by Zia Mian, from Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. He is co-chair of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM).
A treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons was adopted by an overwhelming vote and met with loud cheers this week at the United Nations. More than 70 years in the making, the treaty offers widely agreed principles, commitments, and mechanisms for ending the nuclear weapons age. Getting here was not easy, and achieving nuclear disarmament will still be a long struggle. But the new treaty creates space and means for a creative new disarmament politics based on law and ethics and democracy that go beyond well-trodden debates on the dangers and costs of nuclear weapons and traditional practices of arms control based on step-by-step reductions that limit only the size of arsenals.
Having achieved their goal of negotiating a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons and aiming explicitly at their elimination, officials from more than 120 countries and countless peace activists who have been engaged in the talks now need to take up the political challenge of having the treaty quickly and widely adopted and owned by publics and governments around the world. The treaty will open for signature on September 20. The treaty adopted this week requires 50 states to formally join before it enters into force. This should occur soon. In the vote at the United Nations, 122 states voted in favor, and only the Netherlands, which hosts nuclear weapons belonging to the United States, voted against.