How to talk about the nuclear weapons ban treaty

This talking points builder is aimed at helping campaigners develop talking points for engagement with governments, elected representatives, financial institutions and the general public on the issue of investment in nuclear weapon producers. It contains suggested talking points on three themes: investments as an ethics issue; investments as a legal issue; and investments as a commercial issue. Talking points from each theme can be mixed-and-matched to appeal to different audiences.


What is the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons (ban treaty)?

On 7 July 2017, 122 states adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). This new treaty comprehensively prohibits the making, having and using of nuclear weapons. It will significantly change the context of the nuclear weapon debate, and add to the stigma surrounding nuclear weapons. In addition, Article 1 of the treaty prohibits states parties from assisting with other acts prohibited under the treaty. Financing is a form of assistance contributing to the production of nuclear weapons.

What is Don’t Bank on the Bomb?

Since 2013, PAX has published the Don’t Bank on the Bomb report annually. The report provides three main streams of information:

  • Identifies companies significantly involved in the production of nuclear weapons
  • Identifies financial institutions that invest in nuclear weapon producers.
  • Congratulates financial institutions that adopted (comprehensive) policies prohibiting them from investing in nuclear weapon producers.

The most recent update of the report, published in December 2016, showed 390 financial institutions from 26 countries that invested at least US$498 in 27 nuclear weapon producing companies.

Financing and investment are active choices, based on a clear assessment of a company and its plans. Any financial service delivered to a company by a financial institution demonstrates tacit approval of their activities. In choosing which companies to invest in, banks, pension funds, insurance companies and other financial institutions can have a significant impact. Public exclusions by investors including governments and financial institutions have a stigmatizing effect on companies associated with illegitimate activities. There are examples from child labour to tobacco where financial pressure had a profound impact on industry. A growing part of the financial sector recognizes its responsibility in contributing to and upholding global norms such as the norm against nuclear weapons. This is clear from the increased activity on and attention to socially responsible standards and investments in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. By highlighting positive examples, our research aims to contribute to this trend.

What do we want

Governments should

  • Join (sign and ratify) the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  • Publicly state they consider financing nuclear weapon producers to be a form of assistance prohibited by this treaty.
  • Enact national implementation legislation that includes a clear prohibition of all types of investment in all producers of nuclear weapons.
  • Compile a blacklist of nuclear weapon producers, based on objective criteria, in which it would be illegal to invest.


Financial institutions should

  • Adopt comprehensive policies prohibiting them from investing in producers of nuclear weapons.
  • Terminate any existing investments in nuclear weapons producers as soon as possible.
  • Publicly announce their determination not to engage in financial relationships with producers of nuclear weapons, explaining that these weapons are inhumane, indiscriminate and illegal.

How do you want to talk about investments in nuclear weapon producers: as an ethics issue, a legal issue or a financial issue? You can pick and choose from the messages suited for each approach below.

1. Ethics issue messages

1.1 No production without investment

Nuclear weapons are unacceptable, investments contribute to continued production

  • Nuclear weapons are a clear violation of the laws of war (IHL):It is not possible to use nuclear weapons in a way that distinguishes between civilians and combatants. There is a consensus that the indiscriminate mass killing of civilians is unacceptable. It is not possible to use nuclear weapons consistent with the laws of war.
  • Without investment, there can be no production: Most nuclear armed states rely on private companies for the production, maintenance and modernization of their nuclear weapons. Financial institutions provide crucial and necessary support to these companies, so that they are able to carry out projects like producing key components for nuclear weapons.

1.2 making a profit from nuclear weapons is unacceptable

Nuclear weapons are banned; making a profit from them is unacceptable

  • On 7 July 2017, 122 states adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). This new treaty comprehensively prohibits the making, having and using of nuclear weapons.
  • Financing and investing are done with the intention of making a profit. Investing in a producer of nuclear weapons is therefore not only a form of assistance with the production of these weapons, it also means profiting from an activity that is prohibited because of its inhumane consequences.

