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Celebration and protests as Nuclear Ban Treaty takes effect

Banner in Glasgow welcoming the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Celebration and protests as Nuclear Ban Treaty takes effect

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has come into effect, putting nuclear-armed states on the wrong side of international law.

Fifty-one countries have now ratified the treaty, which came about as a result of years of grassroots campaigning around the world.

The signatories easily outnumber the countries whose governments have nuclear weapons – there are only nine of them. But as they include some of the world's most powerful states, their governments are hoping to ignore global public opinion. 

The nine nuclear-armed states are China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK and the USA. Their governments have all refused to engage with the treaty.

In the UK, the Peace Pledge Union said today that the treaty is a success for nonviolent activism, but warned that it was only one step on the way to a demilitarised world. They urged peaceful people in all countries to take action for disarmament.

Recent polling suggests that 77% of UK adults support a global ban on nuclear weapons and 59% believe that the UK government should sign the treaty.

The international campaign for the treaty has been co-ordinated by the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an alliance of thousands of groups and individuals in many parts of the world. In 2017, ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

"Nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable threat to human civilisation and indeed all life on Earth,” said Philip Webber, chair of Scientists for Global Responsibility, a partner organisation of ICAN, today. 

He explained, “There are still currently 1,800 nuclear weapons deployed and ready to fire at short notice – and some of these deployed by the UK. We strongly urge the UK government and other nuclear nations to support this treaty."

With the Covid pandemic raging, British pacifists and other anti-nuclear activists took to the internet to demand that Boris Johnson recognises the Treaty and ditches his government's nuclear weapons. Many used the hashtag #NukesOutUK.

Trident Ploughshares, a group of people committed to nonviolent direct action, today projected anti-nuclear messages onto buildings around Edinburgh. They tweeted: “After decades of sitting on cold wet roads, swimming freezing lochs, being dragged through courts and thrown into police cells and prisons, today we are welcoming the arrival of the nuclear weapons ban treaty."

The Peace Pledge Union added, “Governments in the US, UK & France say they need nukes because Russia and China have them. Russia and China say they need nukes because the US, UK and France have them. Nobody needs nukes! Their existence makes us all less safe.”

Given the obvious difficulties of demonstrations during the Covid pandemic, some supporters of the treaty hung banners from their windows, while in a few places banners were hung more publicly by one or two individuals at a time (as pictured above, in Glasgow). Supportive churches, including Coventry Cathedral, rang their bells at midday to welcome the treaty.

British politicians to welcome the treaty today included former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood and Green MP Caroline Lucas. Meanwhile, British religious leaders of various faiths issued a united video message urging the UK and all other countries to support the treaty.


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