Article 6 & 7 Informal Working Group Meetings

24 April 2024

On 24 April 2024 the co-chairs convened the third intersessional meeting of the informal working group on TPNW Articles 6 and 7. Dr. Ivana Nikolic Hughes, member of the TPNW Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) and President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, was invited to give a presentation in her personal capacity on existing models for victim assistance relating to nuclear weapons.

She presented the four cases of Japan (Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Support Law from 1957), the United States (Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990), Kazakhstan (On social protection of citizens who suffered from nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, from 1992) and France (Law regarding the recognition and compensation of victims of French nuclear testing, Loi Morin, from 2010) to explore the criteria the frameworks are based on, their differences and similarities. All programs have restrictions in time and geography, and Japan, US and France have severe restrictions. Other restrictions include disease status and direct type of exposure.  None of the programs have special considerations for the disproportionate impacts of nuclear weapons based on age, gender, or on Indigenous Peoples.  

States Parties thanked Dr. Hughes for the presentation and the questions it raised, and further asked about how to make sense of the differing compensation allocations. They also discussed the difficulty to assess harm and needs of survivors from a purely scientific perspective,and acknowledged that many programs had been designed out of political considerations.. ICAN thanked Dr. Hughes for the presentation and how it underscored the limitations of current assistance programs and the need for a human rights approach in victim assistance and environmental remediation, and highlighted how work on national assessments of needs and capacities are important to demonstrate the gaps the trust fund could work to fill. States’ voluntary reporting on Article 6 and 7 are important tools in this work and ICAN encourages States Parties who have not yet done so to submit a report, and to closely consult with affected communities and civil society in the process.

The co-chairs shared information about their plan and timeline moving forward towards the preparation of a report on the establishment at the Third Meeting of States Parties of an international trust fund, and will circulate a survey to States Parties to inform this work, with a deadline of 5 July 2024.

25 March 2024

On 25th March 2024 the working group co-chairs hosted the second meeting of the Informal Working Group at the New York office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Mr. Laurent Gisel, Head of the Arms and Conduct of Hostilities Unit at the Legal Division of the ICRC gave a briefing.

Mr. Gisel indicated the crucial role of Articles 6 and 7 in fulfilling the humanitarian objectives of the Treaty and addressing past and future harms and expressed appreciation for the inclusive nature of the meetings of this informal working group and the adoption of reporting guidelines at the Second Meeting of States Parties. He said that he is looking forward to the discussions on a possible international trust fund. Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation are useful channels for universalisation of the TPNW and working with States outside the TPNW can help with effective implementation. Mr. Gisel further welcomed UN General Assembly Resolution 78/240 passed in 2023, which invites the Secretary-General to seek UN member state views on victim assistance and environmental remediation and compile them into a report, as it can build trust and confidence in this work.

Representatives from States Parties expressed their support for the work and the resolution adopted by the UNGA, and presented some questions around the continued process around a trust fund and on how the working group can engage with the UNGA resolution report. Representatives from civil society welcomed the Co-Chairs’ plans of reaching out to affected communities for consultations on the trust fund, and offered their support in this process, reminding states of documents to guide such consultations such as ICAN’s Initial Recommendations on Inclusion in TPNW Intersessional Processes and the Protocols developed by the Nuclear Truth Project.

Representatives from the TPNW Scientific Advisory Group spoke about conversations between the SAG and affected communities and the need for further data collection, including on baselines for research around nuclear impacts and on addressing socioeconomic effects of nuclear weapons.

The Co-Chairs shared that Dr. Ivana Hughes has been invited to present at the next meeting.

21 February 2024

On 21 February 2024 the co-chairs held this intersessional period’s first meeting. The co-chairs had invited Professor Bonnie Docherty, Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection and a Lecturer on Law at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, to present on the report: Designing a trust fund for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Precedents and Proposals (2023).

Prof. Docherty presented an overview of the content and recommendations of the report and how they correspond with the questions on the design of a trust fund that were distributed to State Parties in 2023, recalling Action 29 of the Vienna Action Plan which says that States Parties should take existing precedents into consideration in establishing a trust fund. She stated that a trust fund fulfils multifold purposes, among which are to provide means for States Parties with affected communities to fulfil their Article 6 obligations, and provide ways for States Parties in a position to do so to fulfil their Article 7 obligations.

Core recommendations from the presentation included to allow for a broad variety of donors to a trust fund, to maximise its humanitarian impact, as the TPNW is a humanitarian treaty; to establish a board with broad representation to make decisions about distribution of funds, including States Parties, affected communities and especially Indigenous peoples, and independent experts; and that the trust fund can fund both State and non-State actors. Other important factors are types of projects. Victim assistance and environmental remediation encompass many types of projects, and that the long-term harm from nuclear weapons requires looking at decades or even centuries of work, and that flexibility on the time of projects is necessary. Accountability, transparency and reporting will be important, and Prof. Docherty recommended that non-burdensome reporting formats be adopted and that recipients and grant managers both should have reporting obligations.

Representatives from civil society thanked Prof. Docherty for her presentation, and added the importance of avoiding retraumatizing affected communities and of initial needs assessments, both for which it is important to include a wide range of experts, and the difficulty of measuring some objectives, like strengthened rights of affected communities.

States Parties expressed their views on some topics in the presentation, including the importance of transparency and of consultations with civil society and affected communities, and on making careful considerations in the establishment of a trust fund.

Kazakhstan and Kiribati elaborated on their plans for the intersessional period. They plan to host meetings for the informal working group every month until July, and during that time discuss further the questions on the trust fund to be able to present a draft report to States Parties in June. The meetings will resume in October after States Parties have had time to consider the draft, after which draft decisions can be produced ahead of the Third Meeting of States Parties in March 2025. In addition, consultations will be held with affected communities, especially in the Pacific, on time-zones more suitable for their participation, and meetings will be called to discuss reporting and assessments.

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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12 October 2022

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