This year, ICAN’s team and campaigners around the world took action for a world free of nuclear weapons to a new level, bringing in new allies and new ways of working. With the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in place and ready for implementation, and more and more countries joining, we pushed back against the existential threat of nuclear weapons, and the states that have them. Here are just some of the highlights and successes of the year:
#1 - Gathering African voices in Pretoria
In January, thirty-seven African states gathered in Pretoria for an African Regional Seminar on the TPNW. Co-hosted by ICAN, South Africa and the ICRC, the seminar took stock of the TPNW from a regional perspective and considered the path towards universalisation of the treaty on the continent. Participants expressed their resolve to make universalisation of the TPNW a priority and several delegates announced their country’s plan to sign and ratify the treaty as soon as possible.
#2 An incredible “reunion” in Oslo
At the two-day ICAN Act on It Forum in Oslo in March - experts, campaigners and friends from all around the world gathered to learn and exchange more about the arguments and tools to advocate for nuclear disarmament and the TPNW in nuclear-weapons-complicit states. Ten years after Norway hosted the first ever conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, which kickstarted the process of achieving the treaty, this was an empowering moment to come together, assess how far we’ve come and how we move forward, and enjoy the incredible event put together by ICAN Norway.
"It is really inspiring to be with other people who are in support of the same cause as you are here for. To see people of different social backgrounds, experts who have knowledge, and people who can give you the support you need as a #nuclearban advocate."— ICAN (@nuclearban) March 13, 2023
Thank you Oslo👏🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/ytTvwNxYuk
#3 Getting new states on board
In 2023, two more countries signed the TPNW (Djibouti and Bahamas) and one country acceded to it (Sri Lanka), meaning that close to half of all countries in the world are now either signatories or parties to the treaty – a major milestone for our campaign! What’s more, several countries are poised to ratify in the coming months, including Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone. Indonesia’s parliament unanimously approved ratification in November, after sustained advocacy by ICAN campaigners – once it completes the process and deposits its instrument of ratification with the UN, it will become the TPNW’s largest party in terms of population. Stay tuned!
#4 Artists (and musicians, performers, filmmakers and cinema-goers) against the Bomb!
Art and activism have pressured governments to dramatically reduce nuclear arsenals in the past, and in 2023 we put a lot of work in reinvigorating those collaborations. One incredible result is the Artists Against the Bomb project, in collaboration with Pedro Reyes Studios, which invites artists from around the world to create anti-nuclear weapons posters, and to nominate two fellow artists to do the same . The resulting posters made their way to Oslo, Hiroshima and Buenos Aires, as well as at one of Mexico’s top music festivals, a floating exhibition in Berlin, the UN Headquarters in New York, and a fantastic closing exhibition at the Judd Foundation gallery in New York. To follow the work from this incredible project, follow them @artistsagainstthebomb on Instagram.
Throughout the year we also supported filmmakers featuring the stories of Hibakusha and nuclear-testing survivors, theatre-makers such as our New York campaigners who put together a powerful multimedia event about the legacy of NYC and nuclear weapons, as well as a tremendous event at NYC’s Town Hall, with the Philip Glass Ensemble live scoring Koyaanisqatsi, and cinema-goers by providing an action-kit for viewers of the blockbuster Oppenheimer to ensure the real stories of what nuclear weapons do are part of the conversation.
#5 Challenging the G7 in Hiroshima
In May, ICAN brought together more than 50 young people from 20 countries to participate in our Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit, held on the margins of the G7 summit. Attending youth have continued their engagement on nuclear disarmament issues, founding new organisations and connecting with ongoing partners, resulting in a resurgence of campaign activities in Canada, Italy, Singapore, and Indonesia (among others).
#6 3 International Parliamentary Conferences on the TPNW!
