The following reflection is from Deja Kemp-Salliey ’22, a former Pace University student who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Deja’s assignment was with the New York Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (NYCAN), NYC-based activists associated with 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Deja Kemp-Salliey ’22, wears an ICAN mask outside City Hall to advocate for local action on nuclear disarmament. Photo: George de Castro Day
My assignment with NYCAN involved contacting New York City Council Members to advocate for important nuclear disarmament legislation (Res. 976 and Int. 1621). This consisted of calls and emails to sitting Council Members to convince them to vote in favor when the bills came to the floor.
May 2018 Protest by New York City Activists Calling for Divestment from Nuclear Weapons. Photo by Robert Croonquist, 2018.
The majority of the world’s governments – along with many faith leaders, Nobel Prize Laureates and civil society voices around the world – see nuclear weapons as morally abhorrent. On 7 July 2017, 122 states adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which comprehensively bans nuclear weapons, including assistance to those engaged in prohibited actions like production, manufacture and stockpiling. As a result, there is growing momentum for divestment from nuclear weapons, with some of the world’s largest pension funds already disinvesting.
According to a new report published by the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University, disinvestment is not simply a moral stand; it is a prudent and perspicacious assessment of the significant long-term downside risk and stigmatization inherent in nuclear weapon production. Nuclear weapons investments strongly conflict with fiduciary responsibility given their increasing regulatory, reputational and environmental legacy risks. Further, nuclear weapons themselves pose catastrophic risks to the global economy that have no simple technocratic fixes. Removing investments in nuclear weapons producers, which are limited to about 0.25% of New York City’s pension fund assets, is a wise course of action with respect to both future returns and the progressive reputation of New York City. Divestment captures the long-term externalities created by nuclear weapons production.
Download Nuclear Weapons are Risky Business: Divestment as Financial Prudence for New York City’s Retirement Systemshere.
Readers may be interested in a more general review of New York City’s policy and practice on nuclear weapons, available here.
The New York Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (NYCAN) also published a report on divestment in January 2019, which is archived here.