Seventy-five years to the day since the United States detonated an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, three nations – Ireland, Nigeria, and Niue – have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a landmark United Nations accord to outlaw nuclear arms and establish a legal framework for their abolition.
The attack on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 killed more than 140,000 people, most of them civilians, while an estimated 74,000 people perished in the attack three days later on Nagasaki. The nuclear weapon ban treaty, which was negotiated in 2017, acknowledges the decades of suffering of survivors of these bombings, known as “hibakusha”.
The tally of ratifications for the treaty now stands at 43, just seven ratifications shy of the threshold of 50 required for its entry into force. A number of nations have indicated that they are preparing to ratify the treaty in the coming months. It will take effect 90 days after the 50th ratification is deposited.
Tim Wright, the treaty coordinator for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its work to bring the treaty into being, said: “We can think of no better way for nations to honour the victims and survivors of the atomic bombings than with meaningful action towards disarmament.”
In the months leading up to the anniversary of the bombings, hibakusha have been appealing to leaders around the world to take urgent action for disarmament – and not just offer hollow words of support. They have said that ratification of the nuclear weapon ban treaty is a step that every nation can and must take to help abolish nuclear arms.
Setsuko Thurlow, who was 13 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on her city of Hiroshima and has been a vocal advocate for disarmament ever since, wrote to all heads of state in June warning of the growing threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity and urging them to join the historic nuclear weapon ban treaty without delay.
Ireland has been one of the leading proponents of the nuclear weapon ban treaty, playing an instrumental role in its negotiation in 2017. The Irish parliament, or Oireachtas, gave effect to the treaty under Irish law last December when it passed the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Act. Ireland concluded its ratification process today.
Writing in the Irish Times, the minister of foreign affairs, Simon Coveney, said: “I am proud that Ireland today ratifies the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons ... It honours the memory of the victims of nuclear weapons and the key role played by survivors in providing living testimony and calling on us as successor generations to eliminate nuclear weapons.”
Ireland has argued that the case for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons has never been stronger than it is today, describing the nuclear weapon ban treaty as “ground-breaking”. As a pioneer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, Ireland views the newer treaty as reinforcing the earlier pact.
Hazel Chu, the lord mayor of Ireland’s capital, Dublin, said she hoped the ratification would bring us “one step closer to the day when no city will ever again face the threat of the horrific destruction by nuclear weapons inflicted on Hiroshima 75 years ago”.
David Hutchinson Edgar, the chairperson of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, an ICAN partner organisation, said: “We are glad that our country is able to honour the terrible burden borne by all those affected by atomic testing and bombing, and their calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, by ratifying the treaty on the 75th anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima.”
Ireland’s position on nuclear weapons stands in stark contrast to that of its nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, which, instead of fulfilling its longstanding disarmament obligations, is investing billions of pounds in the modernisation of its nuclear arsenal.
Like Ireland, Nigeria has also been a strong advocate for the nuclear weapon ban treaty. Its president, Muhammadu Buhari, has urged all nations to ratify it without delay. Nigeria’s federal executive council approved ratification of the treaty last November.
Nigeria has pledged to “continue to engage other nations on the need for the [treaty] to be taken as an important global instrument for the promotion of international disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation”, describing its negotiation in 2017 as “an epic accomplishment”, especially in light of the “minimal progress” made in recent years towards disarmament.
Nigeria is the fourth African nation to ratify the treaty this year, following Namibia, Lesotho, and Botswana. With a population of 206 million, it is the largest nation so far from any region of the world to join.
Over the past three years, ICAN’s partner organisations in Nigeria have campaigned in support of Nigeria’s ratification. Just last month, the Christian Council of Nigeria held a press briefing about the treaty in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
In a video message to commemorate the Hiroshima bombing, the Nigerian diplomat Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who serves as the president of the UN General Assembly, said: “We are fast approaching the requisite number [of ratifications] for the treaty to come into force, and we cannot afford to slow our pace now. I call on all member states to sign and ratify the treaty.”
The Pacific island state of Niue acceded to the nuclear weapon ban treaty today, becoming the eighth state party from the region, after Palau, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Fiji. More than 300 nuclear test explosions were conducted in the Pacific between 1946 and 1996, with devastating long-term health and environmental impacts.
In a statement issued today, the premier of Niue, Dalton Tagelagi, said: “Niue is honoured to accede to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, drawing us closer to witnessing this very significant treaty enter into force.”
He said that the “catastrophic impacts” of nuclear testing in the Pacific region are still being felt today, and urged more states to “join us in this united commitment to enter this treaty into force in the near future and eliminate nuclear weapons”.
6 August 2020