By Kate Hudson
New treaties are not often greeted with the recognition and enthusiasm that they merit.
They can seem dry and legalistic, overladen with clauses and dusty formulations.
But the reality is that treaties are often the bringing into law of profoundly humanitarian principles, of significant advances in human rights, of steps towards peace and to protect all communities.
And they are often the result of years of campaigning, of lobbying, marching, and direct action.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which came into force on January 22, is just such a treaty. The result of over 60 years of anti-nuclear campaigning it is a remarkable and path-breaking achievement.
But one of the most moving sections of the treaty is that which recognizes the unacceptable suffering and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha), as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons. It explicitly recognizes the disproportionate impact of nuclear-weapon activities on indigenous peoples, because of the choices made by nuclear powers for their testing sites.
Article 6 of the treaty is entitled Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation. It requires each state party to the treaty to provide individuals who are affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, “with age and gender-sensitive assistance, without discrimination, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion.”
And it also covers land contaminated as a result of activities related to the testing or use of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices — states “shall take necessary and appropriate measures towards the environmental remediation of areas so contaminated.”
These two commitments are long overdue. The appalling death toll from nuclear weapons testing has never been adequately measured or addressed. Indeed, testing has so shocked generations of activists that it has been a powerful motivator in building our movement.
We must work to ensure that Britain signs up to this treaty and makes full recompense to the Australian First Peoples — and to all those who have been affected by its disastrous obsession with nuclear weapons.
Kate Hudson is the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.