Article 6 & 7 Informal Working Group Meetings
14 September 2023
On 14 September the co-chairs held a meeting to discuss the theme of national implementation of articles 6 and 7. This is the third theme the co-chairs proposed to address during this intersessional period, alongside discussions on a trust fund and voluntary reporting.
Elizabeth Minor of Article 36 presented recommendations for ICAN on the activities and principles states should focus on towards the 2MSP to fulfill the commitments they have made on the national implementation of victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance. She recalled Vienna Action Plan actions 22 and 30-32, which states parties agreed at the 1MSP. She highlighted the commitment made by states parties with populations or environments affected by nuclear weapons use and testing to bring initial assessments and progress on national plans to 2MSP, as well as other states’ commitments on international cooperation and assistance. She noted that work should be undertaken inclusively and transparently, and in close consultation with affected communities, taking the humanitarian and human-rights based approach of the TPNW and a broad concept of ‘victims’ (as elaborated by the ICRC) as a starting point for assessing what is known about impacts, current responses, and identifying what more needs to be done. She also encouraged all states to share information on any relevant national developments since entry into force at 2MSP.
Kazakhstan and Kiribati shared information on their progress nationally on initial assessments and national plans, noting that they aimed to use the draft voluntary reporting guidelines and template the co-chairs have proposed to present information. Other participants welcomed this and noted the interconnectedness of discussions on national implementation, voluntary reporting and developing a trust fund, as well as the importance of other states taking steps and of information release on the impacts of nuclear testing as a form of cooperation and assistance.
At this meeting, the co-chairs also sought further comments on their draft paper and decisions for the 2MSP, which was presented at the working group meeting of 29 June and circulated in July. They invited further comments up until 6 October, after which a final draft will be proposed.
21 July 2023
In July, the co-chairs circulated to states parties the first draft of their paper which reports on the intersessional work of the informal working group on articles 6 and 7, and proposes draft decisions for the second meeting of states parties. On 21 July they convened a meeting to discuss states’ parties initial feedback on the paper, and to hear a further expert presentation on the ongoing impacts of the past use and testing of nuclear weapons and how these might be addressed.
Dr Ivana Nikolic Hughes, of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Columbia University, presented recent research at the meeting about radioactive contamination in the north of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The research included measuring radioactivity in soil, food and ocean sediment as well as external gamma radiation in and around different islands. Dr Hughes highlighted the wide range of standards that different governments and international institutions use regarding what are dangerous levels of contamination in food. On Bikini Atoll, most food samples the team took violated many of these, showing that the island still cannot be inhabited. Dr Hughes noted that the picture when it comes to the radiological legacies of US nuclear testing on the islands is complex, but that the research showed the kind of measurements that can be made. These can inform the types of environmental remediation and protection measures that are needed.
Following this presentation, some states parties and civil society gave preliminary views and asked questions on the co-chairs' draft paper. The co-chairs will be seeking written feedback and holding further consultations on the paper in the runup to the second meeting of states parties.
29 June 2023
On 29 June the co-chairs convened a meeting at which they presented a draft paper reporting on the work so far this year of the intersessional working group on articles 6 and 7. The paper also proposes draft decisions for the second Meeting of States Parties of the TPNW. It covers the topics of national implementation, voluntary reporting and establishing an international trust fund, which the group chose to address this year from commitments agreed in the Vienna Action Plan in this area.
States parties and civil society welcomed the co-chairs’ presentation and substantial efforts to move work forward in this area in a spirit of unity; asked questions about the process of consultation on the paper going forward and how particular substantive issues will be considered by the group; and looked forward to further discussion, also highlighting the continued importance of inclusivity.
The co-chairs will now share the first draft of the paper with states parties for their consideration and feedback, with a consultation meeting to be held in July.
23 May 2023
On 23 May the co-chairs held the first meeting to cover the theme of voluntary reporting by states on their implementation of articles 6 and 7.
Before moving to this theme, the working group heard a presentation from Alimzhan Akhmetov, Founder-Director of the Center for International Security and Policy in Kazakhstan. He shared some of the stories that he had gathered from survivors when traveling to villages in the region around the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. In a presentation that powerfully highlighted the ongoing human impacts of nuclear testing, he described the difficulties individuals, families and communities in the region face today as a result of past nuclear testing, including physical health issues, psychological impacts, and economic challenges. He suggested that joint efforts through the TPNW and the proposed international trust fund could help systematize assistance to regions affected by nuclear testing, to address these issues.
