This past Saturday, the country of Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The ratification pushed the agreement over the threshold required for the pact to become international law. As a result, on January 22, 2021, nuclear weapons will become illegal.
The law passes, despite the objections of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The United States, Russia, China, France and the U.K., all nuclear weapon holders themselves and the five biggest arms dealers in the world.
“This moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the founding of the U.N., which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). “The 50 countries that ratify this treaty are showing true leadership in setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but now illegal.”
The new law requires that signatories “never under any circumstances… develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
Days before Honduras jumped on board, the United States, led by Donald Trump, urged countries who have ratified the U.N. treaty to withdraw their support. The U.S. sent a letter to signatories, saying that the five original nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — and America’s NATO allies “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of the treaty.”
“Although we recognize your sovereign right to ratify or accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), we believe that you have made a strategic error and should withdraw your instrument of ratification or accession,” the letter went on to say.
It’s hard not to equate this last-minute appeal to a warrior holding up his sword only to beg the intellectual to put down his/her pen. The fact is, those nuclear armed weapons dealers are responsible for most of the conflict in the world, whether directly or indirectly.
The only problem that remains is trying to get the warriors to put down their swords. It’s impossible to enforce a nuclear weapon ban when the nations responsible for security are the same countries who hold them over everyone’s head.
It should come as no surprise that many of the countries who signed on to the agreement, hail from the pacific. These countries not only witnessed the devastation of nuclear weapons firsthand but were also the victims of being too close to countless testing sites over the second half of the twentieth century. Australia, testing ground for the U.K. has disappointingly not signed on to make those weapons illegal.
Still, the ratification of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a long time coming and a huge step in the right direction. Over time, the powers that keep us at the brink of annihilation with the push of a button will be forced to lay down their swords.
“I have no doubt that this treaty’s coming into force will contribute to even more concerted efforts to do away with these dreadful weapons and secure genuine and lasting peace in our world. It is my belief that our generation has arrived at the threshold of a new era in human history. Because we are all interdependent, our vast and diverse human family must learn to live together in peace.” – the Dalai Lama