What does the TPNW cover?
The TPNW covers all aspects of nuclear weapons, including use and threat of use, development, sharing and offering assistance to another state that is engaging in these activities. The impact of the treaty is fully understood by the nine nuclear-armed states – China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – which is why they refused to participate, and applied huge pressure on other UN member states to join their boycott.
Nuclear weapons fail to provide solutions to 21st-century problems of climate change, cyber insecurity, and loss of biodiversity. Without even being launched, nuclear weapons actually heighten all of these risks and feed a dangerous culture of structural racist violence.
In advance of the TPNW negotiations, the US wrote to NATO states and asked them not to participate. They expected the treaty to place difficult limitations on US nuclear weapons strategy. In the UK, the government refused any Scottish representation at the UN. Just before the final TPNW ratification, Associated Press broke the story of how the US was pressurising countries to withdraw ratifications. None of these actions indicates that the treaty is ineffective.
Will the TPNW bind states that do not join? Even without discussing the divestment currently haemorrhaging finance for nuclear weapons, the impact will affect all states. UN treaties arise from a shared understanding of what is acceptable. The US still has not signed or ratified the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, but no longer manufactures or uses antipersonnel landmines. The countries who have ratified the TPNW will be bound by its prohibitions and obligations from 22 January 2021. Watch it grow!