Ban treaty negotiations side event: Don’t Bank on the Bomb

As the negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons continue in the UN in New York, PAX organised as side event about the implementation of a prohibition on the financing of in the new treaty. On the panel were Bonnie Docherty (Harvard International Human Rights Law Clinic and Human Rights Watch), Susi Snyder (PAX) and Maaike Beenes (PAX).

Ms. Docherty noted the importance of prohibiting any type of financing by anyone of all nuclear weapon producers. Such a prohibition will add to the stigma attached to nuclear weapons, and would contribute to ending the production of those weapons by limiting the funding available for it. Noting a preference for an explicit prohibition to be included in the new treaty banning nuclear weapons, Ms Docherty emphasized that even in the absence of such an explicit reference, financing would be prohibited under assistance. However, it would be important that states make clear this understanding of assistance by making statements during these negotiations and when the treaty has been adopted, and by adopting national implementation legislation. This is analogous to the experience with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which also makes  assistance with prohibited acts illegal. In the context of that Convention, several states have made statements that they indeed consider financing to be covered by assistance. 10 further countries have adopted national legislation prohibiting investments in cluster munitions.

Following on to this experience with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Ms. Beenes noted the practical impact the ban on assistance in that treaty has had. Several examples were cited of companies that ended their involvement with the production of cluster bombs in following, among other things, pressure from the financial sector to do so. She also noted the importance of guidance provided by States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to the financial sector, by the adoption of national legislation prohibiting investments in cluster munitions or by statements that these investments are banned under the CCM.

Ms. Snyder related this experience to the issue of nuclear weapons. Research by PAX has shown that many financial institutions already exclude nuclear weapon producers from financing, but many others refer to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a reason to not comprehensively end such investments. Noting substantial agreement in the room that financing would not be accepted under the new treaty, either as part of assistance or as an explicit prohibition, she expressed the expectation that the number of financial institutions divesting from nuclear weapon producers will grow substantially with the new treaty being adopted.

To provide some more information on the issue of financing in the nuclear weapons ban treaty, both PAX and the Harvard Human Rights Clinic have put out briefing papers:

PAX: Forbidding financing briefing paper

Harvard Human Rights Clinic: A prohibition on financing in the nuclear weapon ban treaty. Submitted by Article 36. Authored by International Human Rights Clinic, Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School


written by

Maaike Beenes is program officer humanitarian disarmament at Pax for Peace in the Netherlands. She works on divestment from producers of nuclear weapons and cluster munitions, and is co-author of the Don't Bank on the Bomb report.

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