Abolishing nuclear weapons
WILPF has been demanding the elimination of nuclear weapons since the dawn of the nuclear age. As part of this effort, Reaching Critical Will worked with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to achieve the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we monitor global nuclear weapon forums and treaty bodies, and we are active in various local and national efforts for disarmament around the world.
Reaching Critical Will's activities on nuclear weapons include:
- Banning nuclear weapons
- Humanitarian and environmental impact of nuclear weapons
- Nuclear weapon modernisation
- Monitoring nuclear weapon-related forums and treaty bodies
- Nuclear weapon divestment and other local initiatives
- Writing and speaking on nuclear weapons
On 7 July 2017, 122 states voted in favour of a legally binding instrument banning nuclear weapons. Negotiated at a United Nations conference, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons makes the possession of these horrific weapons of mass destruction illegal, along with other related activities such as testing, using, developing, or assisting with nuclear weapons (which includes financing or planning to use the weapons, among other things). The treaty also includes provisions for assisting victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and environmental remediation. It is the first treaty to recognise the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on indigenous people and on women.
Reaching this agreement is an amazing feat of collective action by people who came together to do something that had not been tried before. It is the result of decades of campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons by WILPF and other civil society organisations. Since 2007, WILPF has been part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which has worked with governments, international organisations, academics, and activists to bring this ban to fruition. We worked to generate a renewed focus on the humantiarian consequences of nuclear weapons, which opened space for consideration of the most appropriate political and legal responses to the existence of nuclear weapons. As we always knew, this treaty has not magically eliminated nuclear weapons over night. But as atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow said in her remarkable closing statement to the negotiating conference on 7 July, “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.” This treaty was conceived of as a tool that could help change the politics and economics of nuclear weapons as a means of facilitating disarmament. It provides a solid foundation to change policies and practices, as well as to shift the thinking and discourse on nuclear weapons even further.
Reaching Critical Will provided daily analysis from the negotiations and has posted all relevant documents online. Check out some great videos from the conference on ICAN’s Vimeo page and Reaching Critical Will’s Facebook page. You can also read RCW and ICAN’s writings at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and view photos on ICAN’s Flickr page.
What's next? The support expressed for the treaty over the last several years continues into this new phase where we will need to work even more closely with states and legislators to join and implement it, including the nuclear-armed states that have so far boycotted this process. WILPF will continue to be at the forefront of these efforts.
This discussion paper outlines Reaching Critical Will’s view of important prohibitions for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, published between the two negotiating conferences.
This discussion paper outlines Reaching Critical Will’s view of important principles, prohibitions, and positive obligations that should be included in a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
This paper, published jointly by Reaching Critical Will and Article 36, looks at possible principles and provisions of a treaty banning nuclear weapons; how it could be accomplished; and its potential normative and practical impacts.
This table overleaf from Reaching Critical Will and Article 36 summaries the gaps in existing treaty law related to nuclear weapons that could be filled by a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
This paper explores the effective measures for nuclear disarmament presented by the New Agenda Coalition in its 2014 NPT working paper and argues that in the current context the most effective and achievable measure for nuclear disarmament is a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
This paper examines the complimentarity between the NPT and a ban on nuclear weapons. It argues that rather than constituting a challenge to the NPT, a process to ban nuclear weapons that arises from the discussion around the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has the potential to prevent the NPT’s collapse.
WILPF has long raised concerns with the humanitarian and environmental catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons. We have been part of efforts in the United States, Australia, and elsewhere to collect and disseminate information about the effects of nuclear weapon production, testing, and use.
Reaching Critical Will participated in the series of conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway (2013), Mexico (2014), and Austria (2014). We coordinated and edited a global study on this subject ahead of the first conference in Norway, and we have since then supported activist colleagues in disseminating further work, including on the gendered impacts of nuclear weapons.
This publication examines the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and is aimed for civil society actors, academics, and governments that are interested in approaching weapons negotiations with a humanitarian lens.
All of the nuclear-armed states are currently engaged in programmes to "modernise" - upgrade or refurbish - their nuclear arsenals. This includes the bombs, delivery systems (like missiles, aircraft, and submarines), as well as related facilities used in the production of nuclear weapons. Since 2010, Reaching Critical Will has published an annual study that explores in-depth the nuclear weapon modernization programmes of China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and analyses the costs of nuclear weapons in the context of the economic crisis, austerity measures, and rising challenges in meeting human and environmental needs. The chapters are written by country experts with detailed knowledge of the programmes and their costs.
