Nuclear weapons outlawed!

History was made when a majority of countries in the world adopted a ban on nuclear weapons. On 7 July 2017, an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations adopted this landmark global agreement to ban nuclear weapons, known officially as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The treaty bans the making, having, getting or using of nuclear weapons. It also distinctly prohibits any type of assistance that might be provided towards nuclear weapons possession, development or manufacture as well. Many countries also stated their understanding that the prohibition on assistance includes a prohibition on financing.

We support the inclusion of financing as one of the activities states parties shall never undertake under any circumstance” – Philippines

This treaty makes the illegitimacy of nuclear weapons a legal reality.  It will open for signature on 20 September and enter into force once 50 States have ratified.

During the ratification process, many countries will put in place national legislation. These national measures will be an opportunity to further elaborate the shared understanding that the prohibition on assistance in the treaty includes financing.

“In our view financing is implicitly covered in the sub articles [of the treaty] and any state that knowingly engages in such activities would be in contravention of its obligations.”
– South Africa

Now that the treaty has been negotiated and is on the path towards entry into force, the time has come to think about what this new legal reality means.

For financial institutions it will mean rethinking investments that relate to the production, development or manufacture of nuclear weapons. How do existing policies deal with prohibited weapons? For example, institutions that prohibit investment in controversial weapons will need to add nuclear weapons to that list (if they are not there already due to their indiscriminate and inhumane effect).  For those that rely on the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a guideline for what is acceptable in the realm of nuclear weapons, the majority of countries have now adopted a treaty making all nuclear weapons illegal- without the distinctions present in the NPT.

Through Don’t Bank on the Bomb, PAX hopes to continue engaging with financial institutions, examining existing (and new) policies and supporting and end to investment in the companies associated with the production of nuclear weapons.

The treaty was negotiated at the United Nations headquarters in New York in March, June and July 2017, with the participation of more than 135 nations, as well as members of civil society. It will open for signature on 20 September 2017. It is permanent in nature, and will be legally binding on those nations that join it.

written by

Susi Snyder is the nuclear disarmament programme leader for PAX (formerly IKV Pax Christi) in the Netherlands. She is one of the primary authors of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Don't Bank on the Bomb reports.

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