The treaty prohibits the making, storage and use of nuclear weapons.
– This means that it will be international law. It will be binding international law for the states that have signed the agreement. This is what Kjølv Egeland, postdoctoral fellow in international security at Science Po in Paris, tells NRK.
The treaty banning nuclear weapons was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017.
The decision meant that the ban would only come into force when 50 countries had ratified it.
It happened on Saturday when the UN was informed that Honduras had ratified the treaty. It will enter into force after 90 days, which means 22 January.
– Historical moment
UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasizes that this draws attention to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons.
“This is a meaningful commitment to the total elimination of all nuclear weapons, which is the UN’s highest priority,” Guterres said.
Bernt G. Apeland, who is Secretary General of the Red Cross in Norway, says that this is a historic moment.
– The Red Cross movement has been involved in the work to ban the use of nuclear weapons since our delegates witnessed the suffering in Hiroshima in August 1945. 75 years later, there was finally a ban on nuclear weapons, the most fearsome and inhumane weapon ever made, says Apeland.
Signed by 84 countries
A total of 84 countries have signed the UN treaty, although only 50 have ratified so far. Ratification is a step further from signing, and means that a country formally decides to join a treaty.
All states that have signed the agreement will nevertheless be legally bound by the prohibitions and obligations in the treaty.
None of the nuclear powers or NATO countries, and thus not Norway, have supported the decision.
Thus, none of the nine countries that currently have nuclear weapons are covered by the treaty.
Egeland nevertheless believes that the treaty can also have an impact on the countries outside the agreement.
– It is so in international law that it is political almost as much as it is legal. It is often seen that international agreements also have effects on countries that have not signed and ratified themselves, says Egeland.
May lead to pressure on others
In 2017, the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received the Nobel Peace Prize.
ICAN now hopes that the ban on nuclear weapons will lead to pressure, as has been seen in previous treaties against landmines and cluster munitions.
– We have previously seen that companies stop producing weapons that are banned, and that financial institutions withdraw their investments from the industry, says Tuva Widskjold in ICAN Norway to NTB.
According to Egeland, the production of cluster munitions has stopped almost everywhere, despite the fact that a number of major powers are still outside the agreement. In a way, they have complied with the ban anyway.
– In a long-term perspective, one can imagine that this may have a snowball effect where more and more countries join the Prohibition Treaty and thus increase the pressure on the nuclear weapon states to disarm, says Egeland.
Nigeria, Thailand and the Philippines
One of the countries that have signed the agreement is Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Egeland says that it is important
– It is a country that not too long ago threatened to develop nuclear weapons. South Africa is another important country among those who have signed. They have previously had nuclear weapons, he says.
The researcher also points out that Thailand, the Philippines and Kazakhstan have signed.
These are countries that are in alliance with nuclear-weapon states. Thailand and the Philippines, are in alliance with the United States and Kazakhstan are in alliance with Russia.
– Many believe that the allies of the nuclear weapon states are helping to legitimize nuclear weapons and that they in a way stand in the way of disarmament, Egeland says.
It can therefore be a help in the disarmament work if the allied countries join the prohibition treaty.
– When someone asks the United States to disarm, the United States responds; which is partly true, that these are not questions that only concern us, it concerns the whole of NATO, Egeland explains.
The United States has asked countries to withdraw
According to the news agency AP, the United States has sent letters to all the countries that have ratified the treaty and asked them to withdraw the ratification.
Egeland says that he has never heard of anything like this having happened before. He believes that it will still not prevent the treaty from entering into force.
“It is stated in the Vienna Convention that an agreement remains in force even if the number of states that have ratified falls below what was originally required for the agreement to enter into force,” he says.
The Vienna Convention is a kind of constitution under international law, which, among other things, states how agreements are to be interpreted.
Can be a turning point
On Sunday, NRK has been in contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but they will not comment on the situation after it is clear that the treaty will enter into force.
Egeland believes that in the time ahead there will be pressure on countries that are allied with nuclear powers to join the agreement.
– It is easy to understand that it is uncomfortable for Norway, in that the USA is so strongly against the agreement, he says.
When NRK asks Egeland how he thinks the world will look at the treaty in 30 years, he says that the future is very open.
– It is possible that we have then abolished all nuclear weapons and look back on the prohibition treaty as the undisputed turning point. But we must also be so honest that in 2050 we are not there at all, says Egeland.
At the same time, he points out that things can change extremely quickly in international politics.
– There were few who thought that the Cold War would end just a few months before it disappeared, says Kjølv Egeland.