transit; divestment of public funds from nuclear weapons; and establishment of a ministerial position for disarmament and arms control. He recommended that ICAN make model national implementation plans publicly available to encourage other States to adopt effective measures.
Another audience member suggested that ICAN showcase concrete steps towards denuclearization during meetings of States parties. The speaker believed this would create a clear pathway for nuclear-armed States, such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to join the TPNW. Dr. Casey-Maslen stated that he fully agreed and there was certainly a possibility for ICAN to detail how denuclearization could happen.
Concluding remarks were delivered by Mr. Frank Groome, Deputy Director of the Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Unit of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Though he was encouraged by how most States would be in compliance with the TPNW, he said that disarmament recently has been hindered by a debilitating lack of political will.
“The TPNW provides a much-needed reassertion of a world free of nuclear weapons,” Mr. Groome said.
Text by Victoria Brownlee and Cyrus Jabbari
Pictures by Victoria Brownlee