2MSP Report – New York

2MSP Report – New York

By Dylan Barker-Duggan

I arrived late Friday evening and Saturday started very early, meeting with other Youth for TPNW delegates to storm NYC taking photos with campaign materials all over the city centre. We took a trip on a ferry to get pictures from behind the UN building and used the time to get to know each other before the jam-packed week ahead.

Photo Credit: ICAN

Sunday commenced with the ICAN campaigners meeting, an extremely well attended event with representatives from over 120 ICAN partner organisations. The event featured a variety of speakers and served as a preparation day for the TPNW sessions covering everything from what to expect during the meetings, the context and feedback on the intersession work done since Vienna and expert insight into nuclear issues such as emerging tech, deterrence rhetoric and the importance of mobilising disenfranchised communities to challenge the status quo.

Notable speakers included Ivana Hughes (Nuclear Age Peace Foundation), Mackenzie Knight (Federation of American Scientists & a Youth for TPNW Delegate) and Melissa Parke (ICAN Executive Director).

I will summarise the key points of interest I noted from the 2MSP sessions first and then explore the countless side events that were taking place all over the city during the week. I have signposted various reports and resources throughout my analysis that give far more detailed information. As this is not an academic report, I have included links to various tweets that provide good insight to the proceedings too.

The treaty is growing!

Several states announced their intention to join the treaty in the near term, which will bring the number of states that have either signed, ratified, or acceded to the treaty to more than half of all UN members. Indonesia announced that its parliament recently approved ratification of the Treaty and Brazil, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, and Nepal announced their intent to ratify soon. At least 90 states participated in the meeting, more than at the inaugural meeting in Vienna.i To further this, I would like to jump straight to the work done during the TPNW2MSP on Wednesday that focused on article 12.

ARTICLE 12 – Universalisation

The concept of universalisation, within the context treaties like the TPNW refers to the idea that all states should become parties to the treaty, the goal being to achieve universal adherence to the treaty, making it widely accepted and applicable across the international community. The proponents of the TPNW argue that universal participation is crucial for the treaty to have a meaningful impact on global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

In accordance with decision 4 (d) (i) of the first Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the States parties to the Treaty decided to establish an informal working group on universalization, co-chaired by Malaysia and South Africa between the first and second Meetings of States Parties.ii

The importance of universalisation was discussed in detail during the Youth for TPNW MSP on the Thursday by Seth Shelden (ICAN UN Liaison) and Garrett Welch (Policy and Research Intern) and ICAN reminded states during the main meeting that they have an obligation under article 12 to encourage non-state parties to join the Treaty and invited all to reflect on what they could do to implement this provision.

Articles 6 and 7 – Victim Assistance, Environmental Remediation, and International Cooperation

On 30 November, delegations discussed work on implementing Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW. Kazakhstan, the co-chair of the informal Working Group on Victim Assistance, Environmental Mediation, and International Cooperation and Assistance, highlighted in its presentation that the Group organised substantive consultations with a diverse range of stakeholders, including representatives of academia, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and affected communities.iii

These conversations underscored the remarkable efforts undertaken by civil societies and underscored the crucial role that civil society plays in advancing the treaty. The TPNW stands out for the level of engagement from civil society, allowing for a concentrated emphasis on specific political initiatives and frameworks. This includes the valuable perspectives that endeavour to dismantle deterrence, directly contributing to the broader concept of decolonisation. I would point to a valuable editorial by Ray Achesoniv that investigates this further.

Article36 (a group of advocacy and policy experts based in the UK) stated after the meeting that though articles 6 and 7 draw from other humanitarian disarmament treaties, they represent an original approach to nuclear weapons, responding to a broad range of impacts and rights. ‘States parties must undertake focused, inclusive discussion to develop their approaches to implementation.

The Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic has developed principles for implementing victim assistance and environmental remediation with the Conflict and Environment Observatory, which we believe provide a strong starting point for work that centres communities and the realisation of victims’ rights.’v I have linked the Harvard principles on victim assistancevi and environmental remediation below.vii

These discussions continued move treaty implementation forward, including advancing on an international trust fund for victim assistance & environmental remediation, with the aim of examining its establishment at 3MSP “as a priority.” viii

Article 5: National Implementation Measures

On 30 November, delegations discussed implementation of Article 5 on national implementation. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) encouraged states parties to designate the competent international authority or authorities for the implementation of Article 4 of the Treaty (Towards the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons) and provide them with an appropriate mandate to carry out their tasks. It also called on states to adopt criminal legislation, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to ensure respect for the Treaty’s provisions within their territory and by persons under their jurisdiction or control.

