Press Release: Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty opens for signature by world leaders

September 20, 2017

UK absent as UN States line up to sign this important new nuclear treaty

(London, 20 September 2017)

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons UK (ICAN UK)

Heads of State and Foreign Ministers from many countries will start the process of joining the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) when it is opened for signature by the UN Secretary General António Guterres in New York today, 20 September.

Tensions are continuing to grow between the US and North Korea – both are practising the theory of deterrence, which has resulted in North Korea’s latest nuclear and missile tests. The risk of the use of nuclear weapons, with all the devastating humanitarian consequences that would entail, is higher than ever. By providing a global framework to rid the world of this inhumane and unacceptable weapon of mass destruction, the new Nuclear Prohibition Treaty provides new tools and pressures to address the insecurity that nuclear weapons create.

Despite the declaration by the current UK government that Britain will never sign this multilateral disarmament treaty, parliamentarians and civil society are holding public signing events in Edinburgh, Leeds and London.

“For decades nuclear weapons have remained the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited despite their immense destructive power and threat to humanity. Today states that sign the treaty will demonstrate their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons by making them illegal”, said Clare Conboy of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, ICAN founding partner. 

Though the treaty negotiations were boycotted by nuclear-armed states, including the UK, they failed to derail the UN process. Now this treaty is set to be a major addition to international law, and will enter into force following the 50th ratification.  This is a clear indication that the majority of the world no longer accepts nuclear weapons or their use for any reason.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons bans the production, development, stationing, and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as use and threat of use; forbids assistance for all prohibited activities; and requires the provision of assistance to victims and remediation of polluted land from nuclear weapon use and testing. Many British Army veterans and aboriginal Australians still live with the horrendous consequences of exposure to radiation during British nuclear weapons testing on aboriginal lands and people from 1952 – 1957. The treaty will place obligations on its states parties to provide assistance to victims, if they sign which the current UK government is refusing to do.

With the adoption of the TPNW, nuclear weapons finally join biological and chemical weapons as weapons of mass destruction that have been declared illegal under international law. As has been true with previous weapon prohibition treaties, a strong new international norm can lead to concrete changes in policies and behaviours, even in states not party to the treaty.



Dr Rebecca Johnson 07733360955

Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy  (ICAN founding partner in UK)

Elizabeth Minor

Article 36 (ICAN partner in UK)


The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a global coalition of over 460 non-governmental organisations in one hundred countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the Treaty on the Prohbition of Nuclear Weapons. ICAN UK is a collaboration of UK-based ICAN. Twitter: @ICAN_UK Facebook: Website:


Photo: Moment of treaty adoption 7th July 2017, Clare Conboy

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