1.3 divestment works

Divestment campaigns work, companies feel the pressure 

  • Divestment, and legal imperatives to divest are powerful tools to compel change. The divestment efforts in the 1980s around South Africa are often cited as having a profound impact on ending the Apartheid Regime. Global efforts divesting from tobacco stocks, have not ended the production or sale of tobacco products, but have compelled the producing companies to significantly modify behaviours and delegitimized smoking. According to a 2013 report by Oxford University[1]from adult services to Darfur, tobacco to Apartheid, divestment campaigns were effective in lobbying for restricting legislation affecting stigmatized firms”. The current global fossil fuel divestment campaign is mobilizing at all levels of society to stigmatize relationships with the fossil fuel industry resulting in divestment by institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets, and inspiring investment towards sustainable energy solutions.
  • There is indication that companies feel this type of pressure. For example, US company Lockheed Martin, which describes itself as the world’s largest arms manufacturer, announced that it ceased its involvement with the production of rockets, missiles or other delivery systems for cluster munitions and stated it will not accept such orders in the future. The arms manufacturer expressed the hope that its decision to cease cluster munitions related activities would enable it to be included in investor’s portfolios again. This suggests that pressure by financial institutions (and facilitated by governments including through legislation prohibiting investment) was a contributing factor in Lockheed Martin’s decision to end its involvement with cluster munitions production.

2. Legal Issue Messages

3. Commercial Issue Messages

3.1 Public Relations-risk

Investing in nuclear weapon producers is a PR-Risk

  • Investing in companies involved in the production of illegal weapons is generally not acceptable to citizens and customers. Most governments of the world consider nuclear weapons illegal, because of their humanitarian consequences..
  • Past experience shows investments in banned and inhumane weapons lead to public outcry and reputation damage. For example, when citizens in New Zealand found out their pension money was being invested in companies involved in the production of cluster munitions, public outcry was the result. As a consequence, most of the pension fund providers found themselves under great public pressure and changed their policies and divested.


Mix & Match: Example talking point sets

Combine the talking points in this guide to build a convincing argument tailored to your audience. Below are example sets of talking points for different types of audiences: 

This report provides the basis for coordinated campaigning to discourage financial institutions from investing in nuclear weapons companies. Taking action can involve meeting with bank representatives, organizing protests outside their headquarters or branches, raising public awareness, finding allies and promoting legislation prohibiting investment. You can also use social media, like twitter.

Download the Campaigner Guide.

Send a message to financial institutions!

I’ve decided to divest, what now? 

Why Campaign on Divestment?

Open the debate! Disinvestment campaigns attract media attention and re-open discussions as to what is acceptable and what is not. Showing that there is less interest in financing the bomb shows that nuclear weapons are less legitimate. This can help to sway politicians and civil servants and reactivate the debate about nuclear weapons in a different way.

Build new norms! Once financial institutions change their policies to ban investment in nuclear weapons, they start developing new investment standards and norms. Financial institutions represent a huge influence on producers of nuclear weapons, and have the power to directly influence and engage with producers of nuclear weapons. Working with financial institutions is a powerful way to directly influence companies practices and demonstrate that nuclear weapons are not a feasible long term business interest.

Reach the whole of society! This activity lets you reach out to financial institutions, ministries of finance, companies, ethical advisor firms- a whole new range of actors to generate and demonstrate whole of society support for a ban!

Everyone can act! Often, nuclear weapons are a vague and distant idea- they are not real or connected to day to day life, and acting for abolition feels like something for policy experts only. But almost everybody has a bank account. By building a “not with my money!” feeling, we can encourage people to contact their banks or pension funds and take useful action to ban (investments) in the bomb. It brings the issue closer to people’s day to day life, with an opportunity to act.

Get creative! This type of campaigning is focused, targeted, empowering and effective. Divestment efforts also give you a chance to get creative and use an all inclusive approach to reach out and speak out against nuclear weapons.

No party excuses! Divestment efforts are not tied to one political party or political side of the spectrum. Divestment is a way to reach across party divides and build broad inclusive relationships in the campaign to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.

It Works! In recent years the financial industry has become increasingly aware of the importance of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) practices. Since these SRI go beyond legal obligations, campaigners can demonstrate success for the cause before any legal international framework compels financial institutions to act.

Engage the Public

Engage the Media

Engage the Government

Engage Financial Institutions

Take Action for Divestment

his report provides the basis for coordinated campaigning to discourage financial institutions from investing in nuclear weapons companies. Taking action…

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