RUSSIAN THREATS TO use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine have made clear that the world urgently needs an inclusive, reality-based plan for nuclear safety: the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Faith communities have long recognized the moral depravity of these weapons and the unacceptable humanitarian consequences their use would pose.
People of faith have worked with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to establish the first comprehensive international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). In June, the 61 states parties (nations) and 86 signatories of the treaty convened in Vienna for their first meeting since the treaty came into legal force in January 2021. Key topics of discussion were adding signatories to “universalize” the treaty, implementation, and reinforcement of norms against nuclear weapons. The meeting was critical to advancing key articles of the treaty, particularly assistance to victims of nuclear weapons and testing, remediation of contaminated environments, and setting deadlines for the elimination of nuclear weapons for nuclear-armed states that join the treaty.
As Alexander Kmentt, the Austrian president of the Vienna conference, put it, universalization means not only encouraging new ratifications but also “promoting the arguments on which the treaty is based, namely the humanitarian consequences of and the risks associated with nuclear weapons.”
In August, parties to another international nuclear weapons treaty, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), are gathering in New York.