Tom Unterrainer wrote in his blog that:

This coming together was not simply ‘non-nuclear’ but decidedly anti-nuclear in outlook and approach. The TPNW represents many things: a ‘work in progress,’ a part of international law, a mechanism for the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons and similar. What it represents politically, at the time of coming into force and since, is a full-frontal rejection of ‘nuclearism’ and a challenge to the nuclear-armed world. 2MSP saw discussion and decision making on how to embed this aspect of the Treaty.ix 

The Chair ended the final session by thanking all civil society, including youth, and affected communities stating, “their viewpoints and proposals have been crucial for anchoring the implementation of the treaty and making it a tangible reality.” This is the first time that the work done by youth specifically has been directly referenced during official statements.

In response to a few questions I’ve had, I would like to highlight the good work groups like Youth4TPNW have done to ensure the momentum of the TPNW such as the development of policy briefings, articles and think pieces which shape the narrative about nuclear weapons and disarmament, as well as advocacy actions like letter-writing campaigns, divestment drives, and social media pushes, putting pressure on states to work towards disarmament.

Side Events

ICAN collaborated with partner organisations and ran countless events throughout the week, I managed to attend a range of interesting sessions, both educational and cultural events. I will list the events I managed to catch below with a brief description of what happened:

Youth MSP

The Youth MSP conference was a full-on afternoon programme with social and community activities, including the presentation of the youth proposals policy document to the main conference. There were workshops, panel events, policy discussions, and opportunities for intergenerational dialogue.

Portraits of the Hibakusha – 80 Years Remembered 

A selection of ten 3D lenticular portraits of the hibakusha (the “atomic bomb-affected people”) who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were shown throughout the duration of the 2MSP. Chosen out of a larger collection of 52 portraits taken by renowned photographer Patrick Boyd earlier this year they include portraits of Nobel Laureate Setsuko Thurlow and Dr Masao Tomonaga.

A Call for Justice: Recent Status of Korean A-Bomb Victims and the People’s Tribunal

We listened to testimonies from Korean atomic bomb victims and introduce the status of the International People’s Tribunal to hold the US accountable for dropping Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was also a short film shown historicising the struggles of Korean victims.

Artists Against the Bomb- Judd Foundation 

An exhibition in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) organized by Estudio Pedro Reyes and ICAN. ARTISTS AGAINST THE BOMB is a collection of urgent messages calling for universal nuclear disarmament. This series of posters designed by international artists can be printed locally and exhibited anywhere in the world.

Sam ran a twin event in York that was very well attended too!

The New Manhattan Project: A Concert for Nuclear Abolition 

With music direction by jazz composer Sam Sadigursky and with Noah Diamond as tour guide, the concert was a journey to discover the nuclear legacy that New York City uniquely claims. Short videos of sites on the Nuclear NYC Map interweaved with live performances by Sam Sadigursky,  New York Taiko Aiko Kai, and MARK Harmony, a group of young singers from the Marshall Islands whose families were exiled due to devastation caused by US nuclear weapons tests. The concert highlighted the creativity and activism in NYC that fuels the movement for nuclear abolition.

Humans and Nuclear Weapons Cannot Coexist- Hibakusha Support TPNW 

The event helped to raise awareness about inhumanity of nuclear weapons through the testimonies of the Hibakusha from different countries and appeal the urgent need to promote TPNW for the elimination of nuclear weapons and justice & compensation for them. As always, it was a sobering privileged experience to hear such harrowing stories from those directly affected by nuclear weapons.

Reinforcing and strengthening the nuclear taboo: How to operationalise the no-use norm 

Chatham House and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs convened experts and policymakers for a discussion on the status of the nuclear taboo and strategies to reinforce and strengthen it, seeking to answer:

  • What role does the TPNW play in reinforcing the nuclear taboo, and how can states parties ensure its effective implementation?
  • How has the increased salience of nuclear weapons challenged the preservation of the nuclear taboo?
  • How can normative frameworks play a role in strengthening international agreements related to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation?
  • What is the impact of emerging technologies on the nuclear taboo, and how can normative solutions address these challenges?
  • How can civil society contribute to the preservation and reinforcement of the nuclear taboo?

How to Persuade Nuclear Armed States 

Ward Wilson (Exec Director – RealistRevolt) demolished claims that “everyone really wants nuclear weapons,” that “nuclear weapons are the ‘ultimate weapon’, that deterrence is safe and reliable, and that anyone who wants to eliminate nuclear weapons is a foolish idealist, a utopian dreamer, or worse.

Nuclear Weapons and Climate: The Links 

Timmon Wallis presented his findings from his new book, Warheads to Windmills: Preventing Climate Catastrophe and Nuclear War, focusing on how a comparatively small number of states, coupled with a global mass movement, can move countries like the United States to embrace the need to phase out both nuclear weapons and fossil fuels.

I would like to end by thanking those that have supported me before, during and after the trip to New York including Youth4TPNW, Yorkshire CND and most importantly Ruth, Peter & everyone at The Becky Garnault Fund who provided funding to enable my travel at such short notice.