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From Loretto at the United Nations: Update on the TPNW

Posted on September 1, 2020, by Beth Blissman CoL

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Among the numerous acronyms spoken daily at the United Nations, the TPNW or Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is one of the most important. It signals the desire of a majority of the world’s countries to abolish fully the threat of nuclear catastrophe, either by war or by accident. Let’s explore the TPNW further and how the Loretto Community is involved:

What is the TPNW?

On July 7, 2020, we recognized the three-year anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The excitement in the room was palpable that day in 2017, when 122 of the 193 countries of the United Nations voted to prohibit the development, testing, production, possession, stockpiling and use (or threat of use) of nuclear weapons. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after at least 50 countries formally have accepted it. Currently, 43 nation states have ratified or acceded to the treaty, and according to Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, that speed of adherence is similar to other treaties concerning weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, none of the “nuclear nine” countries even took part in the treaty negotiations and have no intention of either signing or ratifying the treaty, which limits its effectiveness. (Treaties do not typically apply to countries who have not chosen to ratify them, although the treaty definitely will serve as a moral statement of a majority of countries at the United Nations.) However, once the TPNW comes into force, which might even be as early as next year, there will be not only moral disincentives for building nuclear arsenals, but legal, economic, political and social disincentives as well.

The TPNW sounds like a good idea: What is Loretto doing about it?

Before the end of 2017, the Loretto Community crafted and published a statement noting that we “firmly and unequivocally support the 2017 U.N. Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” and we “call upon the President and Congress of the United States of America … to immediately support the abolition and unilateral disarmament of nuclear weapons, which means to discontinue all further testing, production, updating and deployment of nuclear weapons.”

We also signed on to a joint interfaith statement of Faith Communities Concerned about Nuclear Weapons set to come out before the U.N. General Assembly in September. This statement recognizes and laments “the immense suffering, oppression and exploitation faced by the Indigenous communities around the world whose bodies, lands, waters and air have served as the testing grounds for the ambitions of those who dominate with force.”

In addition to statements, our Loretto Peace Committee has been hard at work educating about the existential threat to humanity that nuclear weapons pose. (see below)

This is excellent – What can I do to help the TPNW have more moral clout?

Here are four steps you can explore:

1. Talk about it! When you choose to discuss openly this challenge with friends, family and members of your community groups, you can raise consciousness together.

2. Follow the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. This coalition of NGOs was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

3. Contact your federal legislators to urge them to support TPNW. Find your legislators here.

4 .Educate younger people about it. Not many young people have ever heard the story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), nor are they aware of how much money is spent keeping up nuclear arsenals in our country alone.

Our world must evolve beyond weapons of mass destruction, since, after 75 years, we see that nuclear weapons have not brought an end to war. They are not pro-life, as these weapons of mass destruction have actually perpetuated global systems based on domination, siphoning resources away from urgent environmental sustainability and human needs. We have a moral responsibility to help rid our world of nuclear weapons.


Beth Blissman CoL

Beth, a Loretto Co-member, is the Community’s UN NGO representative.
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