We are excited. With 47 ratifications, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is really close to reaching a crucial milestone: 50 ratifications, which will lead to its entry into force 90 days later!
But what happens then, and what does “entry into force” actually mean? International treaties can be complicated, even for the people who work in this field, so we totally understand if it’s a lot to take in. Here are the 3 main things you need to know:
- Entry into force means that all countries that have ratified (or acceded to) the treaty will be bound by it, and have to implement and abide by their new legal prohibitions and obligations. For the TPNW, this happens 90 days after the 50th country ratifies the treaty.
From that moment, the states parties to the treaty are not just forbidden from carrying out any activities related to nuclear weapons, but also have to take active steps like adopting the necessary laws at the national level, assisting victims of nuclear use and testing, and cleaning up nuclear contamination. <[link removed]>
- The countries that haven’t joined the treaty will feel its impact too. Treaties are powerful tools to change behaviour, as we know from previous weapons bans on landmines and cluster munitions. In the months and years to come, you can expect companies to stop producing the prohibited weapons, and financial institutions - like banks, insurers or pension funds - pull their investments out of producing companies.
We’re seeing this happen for the TPNW even before it enters into force; major banks and pension funds have excluded nuclear weapons from their investment policies <[link removed]> since the treaty was adopted!
- This is when we ramp up the work of changing norms and behaviours. Whether it’s smoking indoors, land-mines or nuclear weapons, having a ban is powerful: it makes those behaviours clearly unacceptable and puts a stigma on those that continue to engage in them.
But it won’t happen overnight, and we’ll need to build it up together. ICAN campaigners will still need to keep up the pressure on elected representatives and companies, and we will need you to be loud and outspoken in raising awareness about the treaty and increasing pressure at home in those countries that haven’t joined the treaty yet.
We know there’s a lot to take in. We’re going to break it all down even further over the coming weeks. On October 28th, we’ll be inviting friends of the campaign to explain what’s going on in a short series of conversations on instagram. Make sure you’re following @nuclearban <[link removed]> to join ICAN’s Instagram Law School!
And of course, make sure you’re following us to get updates on how the treaty is doing. Because the answer to your last burning question “when will we reach that 50-state mark?” is that we honestly don’t know, but we think it’s coming soon! With Tuvalu’s ratification <[link removed]> last week, we only need three more ratifications. We’re working around the clock to make those happen as soon as possible, and we’ll keep you posted.
Policy and Research Coordinator
PS - If you want to dive even deeper into the legal nitty-gritty, you can download our briefing paper on entry into force <[link removed]>, or get ready to tackle common myths & misconceptions about the TPNW and nuclear disarmament ahead of the big day, with our handy Q&A booklet <[link removed]>.