Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, published the following op-ed in the Nuclear Ban Daily on 29 June 2017 on ensuring respect for theNuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, currently being negotiated at the UN in New York. For more a detailed report on his research regarding positive obligations, including ensuring respect and promoting norms, click here.
A crucial purpose of the ban treaty process is to stigmatize nuclear weapons. To do so, it should undermine the policies and practices in nuclear-armed and nuclear-allied states that entrench the persistence of nuclear arsenals. This includes delegitimizing doctrines of nuclear deterrence and accepting the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territories of non-nuclear weapons states. Prohibitions on military preparations and planning, stationing, and financing of nuclear weapons are key elements in this effort, raising the costs—economic, social, political and diplomatic—of the nuclear weapons complex.
However, stigmatizing nuclear weapons will require more than negative prohibitions. It will also require states to take positive actions that cultivate, generate, and disseminate the norms of the treaty, both domestically and globally.
In this round of negotiations, states and civil society have begun to discuss potential provisions to this effect, including regarding universalization, norm promotion, disarmament education and awareness raising, and fostering a culture of peace. Others have suggested language that would require states to condemn violations of the prohibitions by states not party. Such obligations would help do the discursive work of delegitimizing nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence doctrines.
In building and strengthening this stigmatizing architecture, states should also consider augmenting it with the “respect” tradition in humanitarian law.