Joint Statement on the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

07 July 2017

Joint Statement of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Seventy-two years after the ICRC and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement first called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and with the suffering of the victims foremost in our minds – the Hibakusha and those harmed by nuclear testing -- we warmly welcome this truly historic treaty.

The ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies wholeheartedly congratulate you, Madam President and the States that have participated in this conference for the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and we thank all those who have worked tirelessly to bring us to this moment.

The historic significance of this treaty cannot be overstated. It is an essential and long-awaited step towards a future free of nuclear weapons.

Our Movement has contributed to this effort by bringing its own direct testimony to the horrific effects of the atomic bombings -- which we saw through our own eyes in 1945. We have also brought evidence – based on our own experience and expertise -- of the long-term effects of the use of nuclear weapons on human health, and of the lack of any adequate humanitarian response capacity.

Recognizing their catastrophic humanitarian consequences, the treaty clearly and comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons on the basis of international humanitarian law. It acknowledges that any use of nuclear weapons would be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience. It contains strong commitments to assist victims of testing and use of nuclear weapons and to engage in remediation of contaminated environments. And it provides pathways for adherence by all States, including nuclear-armed States.

With the prohibition of nuclear weapons now established in law at the global level, we are at a turning point in efforts to end the era of nuclear weapons. This treaty confirms that a clear majority of States unequivocally rejects nuclear weapons on moral, humanitarian, and now legal grounds.
The treaty can and must evoke a profound reflection, and a determined response, by all States. Although the ban on nuclear weapons will not make them immediately disappear, it reinforces the stigma against their use, supports commitments to nuclear risk reduction, and is a clear disincentive for proliferation – all of which are especially important today with rising regional and international tensions and the consequent increasing risk of use of nuclear weapons. Banning nuclear weapons is a concrete step towards fulfilling existing commitments for nuclear disarmament, in particular those of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will actively promote this treaty and urge States to sign and adhere to it as quickly as possible, to ensure its rapid entry into force and its faithful implementation. We are also grateful for the recognition in the treaty of our role, and of the crucial role played by civil society, in mobilizing the public conscience for the elimination of nuclear weapons and its invitation to us to continue to participate in its future, including through our support for its implementation.

In April of this year, leaders of the ICRC, the International Federation and 34 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from around the world met in Nagasaki, and saw and heard for themselves the physical and psychological scars of the atomic bombing of this city. At the end of their visit, they appealed to the international community to ensure that Nagasaki be the last time in history that a nuclear weapon is used. In the words of the Nagasaki Appeal: "Achieving a world without nuclear weapons is an obligation to future generations and imperative to preserve our common humanity. Weapons that risk catastrophic humanitarian consequences cannot possibly be viewed as providing peoples' security. Protecting humanity requires courage, commitment and concerted action: it is time to put humanity first by prohibiting and completely eliminating nuclear weapons." The treaty that you have adopted today is a historic step to this end.