Pace University students along with their professors Matthew Bolton, PhD, and Emily Welty, PhD, have been working intensely for three years on negotiations of a nuclear weapons ban treaty with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) that on 6 October was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017.
ICAN has led the way in recent years in campaigning for an international treaty to make nuclear weapons illegal. The Nobel Prize adds momentum to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted at the United Nations by more than 120 countries on July 7 of this year, and should help the process of ratification, with 50 more countries needed. The treaty makes nuclear arms illegal and calls for assistance to victims and remediation of environmental damage.
The development, production, testing and use of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian and ecological consequences on people and environments around the world. ‘Nuclear harm’ – the damage caused by blast, incendiary and radioactive effects of nuclear weapons use, testing and production, as well as by other nuclear technologies – poses threats to the pursuit of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Due to advocacy by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), recognized by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) established ‘positive obligations’ on affected states to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and to remediate contaminated environments. To ensure that the burden does not fall unduly on affected states, the TPNW requires all states to engage in international cooperation and assistance to achieve these and the treaty’s other goals. While the TPNW does not explicitly cover all forms of nuclear harm, and the universalization of the treaty may take some time, its implementation offers the opportunity to build a normative framework and institutional architecture for humanitarian and environmental action to address nuclear harm.