Reaching Critical Will monitors and provides reporting and analysis on several nuclear weapon-related forums, including:
- Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
- Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
- UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security
- Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament
- Humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons conferences
- International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
We have also provided coverage of other forums and meetings, including:
- Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
- Conference on Disarmament (2003–2015)
- UN Disarmament Commission (2003–2014)
- High-level meeting on nuclear disarmament (2013)
- UN Security Council
In addition to WILPF Sections' national and local work to abolish nuclear weapons, Reaching Critical Will also participates in and supports nuclear weapon divestment efforts and other local initiatives to raise awareness about nuclear weapons and hold governments to account. Some of this work has included:
- Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: Divest, Demilitarise, and Disarm," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 5 May 2020
- Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: Coronavirus Capitalism versus Persistent Activism," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 8 April 2020
- Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: From Ceasefire to Divestment and Disarmament," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 26 March 2020
- Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: Militarise or organise?" Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 23 March 2020
- Ray Acheson, Presentation for the International Day of Peace, Montreal, Canada, 21 September 2019
- Ray Acheson, Presentation for the 74th Hiroshima and Nagasaki Commemoration, Toronto, Canada, 6 August 2019
- Ray Acheson, "Impacts of the nuclear ban: how outlawing nuclear weapons is changing the world," in Joseph A. Camilleri, Michael Hamel-Green and Fumihiko Yoshida (eds.), The 2017 Nuclear Ban Treaty: A New Path to Nuclear Disarmament, 1st Edition, Routledge, November 2018
- Ray Acheson, "Patriarchy and the bomb: banning nuclear weapons against the opposition of militarist masculinities," in Betty A. Reardon and Asha Hans (eds.), The gender imperative: human security vs. state security, 2nd Edition, Routledge, 2018
- Ray Acheson, "Gender, weapons, and power: the importance of feminism for disarmament," presentation at the Women and Weapons panel discussion, London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace and Security, 13 December 2018
- Ray Acheson, "Banning the bomb, smashing the patriarchy," TEDx Place des Nations Women, 6 December 2018
- Ray Acheson, "A feminist critique of the atomic bomb," Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 12 October 2018 [and related talk]
- Ray Acheson, "How prohibiting nuclear weapons changed the world," The Nation, 6 July 2018
- Ray Acheson, Loreta Castro, Beatrice Fihn, Linnet Ngayu, and Carlos Umana, "Rebuilding the antinuclear movement," The Nation, 1 June 2018
- Ray Acheson and Deva Woodly, "A Conversation on Nuclear Disarmament," The New School for Social Research Alumni Day, 28 April 2018
- Ray Acheson, "Impacts of the nuclear ban: how outlawing nuclear weapons is changing the world," Global Change, Peace and Security 30:2, 3 May 2018
- Ray Acheson, "The nuclear ban and the patriarchy: a feminist analysis of opposition to prohibiting nuclear weapons," Critical Studies on Security, 30 April 2018
- Ray Acheson, "A new generation against the bomb," The Nation, 27 April 2018
- Ray Acheson, "The Doomsday Machine: confessions of a nuclear war planner," Global Change, Peace and Security 30:2, 21 April 2018
- Ray Acheson, "Resisting nuclear weapons means resisting oppression and injustice," The Nation, 2 February 2018
- Ray Acheson, "We need a complete nuclear weapons ban," The Nation, 26 February 2018
- Ray Acheson, "Law and morality at the Vienna conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons," in Helen Caldicott (ed.), Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation (New York: The New Press, 2017)
- Ray Acheson, "Women and the ban the bomb movement," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 15 June 2017
- Ray Acheson, "Patriarchy and nuclear weapons," presentation to the 2017 NPT Preparatory Committee, 4 May 2017
- Ray Acheson, "Why ethics is important to the politics of nuclear weapons," presentation to the 2015 NPT Review Conference, May 2015
- Ray Acheson, "Modernization of nuclear weapons: Aspiring to 'indefinite retention'?" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1 September 2012
- Ray Acheson, “Gender and nuclear weapons,” presentation to the 2010 National Model United Nations, New York, 31 March 2010
- Ray Acheson, “Nuclear disarmament for peace and development,” presentation to the Lower Hudson Valley Catholic College and University Consortium, 26 March 2010
- Ray Acheson, “Nuclear weapons and security discourses,” presentation to the 62nd Annual DPI/NGO Conference in Mexico City, 11 September 2009
- Ray Acheson and Tim Wright, “Gender and Nuclear Disarmament,” presentation to the 2008 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee, 29 April 2008
Interviews and media
- New York Daily News, 29 January 2020
- Anchorage Press, 16 September 2019
- Gender at Work Podcast, 12 February 2019
- Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, 6 December 2018
- Pressenza, 26 September 2018
- The New School Free Press, 14 January 2018
- New School News, 27 October 2017
- Democracy Now!, July 2017
- Al Jazeera, July 2017
- PRI’s The World, July 2017
- WMNF Community Radio,10 August 2017
- Vancouver Cooperative Radio, 12 August 2017, 10:00
- Arms Control Association, September 2015