Nuclear Weapons Abolition: What Will Be Different After September 20?

The global treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be available for countries to sign when the UN General Assembly begins its session September 20. The treaty enters into force 90 days after 50 countries have signed it.

The treaty text was drafted during a three week conference in June and July. One hundred and twenty-two (122) countries who participated in the special conference voted in favor of the text. (There was one voted against and one abstention.)

Some personal predictions:

  • Fifty (and probably many more) nations will rapidly sign the treaty on September 20, or very shortly after. (I base this on the extremely strong support from the many participating countries in the drafting conference, including public statements and social media updates from their delegations.)
  • There will be a strong impetus to reach the fifty nation threshold by September 26 – the fourth International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
  • There will also be a motivation to reach the fifty nation threshold at the latest by October 3. That would mean that the 2018 would be ushered in with the treaty entering into force on January 1. (Ninety days from October 3 is January 1.) 

The momentum is already building as individual states affirm their intent to sign the treaty as soon as it becomes available.

So here is a question for all of us to think about: how will it change the global conversation when a treaty is affirmed by so many countries from all over the world? What will it feel like to know the clock is ticking down to nuclear weapons abolition . . . instead of worrying that the clock is ticking down to nuclear war? What will be different about the way people talk about the behavior of the states that still stubbornly hold on to nuclear weapons (and threaten each other with them)? In what light will it cast the countries that rely on the “nuclear umbrella” of countries like the US?

I’ve written about the important conference that will take place in Cambridge on November 4, which will focus on US nuclear weapons. What might be different about those deliberations if the participants know that, within days, a global nuclear weapons ban treaty will be entering into force?

Reprinted with permission from Scarry Thoughts.

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