International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons: ICAN statements at United Nations


ICAN statement to the High-Level Ceremony for the Signature and Ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Delivered by: Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

26 September 2019, United Nations, New York.

Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,

We find ourselves in this room in what is becoming a happy tradition on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It’s appropriate that here and now you, Excellencies, step forward to take concrete action toward nuclear disarmament.

The calendar tends to align this moment toward the end of UN Leaders Week, often after the great bluster of the nuclear-armed states has dissipated. In the General Assembly some leaders deliver harsh words about “blood-lust” and even issue threats. That is not the United Nations at its best.

Away from most cameras we come together to do the actual work of nuclear disarmament. For the good of your people and the good of the world you propel the Treaty toward entry-into-force.

This work is often unsung, as is the work that led many into this room today and will lead more in the days to come.

It is campaigners, diplomats and politicians who stay committed to the TPNW all year round that lead to this moment, today.

In June, ICAN and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana convened a Caribbean Regional Forum on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to take stock of the Treaty from a regional perspective. This meeting was a vital contribution to our work to achieve early-entry-into-force.

Similarly, ICAN was invited to address the African Union Peace and Security Council and the ECOWAS Parliament on the TPNW. Last month, too, ICAN held a regional Forum on the TPNW for ECOWAS member-states. Our work in these regions is so important because those supporting the Treaty recognize a central truth about nuclear conflict — that the humanitarian catastrophe cannot be contained by political borders.

There is a vibrant and growing movement in support of the TPNW because responsible leaders understand that there is no corner of Africa, the Pacific or the Caribbean region, or anywhere remote enough to be immune to the threat of nuclear weapons.

When India and Pakistan face off with their nuclear weapons over the disputed region of Kashmir, when the United States and North Korea point their nuclear missiles at each other across the Pacific, that poses inordinate risk to populations and environments located nowhere near the conflict zone. It is for this reason that we are already making plans to continue with these regional initiatives in the coming months and year.

There has been a surprising and inspiring theme running through the UNGA this week, largely due to the overrunning of the halls of power by young people. That theme is that where the status quo threatens to end humanity, silence is not an option. When it comes to the twin existential threats of our time, the threats of climate change and of nuclear weapons, nobody will be spared by a failure to act. And that means we must all act.

ICAN’s role is to ceaselessly tell the truth about the scale of the threat of nuclear weapons. Our job is to raise the voices of the people whose lives and livelihoods will be decimated by nuclear conflict. We cannot hold back about the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, we must point the way toward solutions — not simply “Hope,” but also actions that will make a meaningful difference.

Today, in this room I feel the scale tilting toward the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This day of action gives us all hope at a bleak time.

For those of you who are signing today, congratulations — you have taken the first step. We look forward to celebrating your ratification in the not-too-distant future. If you work quickly enough, you can be among the 50 states that enable this landmark treaty to enter into force.

For those of you who have ratified today, congratulations, you are making history. But don’t think that your job finishes here. We look forward to working with you to bring the rest of the world on board. Every last state.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force, and soon. Our journey has blown past the half-way point thanks to you. But we are absolutely not done yet.

Thank you to everyone in this room for your determination and unwavering commitment to solving one of the greatest threats to humanity.


ICAN statement to the High-Level Plenary Meeting to commemorate and Promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Delivered by: Mitchie Takeuchi

During the UNGA event to mark the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, Campaigner Mitchie Takeuchi, second-generation Hibakusha and granddaughter to the director of the Red Cross hospital in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing, delivered the following statement on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons:

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, and colleagues,

My name is Mitchie Takeuchi. I have the honour today to represent the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate. I grew up in Hiroshima and my family survived the atomic bombing in 1945. I wish to share something of my own story and the importance of ICAN’s collective work around the world to usher in an age of the end of nuclear weapons.

In 1938, my grandfather, Ken Takeuchi, became the founding president of the Red Cross Hospital in Hiroshima. On August 6th he and most of his colleagues arrived a little before 8 a.m., which meant they were inside the hospital building before the first war-time use of an atomic bomb levelled my hometown. My grandfather’s request that they come early saved many doctor’s lives, so they could save more civilians that day. Although close to Ground Zero, the Red Cross Hospital withstood total destruction.

My grandfather remembers an enormous blast that caused a heavy door to fly off its hinges and knock him unconscious. When he came to, he was not able to move due to broken bones all over his body. His face also sustained horrible injuries. He had been carried to the outside of the main hospital building. What he saw defies description—unimaginable suffering, wailing and crying, dead bodies everywhere. It was complete chaos.

My 18-year-old mother was on the outskirts of the city. She survived the atomic bomb but was exposed to radiation as she searched for her father. She walked five miles through the hell-scape that Hiroshima City had become.

As we approach 75 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the risk of nuclear use is rising. The nuclear-armed states have embarked on a process to develop even more destructive nuclear weapons. They are tearing up arms control treaties.

Today, humanity faces not one but two existential threats—climate chaos and nuclear weapons. But an alternative future is possible. A future that drastically cuts carbon emissions and a future that eliminates nuclear weapons.

For the latter, this future lies with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In an increasing climate of risk, the TPNW offers an alternative path forward to the irresponsibility and irrationality of world leaders with nuclear weapons. It outlaws nuclear weapons for everyone, for all time. This treaty is the future. It will enter into force. More countries are joining the treaty at ceremony in this very building, at this very moment.

You, member states of the General Assembly, have the power to stand up for the rule of law, peace, security, human rights, and environmental survival. On behalf of the atomic bomb survivors, both living and already deceased, we ask that you support the TPNW by signing and ratifying it. As young climate activist Greta Thunberg said here at the UN this week, “the eyes of all future generations are upon you.”