New Swiss initiative calls for popular vote on UN nuclear weapons ban treaty


The Swiss Alliance for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has launched a federal popular initiative to gather the 100,000 signatures needed from the Swiss public to trigger a popular vote on joining the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

While Switzerland played an active role in the negotiations in the UN General Assembly that led to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and was one of the 122 countries that voted in favour of its adoption in 2017, the government has been dragging its feet on joining the treaty. Officially, the Swiss foreign ministry says nuclear disarmament remains a priority for Swiss foreign policy. Yet, despite instructions from Parliament to join the TPNW in late 2018, the Federal Council decided in March to further delay signing, against the explicit will of parliament, cities and civil society. 

Speaking at the launch of the popular initiative, ICAN’s Annette Willi called on the government to stop dithering: “We demand that words are finally followed by action. All parliamentary options to get the Federal Council to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons have been exhausted now, this is why the Swiss people must now be able to make the decision on joining the treaty.”

Carlo Sommaruga, the State Councilor who tabled the parliamentary motion calling on the Federal Council to proceed with signing the treaty, supported the initiative, calling the TPNW “the most important nuclear disarmament treaty of our time - it bans nuclear weapons, and the more states that support it, the greater the pressure on the nuclear powers to join will be.”

How will the Popular Initiative work? 

Frustrated by the continued delay, a broad alliance formed to increase pressure on the government and bring the matter to the Swiss public. In Switzerland, which has a strong culture of direct democracy, a popular initiative allows citizens to propose changes to the constitution. If the initiative gathers 100,000 signatures within 18 months, it goes to a national vote. 

With today’s announcement in Bern, the period collection signature begins.  The Alliance will organise its first push for signatures on July 6.  GSOA’s Pauline Schneider said: “The announcement of our initiative has received wide support. As of today, we are embarking on collecting signatures with many people involved as more than 10,000 people have already assured the Alliance of their support for collecting signatures.”

Swiss citizens can get involved here :

Atomwaffenverbot jetzt!

 Interdiction des armes nucléaires !

Who is in the Swiss Alliance for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? 

The Alliance represents over 20 organisations and transcends party politics that share the same vision: only a world without nuclear weapons will bring us true security, which is why they must be banned, and why Switzerland must join the TPNW. Members include ICAN, Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GsoA), different feminist, environmental and other civil society groups, as well as political parties including the Greens, the young socialists and more. 

Find the full list of members here