Who Says a Few People Can’t Change The World? Nuclear Weapons Are Now Banned.

ICAN Australia members celebrate receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, 2017
ICAN Australia members celebrate receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, 2017 (photo: Kristian Laemmle-Ruff)

We’ve all said it, “What can I do? I’m just one person. Or, “What can we do? There are so few of us.” Well, ICAN did it. Nuclear weapons are now officially outlawed.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Gavan McFadzean sums it up well in an email to supporters today:

“Starting today nuclear weapons are officially unlawful thanks to the landmark United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons coming into force. Remarkably, it is the first ever global ban on these weapons that threaten people and all living things.

“The story started here in Australia, in Melbourne, 14 years ago, when a handful of people founded the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

“Most of the people in the room were volunteers. One of them was my colleague and friend ACF Nuclear Free Campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Together they have grown to become nearly 600 people-powered movements from more than 100 countries united in a call to end nuclear weapons. The Australian Conservation Foundation is proud to have been a partner from the start.

Detractors say the Treaty is merely symbolic but McFadzean points out: “Together they have won hearts and minds, and in 2017, the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Now they have pushed for, promoted, and advanced a global treaty that bans nuclear weapons, just as chemical and biological weapons, and landmines are banned.

“Today’s news, this incredible win, a ban on nuclear weapons, is a testament to what persistent, long-term people-powered campaigning can achieve.”

“But this story is not over yet.

“86 states have signed the treaty in endorsement, and over 50 states have shown great leadership by ratifying and committing to the treaty. Australia has not signed or ratified the treaty. Now is the time to change that.”

He urges people “to be on the right side of history and international humanitarian law” by signing and sharing the petition “calling on our elected representatives to make Australia nuclear-free which includes ratifying the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

“From the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the shadow of the Cold War and the impacts of 2,000+ weapons tests – the devastating legacy of nuclear weapons still lingers in the communities and places we live.

“Ratifying the treaty comes with an obligation to assist people, land, water and wildlife affected by nuclear weapons use or testing.

“Given Australia’s weapons testing history in Maralinga and Emu Field, South Australia, and Montebello Islands, Western Australia, we should be ratifying the treaty and taking responsibility for the fallout and impacts of these tests.

“While there is still much work to reach full nuclear disarmament, the weapons ban treaty now provides us a clear framework and pathway to achieving it. It is our best hope for ending our worst weapons.

“Let’s take hope in knowing that ‘from little things, big things grow’ and be bold in what we do in 2021.”

ICAN is celebrating this milestone with a virtual march and asking people to urge their local Member of Parliament to support Australia signing and ratifying the Treaty. You can sign and share the ACF petition here.

Learn more about the origins of ICAN and how it became the first Australian-founded organisation to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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