The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has welcomed the entry into force of the first instrument of international humanitarian law to include provisions to help address the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of using and testing nuclear weapons.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), known as the Treaty, explicitly and unequivocally prohibits the: use, threat of use, development, production, testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. It also obliges all States Parties to not assist, encourage or induce anyone, in any way, to engage in any activity prohibited by the Treaty, read a press release.
"Today is a victory for humanity. This Treaty – the result of more than 75 years of work – sends a clear signal that nuclear weapons are unacceptable from a moral, humanitarian and now a legal point of view. It sets in motion even higher legal barriers and even greater stigmatisation of nuclear warheads than already exists. It allows us to imagine a world free from these inhumane weapons as an achievable goal," said Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders are celebrating the entry into force – effective from 22 January – of the TPNW and saluting all 51 states whose backing of the Treaty makes clear their refusal to accept nuclear weapons as an inevitable part of the international security architecture. The leaders are inviting other world leaders – including those of nuclear-armed states – to follow suit and join the path toward a world free of nuclear weapons, in line with long-standing international obligations, notably those under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, "The entry into force of this instrument of international humanitarian law comes as a welcome and powerful reminder that despite current global tensions, we can overcome even our biggest and most entrenched challenges, in the true spirit of multilateralism. This capacity to effectively unite and coordinate our action should be called upon as we grapple with other global, deadly challenges."
The Treaty obliges states to provide assistance – including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support – to victims under their jurisdiction without discrimination, and ensure their socio-economic inclusion. It also requires states to clear areas contaminated by nuclear use or testing.
"The Treaty is a ground-breaking step to address the legacy of destruction caused by these weapons. The compelling evidence of the suffering and devastation caused by nuclear weapons, and the threat their use may pose to humanity's survival, make attempts to justify their use or mere existence increasingly indefensible. It is extremely doubtful that these weapons could ever be used in line with international humanitarian law," said Maurer.
The Treaty enters into force as the world is witnessing what happens when a public health system is overwhelmed by patients. The needs created by a nuclear detonation would render any meaningful health response impossible. No health system, no government and no aid organisation is capable of adequately responding to the health and other assistance needs that a nuclear blast would bring, the press release added.
The adoption by nuclear-armed states of more aggressive nuclear weapons policies and the continued modernisation of nuclear weapons all worryingly point towards the increased risk of use of nuclear weapons. That is why we must act now to prevent a nuclear detonation from happening in the first place, by removing any use and testing of nuclear weapons from the realm of possibility.
States Parties, which will have their first meeting in 2021, must now ensure that the Treaty's provisions are faithfully implemented and promote its adherence, the press release added.
"The Treaty presents each of us with a really simple question: Do we want nuclear weapons to be banned or not? We are ready, together with our Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies, to intensify our efforts to achieve the broadest possible adherence to the Treaty and insist on its vision of collective security. The entry into force of the Nuclear Ban Treaty is the beginning, not the end, of our efforts," Francesco Rocca said.