New York City Council hears evidence on ICAN City Appeal and divestment initiative

New Yorkers gathered in numbers at the New York City Council on Tuesday 28 January to give testimony in favour of two pieces of legislation in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. NYCAN - New York City-based Partners of ICAN organised a rally in support of Res. 976 and Int. 1621.

Photo: Noah Diamond

This historic legislation would (a) reaffirm NYC’s nuclear weapons-free zone status, (b) establish a committee to address issues relating to keeping NYC nuclear weapons-free, (c) call for divestment of NYC pensions from nuclear weapon producers and manufacturers, and (d) declare NYC’s endorsement of the ICAN Cities Appeal, calling on the federal government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The ICAN Cities Appeal is a commitment by a city or other local authority to endorse the TPNW, call on its government to join the treaty and take other measures in support of its principles, including on divestment. As cities are the main targets of nuclear weapons, cities have a special responsibility to their constituents to speak out against any role for nuclear weapons in national security doctrines. The pressure from the grassroots, catalyzed by city governments, can contribute directly and significantly to the success of the TPNW.

As of Tuesday evening, the New York City Council hearing on NYC's nuclear disarmament legislation was well into its fifth hour of two-minute testimonies. In its submission to the hearing, ICAN endorsed the legislative initiatives as, “decisive contributions to the stigmatisation of nuclear weapons [which] would bolster efforts on the divestment of nuclear weapons by financial institutions as a major contribution in the push for nuclear disarmament.”

The bills have achieved a super-majority of co-sponsoring Council Members so far, but there are still some hurdles to overcome including opposition from certain vested interests.

According to Seth Shelden, ICAN UN Liaison and member of NYCAN, “The New York City Council heard today that New Yorkers are solidly behind these bills and the TPNW. These legislative proposals are more than symbolic: they create practical steps which any city can take to ensure that they are not contributing to the nuclear weapons industry. We celebrate the Council Members who co-sponsored these initiatives and we call on all to vote in favor to ensure that NYC is on the right side of history.

The bills will next return to their committees for review and potential revision, and a vote is not yet scheduled. But given that both bills now are, as of today, co-sponsored by a veto-proof majority of Council Members, we are optimistic that this historic legislation, from the city where nuclear weapons began, will be adopted."