Anti-Nuclear Treaty Officially in Effect

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The agreement on the prohibition of nuclear weapons came into effect Friday (22/1) local time. However the agreement is incomplete due to a lack of signatures from the world’s major nuclear powers.

As reported by AFP on Friday (22/1/2021), despite losing the support of several parties, the agreement has won praise from the United Nations and even Pope Francis.

“This agreement is an important step towards the goal of a nuclear weapons free world and a strong demonstration in support of a multilateral approach to nuclear disarmament,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

“This multilateral nuclear disarmament agreement is the first in more than two decades,” he added.

Guterres also called for all countries to work together to realize the ambition to advance collective security and safety.

The agreement will prohibit the use, development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling and threat of nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday (20/1), Pope Francis announced the entry into force of the agreement during an audience.

“This is the first international legally binding instrument and explicitly prohibits these weapons, because their indiscriminate use affects large numbers of people in a short time and will cause long-term environmental damage,” Pope Francis said.

“I strongly urge all countries and all peoples to work decisively to promote a world condition without nuclear weapons. This will contribute to the progress of peace and multilateral cooperation that humanity urgently needs today.”

The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Mauer, also echoed this sentiment.

“Today is a victory for common humanity. Let us take the moment – and bring this Agreement to its goal: a world without nuclear weapons,” he said in a statement.

By the end of October, 50 countries had ratified the treaty banning nuclear weapons. The agreement was initially adopted by 122 countries at the UN General Assembly in 2017 – allowing it to take effect on Friday, or 90 days from its 50th signing.

Anti-nuclear activists still hope that the treaty is more than just symbolic, although without the consent of the world’s largest nuclear powers, it could stigmatize the nuclear program and challenge the status quo mentality.

There are a total of nine countries that have nuclear arsenals, with the United States and Russia holding 90 percent of such weapons. Other countries are China, France, UK, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Most nuclear powers insist that their weapons are only a deterrent and those who refuse to sign this agreement say they remain committed to the previous Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which sought to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty was drafted through an initiative by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an NGO that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts.

Japan, which is the only country to be targeted by nuclear weapons, has for now also refused to sign the treaty, saying its effectiveness is dubious without the participation of world nuclear powers.