For the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna, Dr Emily Welty, vice moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, headed a delegation from WCC which included youth participants from the Pacific Conference of Churches, Olivia Baro and Bedi Racule from Fiji and the Marshall Islands.
At the conclusion of the meeting, States agreed on an Action Plan which includes measures towards the universalization of the treaty, which has now been ratified by 65 states.
In response to Russia’s nuclear threats and the increasing dangers of nuclear war, states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons condemned unequivocally “any and all nuclear threats, whether they be explicit or implicit and irrespective of the circumstances.”
“The Declaration and Action Plan further strengthens the role of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, to push back against unacceptable and illegal nuclear threats and risks of nuclear war,” said Philpot-Nissen.
“Getting more countries to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is also a critical part of the Action Plan,” said Philpot-Nissen.
Baro and Racule spoke throughout the week of the impact of nuclear testing in their region, raising awareness of the ongoing impacts for the health of those in their communities, where the rate of radiation-related cancers remain high, and the damage done to the environment has never been addressed by the nuclear powers who carried out the testing.
Activities throughout the week
The Declaration was released at the end of the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which took place from 21-23 June, hosted by the Government of Austria. Ahead of this meeting, a campaigners forum organized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) took place.
The day before the opening of the meeting of States Parties, the Government of Austria hosted an International Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, at the United Nations in Vienna on 20 June. This conference, which involved leading scientific, medical, environmental, humanitarian, and policy experts, as well as nuclear survivors, provided governments and the international community with expert analysis of what the effect of detonating nuclear weapons in a densely-populated region such as Europe would actually be, answering questions as to the number of people likely to be killed and injured, the capacities of medical and emergency response services to cope, and the nature of the longer-term health, economic and environmental effects.
Over 140 churches and other faith communities joined an interfaith statement to welcome the First Meeting of the States Parties. The statement declares that the religious and spiritual traditions of the signatories uphold an ethos of mutual aid, care for the stranger and trust in the community, and states that the threats to humanity, to our lives, our health and our environment, which are also posed by climate change and by the global pandemic, are represented in their worst manifestation by nuclear weapons. The signatories call for a re-direction of the resources currently spent on the development and maintenance of these weapons, towards supporting the most vulnerable people and protecting the planet through investing in food, education, health care and climate justice.
The statement offers a message of hope that “Our faith traditions continue to nurture the belief in a better future,” and calls upon all states to take actions to rid the world of nuclear weapons.