On the 13th January, Leeds City Council made history by pledging its support for the 2017 UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
In a resolution proposed by Cllr David Blackburn, the Council “regrets that the Governments of the existing nuclear weapon states, including the UK, refuse to support the Treaty” and it “fully supports the TPNW as one of the most effective ways to bring about long-term and verifiable multilateral nuclear disarmament and is pleased it will be entering into force on the 22nd January 2021”. As well as this, the Council tasks the Chief Executive with writing to Boris Johnson, making him aware of the Council’s decision and asking him to take account of it.
This declaration on the part of Leeds City Council couldn’t come at a more appropriate moment. This year on January 22nd, the aforementioned TPNW will come into force, making nuclear weapons illegal under international law. The Treaty was adopted at the UN in New York on July 27th 2017 and opened for signature on 20th September of the same year. Since then, 51 states have ratified it and a further 86 have signed it. None of the nuclear weapon states have signed and the UK, US and France have refused to participate, even trying to influence others not to. However, as well as being a victory for grassroots campaigning and an illustration of what people power can produce, the TPNW is a breakthrough in international disarmament efforts and will undoubtedly generate huge momentum towards global nuclear abolition.
Headingley resident Prof. Dave Webb, also Chair of both Yorkshire and National Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, commented on the vote, saying: “Congratulations to Leeds City Council for passing this important resolution in support of the Treaty. The Council has shown that it recognises the importance of abolishing the devastating threat of nuclear war which hangs over its residents. The Covid pandemic has shown us the consequences of not taking preventative action quickly enough and the strain it imposes on welfare services and on the population. If there was ever a nuclear attack then there would be no infrastructure at all remaining to care for Leeds citizens. The Treaty banning Nuclear Weapons takes us one small but significant step closer to removing that threat.”
As a nuclear-free zone for over forty years, Leeds has a great history as a city of peace, and it was only a matter of time and persistent grassroots campaigning before it joined the growing list of global cities backing the 2017 UN Treaty, which now numbers in the hundreds from Manchester to Munich, Sydney to San Francisco.
Of the world’s nuclear-weapon states, the United Kingdom is the third largest spender on nuclear weapons and remains absent from the list of 86 nations which have signed the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Across the Yorkshire region, there will be celebrations, online twitterstorms and banner-drops as a result. Unfortunately because of the threat posed by COVID-19, the responsible decision has been taken to have these online. Despite this, peace campaigners in Leeds and across the Yorkshire region will be making as much noise as possible to ensure the British government is forced to take heed of the cause of peace.