August 21, 2019
Amid growing global concern over the potential use of nuclear weapons, West African nations met in Abuja, Nigeria, on 15-16 August to discuss the urgency of advancing disarmament via the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
Forum participants included officials from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, who called for the prompt entry into force of the treaty and expressed alarm at the continued existence of several thousand nuclear weapons in the world.
Representatives of ICAN, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the commission and parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also participated in the forum, providing evidence of the devastating immediate and long-term impacts of nuclear weapon detonations.
Participants recognized the TPNW as “a historic achievement, to which countries of the region contributed significantly”. Seven West African nations have so far signed the treaty (Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria and Togo), and one (the Gambia) has ratified it.
A number of West African nations are now working on the domestic procedures towards ratification or planning to initiate such procedures, it was reported. The forum acknowledged the important role of the ECOWAS commission in promoting entry into force of the treaty.
Participants urged African nations to “maintain the leadership role they played during the negotiations by adding their voice, their vote and their signature and/or ratification in support of the TPNW”.
It was noted that the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba, which establishes Africa as a nuclear-weapon-free zone, contains similar prohibitions to those contained in the 2017 treaty. Thus, signature and ratification of the TPNW by African nations should not present any particular challenges.It was further acknowledged that “efforts to advance nuclear disarmament support progress in attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
On 26 September, the United Nations will convene a high-level ceremony in New York at which several nations from different regions of the world, including West Africa, are expected to sign and ratify the TPNW.