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The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted on July 7, 2017. (Photo: @TimMilesWright/Twitter)

A Year After Adoption of Historic UN Treaty, Support for Nuclear Disarmament Stronger Than Ever

"More than simply demonstrating a 'not in my back yard' mentality, Europeans are even more strongly in favor of a comprehensive ban of all nuclear weapons worldwide than simply removing the weapons from their own soil."

Julia Conley

As nuclear disarmament advocates marked the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), polling found grave concerns among Europeans regarding U.S. nuclear weapons and widespread support for the historic agreement.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) commissioned a YouGov survey in time for the anniversary of the agreement, which the group spent years advocating for, convincing the majority of the world's nations to participate in negotiations and 59 countries to sign. Citizens of Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany—all of which host U.S. nuclear weapons—were surveyed.

"The survey results show a clear rejection of nuclear weapons by those Europeans living closest to U.S. nuclear weapons, and who are likely to be targets of any nuclear attack or at risk from any nuclear weapons accident," reads ICAN's report on the poll. "More than simply demonstrating a 'not in my back yard' mentality, Europeans are even more strongly in favor of a comprehensive ban of all nuclear weapons worldwide than simply removing the weapons from their own soil."

Nearly three-quarters of Germans and two-thirds of Italians reported that they wanted U.S. weapons removed from their country, while more than half of respondents in the Netherlands and Belgium said the same.

The poll found that at least four times as many people were in favor of their country signing the TPNW, with more than two-thirds of respondents in each country favoring the treaty. Strong majorities also expressed support of financial institutions divesting from the nuclear weapons industry.

"All responsible states should prohibit nuclear weapons by joining the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons," said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN. "By doing so, they would not only listen to their citizens, they would also fulfill their key responsibility: protect its populations from one of the worst atrocities on the basis of international human rights precepts."

The treaty has been open for signatures the the United Nations headquarters in New York since September 2017. Once fifty nations ratify the treaty, it will enter into force. Eleven countries—Austria, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guyana, Mexico, Palau, Palestine, Thailand, Venezula, Vietnam, and the Holy See—have ratified the treaty since it was adopted one year ago.

The "Italia, Ripensaci" campaign (meaning, "Italy, Reconsider") delivered to the federal government 31,000 postcards from Italians and 150 resolutions from local officials around the country, imploring officials to sign the treaty.

Spanish peace activist Carmen Magallon also called on Spain to sign the treaty.

Meanwhile, ahead of this coming week's NATO Summit in Brussels, protesters held a "Yes to Peace, No to NATO" demonstration in the city.

None of the NATO nations participated in treaty negotiations with more than 135 of the world's countries. Some of the nations host U.S. nuclear weapons, with officials claiming that the American nuclear arsenal is necessary for their security, and several have weapons of their own.

"This treaty has already caused a lot of difficult conversations, particularly in NATO alliance and umbrella states, about their roles and responsibility for nuclear weapons. One of the strengths of the treaty is that it has called out countries that are complicit in nuclear proliferation," Fihn told the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this week. "It's easy to look at North Korea and say, 'Bad, they are bad,' but you have to look at yourself as well, what you're participating in, what you're accepting, what you're allowing to happen in your name."

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