The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the Ban Treaty) entered into force on January 22, 2021. It was the result of more than a decade of organizing by a combination of non-nuclear armed states and civil society, much of it spearheaded by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
You can read the text of the Treaty here.
The Treaty was adopted by 122 states* voting at the United Nations in July 2017. In order for the Treaty to enter into force, fifty states had to sign and ratify or accede to the Treaty. In October of 2020, Honduras became the 50th state to deposit its ratification with the United Nations—that triggered a 90 day period at the end of which the Treaty would enter into force. January 22, 2021 was that day.
As of March 2022, 86 states have signed the Treaty and 60 of those have deposited their articles of ratification or accession, making them states parties to the Treaty. You can see an updated list here.
There are several things about the Ban Treaty that are remarkable. One is that it calls out the necessity of including the voices of women in discussions about nuclear weapons. One clause in the preamble reads:
“Recognizing that the equal, full and effective participation of both women and men is an essential factor for the promotion and attainment of sustainable peace and security, and committed to supporting and strengthening the effective participation of women in nuclear disarmament…”
The Treaty’s language banning nuclear weapons is unequivocal and thoroughgoing. State parties agree never to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons; they further agree not to transfer, receive, use or threaten to use, assist anyone in a prohibited activity, or station, install or deploy weapons in their territory.
In addition to these negative proscriptions; the Treaty includes positive obligations: state parties must provide assistance to persons harmed by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, and they must work to remediate areas contaminated by the use or testing of nuclear weapons.
The importance of this Treaty can not be overstated.
For one thing, it changes the conversation about nuclear weapons by insisting that the humanitarian and environmental impacts of past and possible future use of nuclear weapons be part of the conversation about nuclear weapons from this day forward. In its preamble, and now in its implementation, the Treaty is a vehicle for elevating and amplifying the voices of those who have experienced the devastating power of nuclear weapons — the hibakusha and those who lived in test areas and downwind/downstream from those areas.
It is also important to note that the Treaty’s legal power applies only in those states that have joined the Treaty. Currently, no nuclear armed state has signed the Treaty, nor has any state that is under the “nuclear umbrella” of a nuclear armed state.
However, the Treaty has another, greater kind of power, and that is its moral power. Moral power knows no boundaries and recognizes no lines on maps. It applies everywhere. It is this power that is the tool provided to every person who wants to live in a world free of nuclear weapons. This power is effectual only when we use it.
Using that power is the purpose of the Nuclear Ban Treaty Collaborative.
*states includes nations and the Holy See
If you are interested in incorporating a public reading of the Treaty into your events or actions, you can find a document here that excerpts key portions of the Treaty (excising the drier bits). You will see that alternate paragraphs in the excerpts and in bold print. This is to facilitate your reading should you choose to have two readers or to have a litany/call and response reading with a leader and the audience.