In 2013, The United Nations (UN) passed resolution 68/32 which established the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons to take place annually, every September 26th. The resolution calls for the critical negotiation on nuclear weapons to prohibit their development, manufacturing, possession, testing, transfer, storing, and use or threat of use. The goal for the day is to provide an opportunity for the global community to reaffirm its dedication to the urgency for global nuclear disarmament and to mobilize new-found international efforts towards achieving a nuclear free world. You can participate in this International Day.
This year, the UN General Assembly will hold a high-level plenary meeting during the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly on Friday, October 2nd, from 10:00am – 6:00pm (EDT), in order to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The intent of the meeting is to increase public awareness about the threat posed by nuclear weapons to all of humanity and how their total elimination is necessary, and to mobilize international endeavors toward the common goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. The event will be virtual with all statements pre-recorded. Statements will be heard during the Opening from the President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, General António Guterres. Statements will take place from 10:20am – 1:00pm (EDT) and 3:00pm – 6:00pm (EDT). The event can be viewed on UNTV (webtv.un.org).
To commemorate the day, Peace Action is hosting an intersectional event titled “Cries from every Corner: Fund Healthcare, Housing, Jobs – Eliminate Nuclear Weapons”, on September 26th, from 11:00am – 1:00pm (EDT) to commemorate the day. This organization is asking Americans to join the national movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons and to call on Congress to divest from war and instead invest in human needs such as healthcare for all, re-imagining policing, affordable housing, immigration reform, and renewable energy. There are events around the country.
#WeThePeoples2020 is holding a global civil society webinar on September 26th to honor the day with Part 2 focusing on the Americas, Europe, and Africa. It will be held from 11:00am – 4:00pm (EDT) and consist of three sessions that will include presentations on nuclear disarmament issues, practical workshops on key approaches to nuclear disarmament, and a panel discussion followed by Q&A. There will be opening comments from Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under- Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and the livestream will be moderated by Kehkashan Basu, winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize. The event requires registration. More information here.
Here’s more information on the history behind this day and worldwide support for it.
The UN General Assembly has been at the head of many diplomatic efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons since 1946, when it established the Atomic Energy Commission, which pledged to control nuclear energy and eliminate atomic weapons. In 1959, the UN General Assembly endorsed the goal of general and complete disarmament which was supported by all member nations. This goal is included in Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The goal of general and complete nuclear disarmament was recognized again in 1978 as the primary intent in the field of disarmament by the first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament.
So, in 2013, when the UN established the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, it seemed on par for the UN. Further, in 2014, the Inter-Parliamentary Union endorsed the day’s message to increase public awareness regarding the threat nuclear weapons pose to humanity and to inspire action to attain a world free of nuclear weapons.
The UN’s message of total elimination of nuclear weapons continues. In 2015, 144 countries (about 3/4 of all UN member countries) issued a UN statement in support of total elimination, known as Resolution 70/47, “Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons”.
In 2017, the UN General Assembly decided to convene the United Nations Conference to “Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination” by establishing general obligations, prohibitions, political commitments, legal measures and provisions, and norms to attain and preserve a world free of nuclear weapons. The conference led to the eventual adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the first multilateral legally binding international treaty for nuclear disarmament to have been facilitated in 20 years. Despite the fact that it was negotiated with out and not signed by any of the 9 nuclear armed states (including the U.S.), it was adopted by 122 nations and signed by over 50.
Even if the U.S. government is not pursuing total elimination at the UN, American citizens and groups are. Back from the Brink is calling for global elimination of nuclear weapons by pursuing an agreement between nations with nuclear arsenals to eliminate said weapons and believes this should be the highest national security priority of the U.S. government. This year, the #StillHere coalition that joined together to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki agreed upon a Joint Statement that included support for “global elimination of nuclear weapons.” This organization believes the U.S. has a moral obligation, as the only country to have used nuclear weapons in conflict, to lead this charge.