After the official launch of the Parliamentarians for the TPNW network in 2022, ICAN convened not one but three international parliamentarian conferences this year. Discussions at these events covered a range of topics relevant to elected officials that support the TPNW, from the changing political situation in European countries covered at the Oslo Conference, to meeting with Hibakusha at the G7 Parliamentarian Forum on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in Hiroshima and calling on governments at the G7 summit to commit to signing the TPNW.
These elected officials actively support and keep the treaty on the agenda of their governments and have been crucial in achieving breakthroughs in some non supportive countries. As a result of the joint pressure from MPs and civil society, Germany, Norway, Belgium decided to observe the TPNW’s second meeting of states parties (2MSP). Motions in Italy, Canada, Belgium, Iceland, and Japan called on the government to engage with the treaty, and parliamentarians from 14 legislatures (US, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Nepal, Canada, Japan, Scotland, Iceland, Australia, French-Polynesia) participated at the second meeting of states parties, against the position of their government. At the Parliamentarian Conference at the second MSP, participants urged their governments to observe the meetings of states parties to the TPNW as a preliminary step towards joining the treaty and adopted a powerful declaration.
#7 Welcoming Melissa Parke as new ED
In September, ICAN welcomed Hon. Melissa Parke, a former United Nations legal expert and Australian government minister, as the new Executive Director, taking over from Beatrice Fihn, who stepped down earlier in the year. Ms Parke brought two decades of experience in the fields of international development, human rights, law, and politics, including as an ICAN Australia ambassador. Read more about our new ED here and here, or check out her powerful opening statement at the second meeting of states parties to the TPNW.
#8 Shifting the media narrative to include the TPNW
One of the main objectives of ICAN’s media outreach work has been to shift the media narrative on nuclear weapons so journalists cover their humanitarian impact and the TPNW more. One way of measuring is to check the number of mentions of the TPNW (which usually includes something on the nuclear weapon impacts) against the number of mentions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (which almost never mentions the impacts). The NPT is the better known treaty to journalists so a shift in mentions would indicate that our messaging emphasising the TPNW and humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons is having an impact on media reporting. The proportion was 27% to 73% for the first 2 months of 2023. Over the year, with our media outreach at the G7 summit in Hiroshima and 2MSP, that now stands at an average of 58% TPNW to 42% NPT, suggesting we have had some success.
# 9 Nuclear Ban Week
From 27 November - 1 December the world came together in New York around the second meeting of states parties to the TPNW at the UN. Nuclear Ban Week New York included more than 65 events in NYC, and many others around the world, drawing attention to the urgency of the problem of nuclear weapons and the power of the TPNW to deal with it. At the UN, the 2MSP resulted in the adoption by TPNW States Parties of consequential decisions to advance the work of the treaty, as well as a declaration which condemns nuclear deterrence as a security risk and obstacle to nuclear disarmament. The declaration also reflects a commitment to continue working with diverse stakeholders- including academics, to financial institutions, affected communities, governments, and youth- in efforts for nuclear abolition. Read more about the decisions taken and their impact here.
#10 Reaching 1 trillion in assets under management
Investors are showing their support for the end of nuclear weapons, and this year investors worth more than $1 trillion dollars brought a powerful statement to the UN in support of the nuclear ban treaty. They committed to use their power to change the industry, and help put a stop to nuclear weapons. At the second MSP, governments recognised the role the financial sector can play and named them as a stakeholder in efforts for nuclear abolition and more than 100 financial institutions are committed to implementing the norms of the treaty.
Bonus: All the actions powered by the Rapid Action Fund
Last, but certainly not least, ICAN was able to support all kinds of actions and public demonstrations of resistance to the nuclear threat around the world, thanks to the generosity of everyone who contributed to ICAN’s Rapid Action Fund last year. The fund enabled ICAN’s partner organisations to respond quickly and publicly when there is an opening to push back, and in 2023, we saw actions in Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Nepal, Switzerland, the UK and of course in New York during our Global Day of Action.
In 2024, we are planning to continue these efforts with a global week of action against nuclear spending in June. Will you contribute to make it happen?