Bonnie Docherty of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School then presented a new research report, 'Reporting guidelines for articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Precedent and recommendations.' In the context of states parties' commitment to develop guidelines for reporting, and to consider developing a voluntary and non-burdensome reporting format before the 2MSP taking into account best practices from other disarmament treaties (Vienna Action Plan action 27-28), the report makes recommendations on the information states should report on, building on these precedents. These include: data on people affected and areas contaminated (and the basis/comprehensiveness of that data); national frameworks on victim assistance and environmental remediation; the status and progress of victim assistance and environmental remediation efforts; efforts to include affected communities; and, assistance provided, received or requested. The report also suggests timelines/deadlines. Docherty recommended that states look to develop and adopt a reporting template for the 2MSP.
During the discussion, states parties and NGOs asked questions and made suggestions on how reporting could be made non-burdensome, how states parties could be supported with reporting, and ensuring reports were accessible. The co-chairs noted that they will be preparing a working paper on all themes of the group's work (including reporting and the trust fund) for the 2MSP. A draft of this will be shared with states parties in advance.
10 March 2023
On 10 March the co-chairs held two meetings - the fourth discussion of the working group on an international trust fund, and a meeting between the co-chairs and civil society to gather further views from affected communities on the trust fund:
The co-chairs dedicated this meeting of the working group to hearing presentations from civil society, and in particular to hear views from affected communities. The meeting started with four presentations which gave views on the questions the co-chairs had circulated on developing a trust fund to support victim assistance and environmental remediation.
Presentations from Benetick Kabua Maddison of the Marshallese Educational Initiative and Reverse the Trend Pacific, Dr Becky Alexis-Martin from the University of Kent, and Alan Owen of LABRATS all highlighted that projects identified by affected communities as meeting their needs should be funded, and that communities must be involved in decision-making. Owen and Alexis-Martin noted that participation must be accessible: Alexis-Martin commented that some communities do not have the infrastructure or bandwidth to participate in meetings such as those of the intersessional working group, and funds to enable this and for community engagement are crucial. Kabua Maddison and Alexis-Martin also suggested, among other points, that the fund should be open to all countries to donate. Alexis-Martin emphasized that the fund should take a holistic approach, in contrast to many national policies that have excluded people from assistance. Owen noted the need for a global study on the impacts on descendants, and for education on the impacts of nuclear testing.
Elizabeth Minor of Article 36 presented ICAN’s recommendations on the trust fund.
In the further meeting the co-chairs held with civil society later on 10 March, Masako Wada of Nihon Hidyanko presented. She outlined the struggle of the hibakusha for redress and assistance in Japan and also made recommendations on the trust fund. These included that all countries should donate, that projects relating to health and livelihoods should be funded, that a board should be created to make decisions, and that an international survey of damage is needed.
During the discussion at the working group meeting, states parties welcomed the inputs from civil society and particularly from affected community representatives, for the insights into what is required from the trust fund and in implementing victim assistance and environmental remediation. States parties and others present continued to discuss who should be permitted to donate to a trust fund for victim assistance and environmental remediation. The need to assist affected diaspora (who no longer live where use or testing took place) was highlighted. Certain convergences in the working group’s discussion on the trust fund issue so far were also noted, including for example on: the need for inclusivity; a diverse decision-making board; and for the trust fund to resource projects that are based on need.
The co-chairs encouraged states parties and others to elaborate on their views and positions in writing in order to move the discussion forward.
7 February 2023
On 7 February the working group held its third discussion on an international trust fund.
The meeting began with two presentations. Firstly, Jean-Marie Colin from ICAN France presented the report Radioactivity Under the Sand, on the impacts of French nuclear testing in Algeria. He gave an overview of the tests France conducted, recently revealed information on the radioactive fallout that spread across countries from this, the contamination caused and the current French compensation law, which has only recognised one victim in Algeria. He recommended the need for environmental remediation in the most contaminated zones, and for independent studies on transgenerational risk.
