Anti-nuclear activists around the world were celebrating the tremendous achievement that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is almost half way into force on this the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The date, 26th September, commemorates the day in 1983 when Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Air Defence Forces overruled the protocols and decided that the incoming nuclear weapons appearing on his warning screens were just a false alarm and so decided to not inform his superiors. This action has been credited with having prevented a nuclear war which would have wiped out human civilisation as we know it.
The surge in ratifications this week is due to the UN General Assembly being in action with heads of government flying into New York from all over the world, and activists from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) have been taking advantage of the opportunity to get more signatures and ratifications onto the books.
Today, Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Brunei, Guinea-Bissau, Myanmar, Seychelles and Timor-Leste all added their signatures, while Gambia, Samoa, San Marino and Vanuatu all deposited their instruments of ratification; Angola and Saint Lucia are scheduled to sign tomorrow.
The TPNW is proving itself to be the most effective disarmament treaty ever at gathering signatures; at this rate of ratification it will be in force by the 2020 NPT review conference which will seek once again to bring nuclear armed states to talk seriously about their disarmament obligations.
On this subject, a high-level meeting of the General Assembly took place in New York today also marking the special date. At this event Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “The only sure way to eliminate the threat posed by nuclear weapons is to eliminate the weapons themselves.” Later referring to the TPNW, Guterres added, “The Treaty is a testament to the continued need for, and utility of, multilateralism.”
Some countries have taken advantage of the High-Level Meeting to again repeat their tired old hypocrital speeches from previous years. Dutch Prime Minster, Mark Rutte told the assembly, “The devastating consequences of the use of weapons of mass destruction underline the urgent need to take action. The use of these weapons must never become the new normal.” And he said this without any apparent hint of irony given that The Netherlands hosts nuclear weapons on its territory; is complicit in preparations for their use; and, refuses to join the only treaty outlawing them.