August 2020 will mark 75 years since nuclear bombs were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki – devastating these cities and killing several hundred thousands. Since the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1948 where those gathered declared that war with atomic weapons was a “sin against God and a degradation of man,” the WCC has continued to call for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and the existential threat that they pose to all humanity.
Despite commitments made over the years, several States have continued to maintain and develop their nuclear arsenals, while other States have worked to acquire them. The US alone spent $35.4 billion on nuclear weapons last year.[i]
The impacts of the current global health crisis have given us a glimpse into how life would be following a nuclear attack. Like the COVID-19 pandemic, our health, environment and economies would all suffer, regardless of how far we lived from the site of a nuclear explosion. Nuclear tests have shown how radiation spreads into the atmosphere, oceans, plants and animals, and into whole populations.
The pandemic has demonstrated - more than ever - how closely linked our economies are, and how interruptions in one place can impact whole chains of production throughout the world. The same consequences could be expected from a nuclear attack anywhere in the world.
Unlike a pandemic, we know what we have to do to prevent a nuclear attack. We already have the answer in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2017. Once 50 States have ratified it, we will have a new normative standard in international law against the possession and development of nuclear weapons. Several States which possess nuclear arsenals, and others which claim to be protected by such weapons continue to criticize the treaty, but are starting to understand that as banks and financial institutions divest from supporting companies which produce or maintain nuclear weapons[ii], the treaty is already having a strong impact.
During the last two months, despite the heavy burden placed on all governments around the world to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, three States have recognized and responded to the urgent need to prohibit nuclear weapons. We congratulate Namibia, Belize and Lesotho for their recent ratifications of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, bringing the number of States Parties up to 38.
Whilst only 12 more ratifications are now needed, we will continue to call upon all States to take this critical measure until the world is free of the scourge of nuclear weapons. Has your country ratified the treaty? Contact us for more information as to how you can get involved in advocating against nuclear weapons (JPN@wcc-coe.org)