Hibakusha Stories Team at the Ban Treaty Negotiations
For the first time in more than seven decades after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the majority of the world’s nations have voted to adopt a prohibition on nuclear weapons. For the first time in the history of the atomic age, nuclear weapons have been declared illegal.
The historic nuclear weapons ban treaty was adopted by 122 member states on 7 July 2017 at the United Nations in New York. Conference Room 1 let up a cry of rejoice on the treaty adoption and a sustained standing ovation after Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow declared in the last formal intervention of the day: “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”
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According to Tim Wright of ICAN, this treaty forbids its state parties from “developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging, or inducing anyone to engage in any of those activities, and they must not permit nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.”
Novel to any previous arms control and disarmament agreements, the ban treaty recognizes hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) and the victims of more than 2,000 nuclear tests conducted around the globe. In recognition of the nuclear violence meted out on the hibakusha and test survivors, the treaty also acknowledges disproportionate health effects on indigenous communities and the gendered implications of radiation on women and children. In its positive obligations, the treaty calls for victims assistance and environmental remediation.
Although no nuclear weapons states were present as the Conference President Elaine Whyte Gomez gaveled in history, there are ways for possessor nations to “join and destroy” by immediately removing deployed weapons from operational status and agreeing a time bound legal process to destroy their arsenals.
Hibakusha Stories has played a pivotal role in this extraordinary history-in-the-making. We have supported hibakusha to be present and share their experiences throughout a 5-year process. From the second and third humanitarian conferences in Nayarit, Mexico, and Vienna in 2014, through the open-ended working group on multi-lateral nuclear disarmament at the UN in Geneva, to interventions during the First Committee of the General Assembly in New York and finally the UN ban treaty negotiations in March and June-July of this year. We are humbled to support our dear friends Setsuko Thurlow and Yasuaki Yamashita to share their testimony in international fora. Specifically, beloved Setsuko who became the beating heart of civil society in her call for a nuclear weapons ban. On the day it was adopted she declared: “If you love this planet, you will sign this treaty.”
When world leaders meet in the high level sessions during the General Assembly at the UN in New York on 20 September the treaty will open for signatures. We need 50 signatures to bring the legally binding treaty into force. And so the work to dismantle the nuclear weapons military industrial complex, that keeps our world on hair trigger alert to be utterly destroyed by accident or design, has begun. The stigma is in place. The education that the humanitarian initiative brought to diplomats at the UN must now be mirrored by public campaigns to raise awareness of the new legal instrument. Together we must fight for the last remaining weapon of mass destruction to be dismantled and destroyed making the existence of our world for future generations more secure.
Hibakusha Stories will continue our mission to educate youth about the realities of nuclear war, and how we can take action for disarmament now backed by the majority of the world’s nations. As our dear friend, hibakusha Reiko Yamada has said: “we will absolutely never give up hope.”
Ban Brief in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists by Tim Wright and Ray Acheson
A Brief Guide to the New Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty by Matthew Bolton
The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treat (Not) in the News by Hugh Gusterson
About the Ban Treaty: A FAQ by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
And for a full in-depth overview we recommend the daily analysis found in Ray Acheson’s editorials of the Nuclear Ban Daily, produced by the great minds at Reaching Critical Will.