Ask Cornwall to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Ask Cornwall to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

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Denise Watkins started this petition to cornwall council

I am writing to request the support of Cornwall Council for the ICAN Cities Appeal, a commitment by a city, town or local authority indicating its support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

As cities are the main targets of nuclear weapons, municipalities have a special responsibility to their constituents to speak out against any role for nuclear weapons in national security doctrines. Pressure from city governments can contribute significantly to the success of the TPNW.

Municipal governments form a close and active link with their constituents and local social movements. An international coalition of cities and civil society can therefore play a game-changing role in breaking the unacceptable status quo in nuclear weapons policy, taking a decisive step towards elimination. 

ICAN’s suggested initiatives include taking steps to ensure that funds administered by a city are not invested in nuclear weapon producers, informing the national government of a city’s support for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and awareness-raising steps aimed at local populations and the media.

The ongoing nuclear modernization programmes of nuclear-armed states and the inflammatory rhetoric of certain leaders increases the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons, either by accident or intent. Nuclear weapons threaten every nation’s security and would cause catastrophic humanitarian consequences if used. The impact on civilians and the environment would be devastating. These weapons are designed to flatten cities and indiscriminately raze and slaughter everything and everyone in their path.       

Cities that have signed up through Mayors for Peace (mayorsforpeace.org) include cities in Belgium, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands - countries which host nuclear weapons for the US under NATO. Eighty-three towns, cities and local authorities in the UK are currently supporting this ICAN initiative through Mayors for Peace, including Bristol and Exeter in the South West.

The TPNW is a landmark global agreement adopted by the United Nations in 2017, ratified on 24 October 2020 (the UN’s 75th birthday), and to become legally-binding international law on January 22, 2021.  TPNW forbids all activities related to nuclear weapons: testing, building, funding and even threatening to use them.  The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has acknowledged that this provides the best pathway towards a world without nuclear weapons. 

It is vital that states (which include the UK) committed to nuclear disarmament and a rules-based world order under the 1970 Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) work to strengthen the ‘nuclear taboo’ of non-use of nuclear weapons. Clause 6 of the NPT promises to “pursue negotiations in good faith to end the nuclear arms race at an early date and conclude a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict international control.”  It is because, after 50 years, the parties to the NPT Treaty have failed to undertake those negotiations in good faith that the UN General Assembly voted to agree the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).  Under NPT, nuclear weapons states enforce Articles that disallow other states from becoming nuclear states, but there is no verification of their own nuclear weapons stockpiles.

There are still 13,890 total nuclear warheads in the world, down from a high of 70,300 active weapons in 1986. Though the UN has managed to broker the Prohibition of Landmines and Chemical Weapons, it has still not persuaded the five NPT Nuclear Weapons States (USA, Russia, China, France, UK), the three Non-NPT states (India, Pakistan, North Korea) plus one Undeclared Nuclear State (Israel) to abandon their nuclear weapons.

In the UK, nuclear weapon convoys on our roads bring the hazard of nuclear accidents very close to home. These risks make the task of eliminating nuclear weapons ever more urgent. The UK government is committed to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons – along with most other nations – and frequently expresses this commitment to Parliament and at the UN. For a world free of nuclear weapons to be achieved, the UK will have to commit to the prohibition of these weapons at some point. This is the only global nuclear weapons prohibition treaty that exists, so the UK needs to come on board or face perpetual proliferation.

The Scottish government and parliament are already in favour of the TPNW, but they are being disregarded by the Westminster government, which is dependent on Scottish bases to stockpile and deploy Trident nuclear weapons. This was, and remains, a key issue in the debate on Scottish independence.

The current positions of the devolved government and parliamentary representatives of Scotland also weaken the UK government’s claim of a full democratic mandate to maintain and renew the UK’s nuclear weapons.  The UK government should therefore stop speaking against the TPNW, and commit to participating in its meetings as an observer in the interim and consulting with the devolved government in Scotland on this issue.

Major banks, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds across Europe are divesting from nuclear weapons and related industries. Internationally, the UK’s divisive approach to a process supported by a majority of UN Member States damages the UK’s standing and puts strain on the UK’s relations with a large swathe of the international community.  Moreover, the Treaty is popular with States the UK is looking to strike trade deals with, and the UK is finding itself increasingly diplomatically isolated on this issue.

The UK should use the TPNW as the framework through which it eliminates its nuclear weapon stockpiles. The TPNW offers an opportunity for the UK to join the majority of the world’s countries that have agreed that weapons with such destructive and horrific effects have no place in achieving any form of genuine security.  UK engagement with the TPNW would provide an opportunity for global leadership on abolishing all WMD.           

The elimination of Trident, combined with the Ministry of Defence’s research on disarmament verification, would put the UK in a unique position to contribute to international security and increase jobs in these areas where Britain has the skills and expertise to lead the way.

We hope that Cornwall Council will positively consider this initiative and join the international movement to stigmatise, ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

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