Posted Jan 13, 2021: Lehigh Valley Live
By Mimi Lang
On Jan. 22, the “Ban the Bomb” movement is coming to a town, city, state or country near you. This is a momentous occasion in relation to protecting the world from the disaster of nuclear weapons. Since the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago, countries throughout the world have been advocating for a ban on nuclear weapons. It has been 51 years since the United Nations General Assembly passed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. 191 countries signed it. The treaty is reviewed and renewed every five years. It does not ban nuclear weapons.
Under the treaty, nonnuclear countries agreed never to acquire nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons-owning countries agreed “to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament and the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” Although nuclear arsenals worldwide have decreased, as of 2019 there were approximately 3,750 active nuclear warheads and 13,890 total nuclear warheads in the world.
To relate to the excitement generated by the importance of the new “Ban the Bomb” plan, you may have to familiarize yourself the alphabet soup of acronyms surrounding nuclear disarmament. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of non-governmental, international organizations whose goal is to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.” Their work involves inspiring countries to adhere to and implement the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNR.
ICAN won the Noble Prize for Peace in 2017 for its work helping the world come to terms with the “catastrophic harm and existential threat of the most inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created.” ICAN is a broad, inclusive campaign, inspired by the urgency and feasibility of abolishing nuclear weapons. Its members focus on mobilizing civil society around the specific objective of “achieving, entering into force, and implementing a global nuclear weapons abolition.”
In July 2017, 122 nations signed on to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW. In order for the treaty to become official, it had to ratified by 50 nations. Honduras was the 50th state to sign on Oct. 24, 2020. The date for implementing the TPNW, the first international treaty banning nuclear weapons, will take effect Jan. 22.
The commitment for the U.S. to disarm is questionable, as we know that current planning includes at least $1.7 billion to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenals. Prior to the TPNW, documents were written to prevent the use of biological and chemical weapons, land mines and cluster bombs, but no restrictions were provided for nuclear weapons.
The United States and the eight other nuclear weapon states have refused to sign the TPNW. Along with the U.S., Russia, the UK, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel did not sign the treaty. The U.S. discourages its allies from signing the treaty and demands that countries it protects through NATO also not sign it. It is discouraging that the nuclear-armed states continue to resist disarming. However, it is felt that pressure from the 122 signing countries and 50 ratifying ones will eventually pressure cooperation from non-signing states, especially as more countries ratify the TPNW.
You might wonder, how this can happen? The challenge to those dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons is to keep disarmament in the public eye. We need to be aware of the investments that corporations and organizations make in the nuclear industry, especially indirectly. For example, Honeywell is a producer of nuclear weapon components but its website doesn’t mention nuclear weapons. A country that has ratified the TPNW can divest from Honeywell aircraft or other Honeywell materials. Countries, cities, universities, banks, pension funds can also divest from any of the 26 companies that have a role in producing nuclear weapons and/or support nuclear weapons research.
Local activists from the LEPOCO Peace Center will be visiting mayors and councils in the Lehigh Valley to ask them to sign on to the TPNW. Consider asking your religious group or school to sign on.
Mimi Lang is a member of LePoCo and a Lehigh Valley Quaker. She lives in Bethlehem.