News Archive
Jul 21, 2017 - Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons:
On July 7, a majority of the world's countries adopted a new treaty banning nuclear weapons.

This landmark decision was the result of negotiations at the United Nations in New York that started in March 2017 and resumed on June 15. Peace Boat played an active role in both sessions of the negotiating conference.


122 states adopt the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons
Photo credit: Ralf Schlesener, ICAN

When there is a will, there is a way
The new treaty is considered the "most significant development in nuclear politics since the end of the Cold War". The momentum has been building over the past few years, around the moral and humanitarian imperative to prohibit these abhorrent weapons, like other weapons of mass destruction (chemical and biological weapons) or weapons that cause unacceptable harm (landmines, and cluster munitions).

Although all nine states with nuclear weapons boycotted the process and put pressure on their allies to do the same, over 130 of the 193 UN Members States participated in the negotiations and on July 7, 122 governments adopted the treaty.

Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons
The treaty unequivocally and categorically prohibits states from, "never under any circumstances", developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of those activities. These provisions thus make clear that members of the treaty cannot rely on nuclear weapons in any way, for any reason.

The treaty also provides a pathway for nuclear weapons states to join on the condition that they agree to immediately remove their nuclear weapons from operational status and destroy them in accordance to a legally binding, time-bound and verifiable plan. It also foresees the adhesion of states that hostnuclear weapons on their territory, as well as those that rely on them in their security doctrines, provided they agree to remove them by a specified deadline and guarantee their participation in that military alliance with a nuclear-armed nation in no way involves giving support to nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, the treaty explicitly acknowledges the unacceptable suffering victims of nuclear weapons use and testing have endured. It creates obligations to assist them, as well as to seek to remediate the environmental damage caused by nuclear weapons.

The voices of Hibakusha and other victims
Since the beginning of the humanitarian initiative to ban nuclear weapons, Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), nuclear test survivors and other victims of nuclear-related activities have played a central role in highlighting the unspeakable harm caused by nuclear weapons. By their presence and through personal testimonies, they have not only informed the debate, but also acted as the driving force of this process.


Abacca Anjain-Maddison, victim of nuclear testing in Australia, and Setsuko Thurlow, Hibakusha
Photo credit: Xanthe Hall, ICAN

Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica, who served as president of the conference, paid them a tribute in her final words, stating:
"My final words I would like to address to this person who just spoke who was a source of inspiration for this process, who has honoured us today with her presence in person, representing so many victims, and I am referring to Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. As a representative of all of those who had to withstand a nuclear explosion, a hundred days ago you mentioned a sentence which did not fall on deaf ears. You said: Those who survived became convinced that no human being should ever have to experience the inhumanity and unspeakable suffering of nuclear weapons. Ms Thurlow: Today, finally, we can tell the world that we have a treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. Thank you very much for not letting us rest."

Peace Boat Hibakusha Project
Among the Hibakusha who participated in the negotiations figured members of Peace Boat's Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World, Mr. Mise Seiichiro (A-bomb survivor of Nagasaki), Ms. Tanaka Toshiko (A-bomb survivor of Hiroshima), and Ms. Sunahara Yukiko (second generation survivor of Hiroshima). They participated in a side-event entitled "Global Call of Hibakusha", organized by Peace Boat in cooperation with the mission of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations. During this event, alongside survivors of nuclear testing in Tahiti and South Australia, they gave personal testimonies of the human and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons' use and development to highlight the humanitarian imperative to prohibit and eliminate them. During their stay in New York, Mr. Mise and Ms. Tanaka and Sunahara also met with participants of the Amplify Youth Summit.


Peace Boat's side event, "Global Call of Hibakusha"
Photo credit: Clare Conboy, ICAN

As part of this 10th edition of Peace Boat's Hibakusha Project, Hibakusha have visited around 20 countries between April and July 2017. During the European segment of their voyage in particular, Hibakusha met with policy-makers including high-level representatives in foreign ministries and regional governments, parliamentarians, senators and City Council officials, to urge them to convince their governments to actively take part in the negotiations and support the ban treaty. They also collected endorsements for the Hibakusha Appeal - a signature campaign calling for an international treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. Close to 3 million signatures were handed to the president of the conference on June 29, 2017.

Peace Boat's participation in the conference
In addition to coordinating the Hibakusha delegation's visit, Peace Boat took an active part in the second negotiation session - as in the first session in March. As International Steering Committee members of ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), Peace Boat's representatives led by Kawasaki Akira and Celine Nahory continued planning and coordinating civil society advocacy and intervention in the conference, as well as carrying out direct advocacy with diplomats on the specifics of the text and ways to strengthen it. Peace Boat also submitted a second official working paper, making proposals on general obligations (Article 1), key elements to restructure and improve the part of stockpile destruction, verification and safeguards (Article 3-5), as well as consideration on victim assistance drawing the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Article 6). Its representatives made interventions to the conference as well. Furthermore, Peace Boat played an important role in addressing Japanese and international media, to ensure that the developments at the conference and the impact of the treaty was appropriately reflected in the news.

Entering a new phase
"This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons," Hibakusha from Hiroshima Setsuko Thurlow said in her poignant closing statement just minutes after the treaty was adopted.

Yet, although the adoption of the treaty let to joyful celebration inside the conference chamber and all over the world, this treaty has not eliminated the 15,000 nuclear weapons that still exist. It is, however, an important tool that will help change practices and policies, as well as the narrative around nuclear weapons by stigmatizing their possession.

The treaty will be opened for signatures on September 20, 2017 and enter into force 90 days after the document has been ratified by 50 nations. Peace Boat is committed to work tirelessly to promote its entry into force, its universalization, and its full implementation.


ICAN campaigners' meeting
Photo credit: Xanthe Hall, ICAN

Read the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons here.
Read ICAN's Q&A about the treaty here.
Download Peace Boat's Working Paper 19 (April 17, 2017) here.
Download Peace Boat's Working Paper 42 (June 16, 2017) here.
About Peace Boat Hibakusha Project here.
Documents for download