On 27 October at the UN General Assembly First Committee, UN member states overwhelmingly passed a new resolution “Addressing the legacy of nuclear weapons: providing victim assistance and environmental remediation to Member States affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons.” Only four states voted against the resolution: France, North Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom, while 171 countries voted in favour and 6 abstained.
The TPNW is the only international framework through which states are committed to provide victim assistance and environmental remediation to people and places harmed by nuclear weapons use and testing (Articles 6 & 7). This new resolution represents a successful effort by the TPNW Article 6 and 7 working group co-chairs, Kazakhstan and Kiribati, to gain wider recognition and cooperation in their important work. The resolution recognizes the consequences of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, and that the implementation of victim assistance and environmental remediation supplements work to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals. The resolution encourages all states to cooperate to provide victim assistance and environmental remediation, including for those in a position to do so through technical and financial assistance. It also urges states that have used or tested nuclear weapons to share technical and scientific information on their consequences with affected states, and acknowledges the special responsibility of these states to address harm, as addressed in TPNW Article 7(6).
The First Committee passed a number of other resolutions. Resolution L.23, emphasising the importance of centering the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in disarmament discussions, was adopted with 136 votes in favour. Resolution L.24, calling upon all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the TPNW at the earliest possible date, was adopted with 124 votes in favour, and garnered the most co-sponsors that it has had since the resolution’s introduction in 2018.
Throughout the First Committee, over 50 state and civil society delegations expressed support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), with many praising the success of the First Meeting of States Parties in June 2022, the initiatives in the Vienna Declaration and Action Plan, and expressing high hopes for the Second Meeting of States Parties in November 2023. States parties to the TPNW, including South Africa and Malaysia, the co-chairs for the informal working group on universalization, called for all states to quickly sign and ratify the treaty. Indonesia, Brazil, Nepal and Djibouti expressed their intention to ratify the treaty, and Eswatani signalled that it would soon sign the treaty. Additionally, at least 25 state and civil society delegations asserted the complementarity of the TPNW with other international frameworks including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone agreements (NWFZs). Kazakhstan and Kiribati discussed their work in implementing the humanitarian goals embodied in Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW as positive obligations to address the harm from the use and testing of nuclear weapons.
ICAN submitted a statement declaring that, especially in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the risk of nuclear weapons use remains unacceptably high and continues to increase. Nuclear-armed states’ nuclear upgrades and the role of emerging technologies contribute to this risk. ICAN’s statement also reaffirms that any use of nuclear weapons would have devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences, making these weapons fundamentally incompatible with international humanitarian and international human rights law.
Other states joined ICAN in denouncing the unacceptable humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons and emphasising the importance of centering these impacts in discussions on disarmament. This conversation will be taken back up at the TPNW Second Meeting of States Parties from 27 November - 1 December in New York.