The global movement working to abolish nuclear weapons celebrated a "historic milestone" Saturday after Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, pushing the agreement over the threshold required to enter into force.
Honduras' ratification sets the stage for the international treaty to take effect on January 22, 2021 despite the refusal of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and other powerful nuclear-armed nations to sign on to the agreement (pdf), which requires that signatories "never under any circumstances... develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."
"This moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the founding of the U.N., which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone," Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said in a statement. "The 50 countries that ratify this treaty are showing true leadership in setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but now illegal."
"This treaty is the UN at its best—working closely with civil society to bring democracy to disarmament," said Fihn.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, celebrated the 50th ratification as a "victory for humanity, and a promise of a safer future."
Can we have your attention? WE GOT IT! The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons just reached 50 ratifications. On 22 January 2021, the ban on nuclear weapons will come into force. The #nuclearban is here. pic.twitter.com/8aM1JAlpjb
— ICAN (@nuclearban) October 24, 2020
Honduras' decision to officially adopt the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came after the Trump administration sent letters to ratifying nations urging them to withdraw their support for the pact, claiming it poses a threat to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Fihn of ICAN said the Trump administration's assertion is "straightforward lies, to be frank."
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"They have no actual argument to back that up," Fihn told the Associated Press. "The Nonproliferation Treaty is about preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminating nuclear weapons, and this treaty implements that. There's no way you can undermine the Nonproliferation Treaty by banning nuclear weapons. It's the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty."
"That the Trump administration is pressuring countries to withdraw from a United Nations-backed disarmament treaty is an unprecedented action in international relations," Fihn added.
Derek Johnson, CEO of the international advocacy coalition Global Zero, said in a statement Saturday that the TPNW's "entry into force reflects the United States' retreat from leadership on disarmament and global security, and marks a new chapter in the effort to eradicate these dangerous weapons before they can be used again."
"Overcoming the obstacles to eliminating nuclear weapons is almost exclusively the product of politics—domestic and geopolitical," said Johnson. "Political movements can shape these factors and open pathways for ambitious steps forward. Once real disarmament gets back on track, rapid progress toward the complete, verified elimination of nuclear weapons becomes possible. The future we want—a world free from threats of mass destruction—is closer than you might think."
Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, said that when she "learned that we reached our 50th ratification, I was not able to stand."
"I remained in my chair and put my head in my hands and I cried tears of joy," said Thurlow. "I have committed my life to the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the success of our treaty."