Nuclear Weapons and the Peace Pledge

 We have received a request from our member Gini Bevan for SELHuG to support the campaign being promoted by London Region CND that aims to persuade the UK government to sign and ratify The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (known as TPNW). The TPNW makes it illegal under international law to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. It also makes it illegal to assist or encourage anyone to engage in these activities. The campaign asks individuals and groups like SELHuG to sign a Peace Pledge designed to put moral pressure on the UK government to sign the treaty. 

Your committee is sympathetic to this request but realises that the elimination of nuclear weapons is a controversial issue. We are therefore reluctant to commit the Group to this campaign without first giving members an opportunity to discuss it. 

No-one likes nuclear weapons. The 1970 UN Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has been signed by 191 member states including all the states with nuclear weapons, secured a promise from non-nuclear-armed states that they would not seek to build or buy nuclear weapons. In return, they were guaranteed full access to peaceful nuclear energy & received a vague promise from the nuclear-armed states that they would negotiate toward disarmament. However, progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons has been very slow and now nuclear diplomacy has virtually stopped. 

Frustrated by this lack of progress a number of smaller countries decided to reverse the nuclear conversation. Rather than accepting the existence of nuclear weapons but hoping to reduce their number, they sought to ban them altogether by making their possession illegal. Such weapons, instead of being a badge of strength and honour, would become a badge of shame. 

The TPNW came into force in January 2021. Although 122 states have signed it none of the states possessing nuclear weapons have done so. Indeed, most have said that they will never sign it preferring instead to stick to nuclear diplomacy. 

So what is the situation today? The ban exists on paper but is meaningless in practice since there is no means to enforce it. Perhaps the main benefit of the proposed Peace Pledge would be to build sufficient understanding and support so as to become an electoral issue and thus force the government to take practical steps towards elimination. 

What should SELHuG do? Your committee would like to devote one of our monthly meetings to a discussion of the issues around nuclear disarmament. The outcome might well be that there is majority support for SELHuG to sign the pledge. Alternatively, the view might be that individual members should sign the pledge if they supported its aims.

Please let us know your views and watch this space! You can contact us at 

Tony Brewer, Secretary, 23 March 2021.