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The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force on Friday after being ratified by at least 50 countries. But the ban is largely symbolic: the United States and other nuclear powers around the world have not signed the treaty.
“For the first time in history, nuclear weapons will be illegal in international law,” said Elaine White, a former UN ambassador to Costa Rica who led the treaty, to Jeff Brumfiel of the NPR.
The ban prohibits parties from producing, testing, acquiring, possessing or storing nuclear weapons. It also prohibits the transfer of weapons and prohibits signatories from allowing any nuclear explosive device to be located, installed or located on their territory.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted in the summer of 2017 in the hope of giving a new impetus to the pressure to reduce the world’s deadliest weapons. But even then, it was seen as a moral statement rather than a mandatory ban.
The treaty is a 96-page reminder of nuclear-weapon states, White said, “they must move forward” with disarmament.
“How has the international community dealt with slavery, colonialism? Once you delegitimize this behavior, it has a complete impact on the policy-making process,” she said.
The problem with the ban, global security analysts say, is that while dozens of countries say a firm ban is the best way to proceed with disarmament, others – especially those with nuclear weapons – disagree. The new treaty is also seen as a potential undermining of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which came into force in 1970. But its supporters say non-proliferation is stagnant, decades after the United States and others agreed to the treaty.
Proponents of the ban say it serves to delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen global anti-use rules, “wrote Isabel Williams of the Nuclear Threat Initiative in 2017. She later added,” the new treaty is clear evidence of the anxious polarization of states – a polarization driven in part by a sense of complacency among nuclear-armed states and a reluctance to take serious steps to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons. “
Currently, the contract has 86 signatories. It has been ratified in 51 of these Member States. The early signatories were the Holy See, New Zealand, Thailand and Austria. Over the past year, countries such as Belize, Benin and Ireland have ratified or approved the treaty.
The signatories cited “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons”, including by accident or miscalculation, saying that these effects would transcend international borders.
The detonation of a nuclear weapon, signatories say, will “have serious consequences for human survival, the environment, socio-economic development, the global economy, food security and the health of present and future generations, and will have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, including result of ionizing radiation. “
The treaty aims to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, saying it will serve “both national and collective security interests.” Any use of nuclear weapons, he added, “would be contrary to the rules of international law” for armed conflict.