As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) comes into force, ICRC President Peter Maurer congratulates those whose efforts made it possible and reaffirms the ICRC’s commitment to intensify its efforts to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons.


25 October 2020

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

What a historic moment: in 90 days, a new global norm will enter into force explicitly prohibiting nuclear weapons — one of the most terrifying and inhumane weapon ever created.

I warmly congratulate the States, civil society organizations and other actors that have brought us to this moment.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are proud to have contributed to these efforts. Today is a victory for humanity.

Ten years ago, the ICRC called for a new debate on nuclear weapons, saying:

“The existence of nuclear weapons poses some of the most profound questions about the point at which the rights of States must yield to the interests of humanity, the capacity of our species to master the technology it creates, the reach of international humanitarian law, and the extent of human suffering we are willing to inflict, or to permit, in warfare.”

We concluded by re-calling our long-standing appeal to all States to pursue negotiations to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international treaty.

In 2010, this call may have appeared a castle in the air. But the imminent entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons shows that what may have seemed unrealistic yesterday can become reality tomorrow.

It shows that we can – if we act in concert, with foresight and clarity of purpose – overcome even our biggest and most entrenched challenges.

For too long, we have looked to the past for guidance on what to do about nuclear weapons. We have witnessed how the dangerous logic of nuclear deterrence repeatedly has led the world to the brink of unimaginable destruction, threatening the very survival of humankind. Many have come to accept nuclear weapons as an inevitable part of the international security architecture.

The entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons allows us to turn our gaze towards the future; to imagine a world freed from these inhumane weapons no longer as a distant dream, but as an actual, achievable goal.

So, while we celebrate the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we must not forget that prohibiting nuclear weapons is the beginning – not the end – of our efforts.

There are still more than thirteen thousand nuclear weapons in the word. Many thousands of these are on high alert, ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. This is the reality we are up against.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons articulates the end-state and benchmark against which all efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation must be judged. It offers a promise to current and future generations, that one day we will be freed of the dark shadow of nuclear weapons.

It is up to us, however, to deliver on this promise. As we look towards the Treaty’s first Meeting of States Parties, we must ensure that the Treaty’s provisions are faithfully implemented.

We must intensify and scale up our efforts to achieve the Treaty’s broadest possible adherence and insist on its vision of collective security; a vision that is more viable, sustainable and humane.

And finally, in all our efforts, we must strive to keep the testimonies of the hibakusha and the evidence of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences at the center of the debate. What we cannot prepare for, we must prevent.

This Treaty first became possible when the nuclear weapons debate shifted from focusing on the possessor of these weapons and their motives to the weapon itself and the profound humanitarian impact.

By maintaining this focus, we can take this Treaty all the way to its goal: a world without nuclear weapons.

Today is a promise of a safer future. Let us seize now the unique opportunities brought to us by this Treaty and bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end.

Read more:

Nuclear Weapons and their Humanitarian Consequences

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