The growing movement to ban nuclear weapons globally

ICAN organized a side event at the United Nations in Geneva on 2 May highlighting the breadth of global support for a ban on nuclear weapons. Speakers offered insights on the potential effects of a ban in particular national and regional settings. The panel, moderated by Jasmin Nario Galace from the Center for Peace Education in the Philippines, brought together a sample of campaigners from various parts of the world.

They were Rebecca Sharkey and Janet Fenton from ICAN United Kingdom, Anne Marte Skaland from ICAN Norway, Selma van Oostawaard from PAX in the Netherlands, Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm from ICAN Germany, Jessica Lawson from ICAN Australia, Linnet Ngayu from the African Council of Religious Leaders, and Cristian Wittmann from SHELAC.

The panellists discussed some of the challenges they face campaigning in their respective regions, including nuclear weapon modernization programmes, challenges in mobilizing constituencies, and misconceptions about the importance of nuclear weapons to maintain national security.

However, the campaigners also highlighted some of the many successes they have achieved in their regions in the past few years. These include gathering a large number of signatures for ICAN’s parliamentary appeal; getting influential politicians and religious leaders to express support for a ban; and opinion polls showing broad support for a ban.

One of the most recent successes, highlighted by PAX, was the debate on a national ban on nuclear weapons held in the Dutch parliament in April. This debate resulted in the vast majority of the parliament wanting the Netherlands to start working internationally for a nuclear weapons ban. The debate had been the result of a petition, which collected 45,608 signatures calling for the parliament to have this debate.

During the general discussion, participants wanted to know whether campaigners were questioning the amount of money that governments spend on nuclear weapons programmes, how they see the ban process going forward, and their experiences mobilizing new constituencies on this issue.

As one part of their work, campaigners are challenging the money that governments and financial institutions all over the world spend on nuclear weapons and calling on them to divest. The annual Don’t Bank on the Bomb report produced by PAX names and shames financial institutions that invest in companies that produce nuclear weapons.

In terms of mobilizing constituencies, the campaigners mentioned building relationships with environmental organizations, religious groups, and other interest groups to bring them on board, while engaging with young people to grow long-term support.

At the closing of the event, ICAN executive director Beatice Fihn presented the chair of the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament, Thai ambassador Thani Thongphakdi, with ICAN’s parliamentary appeal and the list of signatories.

By Jessica Lawson for Reaching Critical Will