The second presentation was from Dr Bwarenaba Kautu, a research scientist at Harvard Medical School. He highlighted that he was speaking as member of an indigenous community from Kiribati and introduced what life was like growing up on the atolls and how this related to the environment, before outlining some of what we know about the human and environmental impacts of nuclear testing in Kiribati, referring to a recent academic article gathering the currently sparse information. He recommended a comprehensive scientific assessment of environmental damage and contamination; epidemiological studies to determine the intergenerational health effects of nuclear testing; that assistance was needed to establish healthcare facilities to address human health issues; and that a Nuclear Peace and Friendship Education Center should be established to educate people on dangers of nuclear testing, invite world leaders and youth leaders to work on projects
States parties and civil society welcomed the presentations and their recommendations, which some noted are also helpful to answer the question of what kind of work a trust fund could fund.
Themes in the discussion included the need for further studies to better understand various issues, including current risks from contamination as well as needs; to study intergenerational impacts including but beyond physical health, such as trauma; and whether certain UN agencies might be in a position to conduct global studies. The need to assist affected states with resources and capacity building was also highlighted, as was the need for the working group to communicate with regional processes on addressing nuclear legacies. The possibilities for cooperation and information exchange between affected countries and communities were also raised. Research to better understand how radioactive fallout spread beyond the countries where tests took place was discussed.
The co-chairs encouraged states and others to continue to send their written comments on the trust fund questions, and will also be circulating an updated schedule of meetings
13 January 2023
On 13 January, the informal working group on Articles 6 and 7 on victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance held their second discussion on an international trust fund to finance this work.
The meeting began with a presentation from Bonnie Docherty of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School of the findings and recommendations of a new research report. The report examines precedents from ten international trust funds that could be used in the design of a fund established by TPNW states parties. Among other recommendations, the Clinic suggests that a TPNW trust fund should: encourage contributions from the broadest range of donors; create a diverse board of trustees that includes representatives from affected communities to make decisions; and ensure transparency, accessibility and inclusivity through reporting requirements and flexibility in grant-making.
TPNW states parties and civil society welcomed this comparative research on voluntary trust fund precedents. Action 29 of the Vienna Action Plan, agreed at the first meeting of states parties (MSP) of the TPNW, notes that any TPNW fund should take relevant precedents into account. During the discussion, it was noted by some that no current model was perfectly suited to the TPNW, including because of the different types of harm caused by nuclear weapons, and the longevity of this harm. Some participants highlighted the importance of grant-making by the trust fund being linked to needs assessment. Undertaking such assessments is an action that states parties have also committed to. Another issue highlighted was how affected communities could be included in decision making. A further issue of discussion was whether permitting donations from states not party could be a way to engage countries towards joining the TPNW - which is ICAN’s perspective - or whether this could negatively impact universalisation. ICAN’s analysis on this point can be found in our written comments.
States parties and civil society will now send their written inputs on the topic of the trust fund to the working group’s co-facilitators, Kazakhstan and Kiribati, for further discussion at the group’s next meeting. ICAN’s input can be found here.
The working group will hold one further discussion on the trust fund, on 7 February, before moving to discussions on voluntary reporting and national implementation, including assessments and plans. In addition, the co-chairs of the working group are continuing to hold separate consultations with members of affected communities.
15 December 2022
On 15 December, the informal working group on Articles 6 and 7 on victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance held their first discussion on an international trust fund to finance this work.
At this meeting, a representative from Kazakhstan's National Nuclear Center provided a presentation about Kazakhstan’s environmental remediation of Semipalatinsk, a former nuclear testing site. You can read more about Semipalatinsk here. The representative described Kazakhstan’s three step approach to remediation: first, eliminating nuclear testing infrastructure; secondly, preventing access to the test site; and thirdly, safeguarding against further dangerous consequences from the former test site, including taking samples to measure radioactivity, moving some radioactive material to long term storage and strengthening physical barriers where removal was not possible.
States parties and civil society welcomed the presentation and discussed the material, as well the possibility for other such expert presentations to inform state implementation. The co-chairs also presented a list of questions for the working group to consider about the international trust fund.The working group will hold two additional discussions on the trust fund, on 12 January and 7 February, before moving to discussions on voluntary reporting and national implementation, including assessments and plans. In addition, the co-chairs of the working group are holding separate consultations with members of affected communities.