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.
The successful negotiation of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has provided new political and legal impetus for disarmament education. The preamble specifically recognises “the importance of peace and disarmament education in all its aspects and of raising awareness of the risks and consequences of nuclear weapons for current and future generations, and committed to the dissemination of the principles and norms” of the TPNW. It also stress the role of UN, “International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, other international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, religious leaders, parliamentarians, academics and the hibakusha” as representatives of the “public conscience” in pressing for nuclear disarmament. This framing represents a welcome turn toward a more vigorous approach to disarmament and nonproliferation education.
A resurgence of small-minded nationalism around the globe, most worryingly in several nuclear-armed countries, has gravely concerned many who champion the international organizations that promote global peace and security, human rights and humanitarianism and sustainable development. Here in the U.S., foreign policy experts across the political spectrum have despaired at Donald Trump’s disregard for multilateral security institutions, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and outright disrespect for global diplomatic norms.
For activists on the streets and officials in the negotiation rooms, the nuclear weapons ban treaty offers a way to reclaim political agency, showing that – even in difficult times – it is possible to address global security challenges through advocacy, diplomacy and multilateralism. By writing a treaty they are choosing to develop new norms, rather than being defined in reaction to the ugly nationalism of our time. They are demonstrating that internationalism is alive and well and can achieve progressive change.
As government gather in New York to begin a second round of talks on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, the International Disarmament Institute’s Matthew Bolton assesses the treaty’s draft from a human security perspective. The report, published by Friedrich Ebert Foundation, argues that:
Current negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban treaty have revived the efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. Similar to other types of weapons, it is hoped that the stigmatization and prohibition of nuclear weapons will pave the way towards their elimination.
The Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (DCPNW) offers a strong basis for negotiations on a global nuclear weapons ban in June and July 2017. If adopted, it would be the most significant shift in nuclear politics since the end of the Cold War and a policy victory for human security.
While finalizing the treaty text in a timely fashion, states should still seize the opportunity to enhance its human security dimensions, for instance by incorporating references to human rights and environmental law; bolstering the core prohibitions by adding an explicit prohibition on financing nuclear weapons production; and by strengthening positive obligations on victim assistance, environmental remediation and disarmament education.
The final treaty should offer nuclear-armed and nuclear alliance states a pathway for engagement with and eventual accession to the agreement.
Participants of the ATT Academy meet in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya.
The 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), negotiated and adopted at the UN in New York, offers opportunities to limit the potential for conventional weapons to be used to commit crimes against humanity, terrorism, organized crime, violations of human rights and humanitarian law and acts of gender-based violence. It currently has 90 state parties, but some states that were strong champions of the Treaty have not yet acceded to it. Many states that have joined the
ATT nevertheless report they need technical assistance and training to implement the Treaty effectively.
In this report on lessons learned in the project, participants report that the ATT Academy provided them with in-depth knowledge of the ATT, enabling them address accession and implementation challenges in the region. Organizers learned that the ATT universalization and implementation effort will require an educational component, to share information, technical expertise and lessons learned. A targeted, intensive, longterm, in-person and contextualized program of training is better than one-off seminars. High-impact pedagogies like simulations and group discussions are often more effective than a lecture format alone.
Gathering in New York this year, the majority of the world’s countries aim to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons (meeting 27-31 March and 15 June to 7 July 2017). Deeply concerned with the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear detonations – whether intentional or accidental – the UN General Assembly called for a new, humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament. Humanitarian disarmament treaties (such as the 1907 Hague Conventions, Landmine and Cluster Munition Bans, and Explosive Remnants of War Protocol) differ from other arms control and nonproliferation treaties. In addition to having a humanitarian framing and strong prohibitions, they often include positive provisions such as educational and awareness-raising measures that encourage states, civil society and international organizations to ensure respect for the norms set by the treaties and limit harm caused by the weapons they address.
In this two-pager, Director of the Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute Matthew Bolton makes the case for including educational provisions as one such set of harm-limiting positive provisions in the nuclear weapons ban treaty text.
Pace University was featured in UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report on “disarmament and non-proliferation education” in August 2016, which calls on “schools in all countries to inform and empower young people to become agents of peace by helping them to mobilize, act and promote the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation.”
“We are proud to see the UN recognize Pace for the excellent work it does in educating students in global citizenship,” said Dr. Matthew Bolton, Director of the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University in New York City.
Pace University’s full submission to the UN is available here.
The academic journal Global Policy has published a Special Section on nuclear disarmament edited by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, focusing on the Humanitarian Initiative on Nuclear Weapons. As states meet in Geneva this week for the UN Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament, it is clear that the Humanitarian Initiative has created new openings for stigmatizing and prohibiting nuclear weapons.
Below are abstracts of and links to the articles, written by scholars and practitioners involved in the effort to change the way policymakers think about nuclear weapons, reframing them from instruments of security to a potential humanitarian catastrophe in the making.