photo credit: ICAN | Jeenah Moon

TPNW Meeting of States Parties: what has been achieved since Vienna?


Days before the second Meeting of States Parties to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) begins at the UN on Monday 27 November, we take stock of the progress achieved by state parties to the treaty under the ambitious action plan adopted at the First Meeting of States Parties in Vienna in June 2022. This is how the international community is making good on the treaty’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

#1 The treaty has immediately been put to work.

With the Vienna Action Plan in place, states parties immediately set out to implement their commitments and the 50 action points within it. At the second MSP, we will hear how states parties have been taking strong and meaningful action such as working to persuade other states to join, working on nuclear disarmament verification, setting up the systems to implement victim assistance and environmental remediation as mandated by the treaty.

The states parties’ actions under the treaty have taken forward in informal working groups related to nuclear disarmament verification (Article 4), victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance (Article 6 and 7) and universalisation (Article 12), as well as through focal points or facilitators, to advance actions on gender and complementarity of the TPNW with other instruments. 

Their implementation work demonstrates the leadership of states fulfilling their responsibilities to reduce nuclear risk, address the impacts of nuclear testing and use, and condemn behaviour that puts the world at risk. Dive deeper into the work carried out in the intersessional period here.


#2 The treaty is changing the norm on nuclear threats and deterrence.

The Vienna Declaration included the strongest condemnation of any and all nuclear threats of any UN forum and emphasized that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable under any circumstances. This was not only a powerful and much-needed signal as Russia issued nuclear threats in the context of the conflict in Ukraine, but it raised the bar for other governments to appropriately respond to threats issued by nuclear-armed states.

With this outcome, the TPNW set the new stigmatising norm. Even nuclear-armed states and their closest allies were pressured to agree on clear language regarding the condemnation of nuclear weapons threats. This language was echoed and paraphrased at meetings that followed, including in the G20, which includes many nuclear-armed and nuclear-endorsing states and also by individual leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

For the second MSP, ICAN encourages states parties to further build on this norm by condemning nuclear deterrence for risking catastrophe across borders in a final declaration, as well as the dangerous and irresponsible practice of nuclear sharing in particular, as this activity is banned under the treaty.


#3 The treaty has continued to grow.

The TPNW is a young treaty with the potential to end nuclear weapons for good. Since Vienna, the TPNW welcomed 7 new signatories (Bahamas, Barbados, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Sierra Leone), and 4 new states parties (DRC, Dominican Republic, Malawi and Sri Lanka). Many more states have progressed in their national processes to join the treaty, and almost half of all states have either signed, ratified or acceded to the treaty already. As more and more countries join the TPNW, the international norm against nuclear weapons grows in strength. Just on 20 November, the Indonesian parliament approved a law to ratify the TPNW. Once a state party, Indonesia would become the largest state party by population.


#4 The treaty has established the first international structure to address nuclear harm

The TPNW emerged from concerns over the catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, so it was no surprise that the Vienna Action Plan resulted in specific commitments from states to closely consult with affected communities and fourteen actions to take forward obligations to provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and begin to remediate contaminated environments. This work has been taken up in the context of the TPNW working groups and at the national level by many states. At the Second Meeting of States Parties states affected by nuclear weapons testing will present their initial national assessments of harm alongside national plans for how to address this harm. The working group will report on progress of their discussions and present decisions to take the work forward.

It is also already having an impact beyond the treaty.The recent UN General Assembly First Committee resolution on humanitarian assistance to people affected by nuclear use and testing passed with overwhelming support - 171 votes for, only 4 against with 6 abstentions - showing the influence of the treaty which mandates such assistance is growing. At the second MSP, ICAN expects states attending to listen to the survivors of nuclear weapons use and testing, who have seen these weapons cause harm across generations, and act on their calls for assistance, environmental remediation and an end to these weapons of mass destruction.


#5 The scientists are formally involved

The First Meeting of States Parties decided to create a Scientific Advisory Group composed of 15 members, taking into account the need for a comprehensive spread of relevant fields of scientific and technological expertise, gender balance and equitable geographical distribution. The Scientific Advisory Group will report to the second Meeting of States Parties on the status and developments regarding nuclear weapons, nuclear weapon risks, the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament and related issues, and identify and engage scientific and technical institutions in States parties and more broadly to establish a network of experts to support the goals of the Treaty. 


#6 The money is moving

Investors provide the capital the nuclear weapons industry needs to get and keep nuclear weapon related contracts. But investors are looking at more than just the bottom line when choosing where to put their resources, and what the nuclear weapons industry builds is designed to cause mass indiscriminate harm, violate human rights, and contaminate the environment. Since the TPNW entered into force, banks, pension funds and asset managers have strengthened the norm against nuclear weapons and increasingly excluded these companies because of their nuclear weapons work.

At the first Meeting of States Parties, investors were directly represented for the first time at a conference of parties to a humanitarian disarmament treaty and called for states to apply the prohibition on assistance to all forms of financial assistance- including those made by the private sector operating within their jurisdiction. Since that statement, 93 investors have signed on, representing $1 trillion in assets under management.