Jamaica welcomes anti-nuclear treaty

Jamaica welcomes anti-nuclear treaty

Sunday, January 24, 2021

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Jamaica yesterday welcomed the entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The treaty, which came into effect on Friday, January 22, is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons.

“As one of the 50 countries that made this occasion possible, Jamaica is indeed pleased and remains committed to the goal of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of the legal and political norms against their use,” Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith is quoted in a release from her ministry.

“Jamaica stands with all states parties to treaties such as these, which support the global goal of a world that is peaceful and secure for present and future generations,” Johnson Smith said, adding that Jamaica remains committed to the disarmament agenda and will do its part.

While the treaty's entry into force is regarded as a milestone, it is marred by the lack of signatures from the world's major nuclear powers.

However, despite the missing participants, the occasion was marked by praise from the United Nations and even Pope Francis.

“The treaty is an important step towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and a strong demonstration of support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

He praised “the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades”, and called on “all States to work together to realise this ambition to advance common security and collective safety”.

The treaty seeks to prohibit the use, development, production, testing, stationing, stockpiling and threat of nuclear weapons.

The pope heralded its enactment during his general audience last Wednesday.

“This is the first legally-binding international instrument explicitly prohibiting these weapons, whose indiscriminate use would impact a huge number of people in a short time and would cause long-lasting damage to the environment,” Francis said.

“I strongly encourage all states and all people to work decisively toward promoting conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons, contributing to the advancement of peace and multilateral cooperation which humanity greatly needs today.”

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Mauer, echoed those sentiments.

“Today is a victory for our common humanity. Let us seize the moment and take the treaty all the way to its goal: a world without nuclear weapons,” he said in a statement.

By late October, 50 countries had ratified the treaty originally adopted by 122 countries in the UN General Assembly in 2017 allowing it to take effect on Friday, or 90 days from the 50th signature.

Anti-nuclear activists still hope that the treaty will be more than symbolic, even without the buy-in of the world's greatest nuclear powers, by stigmatising nuclear programmes and challenging the mentality of the status quo.

There are a total of nine nuclear-armed nations, with the United States and Russia holding 90 per cent of such weapons. The others are China, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.

Most nuclear powers insist their arms exist merely as deterrents and those that have refused to sign this treaty say they remain committed to the earlier nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons was drafted through an initiative by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an NGO that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts.

“These weapons have always been illegitimate, but from a legal point of view, they are now illegal,” said Jean-Marie Collin, spokesperson for ICAN France, welcoming the treaty.

“There is now an international norm that says that nuclear weapons are prohibited.”

Japan, the only country to have ever been targeted by a nuclear weapon, has, for the moment, also refused to sign the treaty, saying its effectiveness is dubious without the participation of the world's nuclear powers.

In her statement to promote and commemorate International Day of Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons in October 2020, Jamaica's Johnson Smith called for “States that have not joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to consider doing so as a matter of urgency”.

Yesterday, she reiterated that call.

Jamaica ratified the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on October 23, 2020.

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