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D.5.c.i. Mobilizing against Nuclear Weapons through the UN and International Law

Volume Two -> D. Peace Movements Since 1945 -> D.5. Opposition to Nuclear Weapons Since 1990 -> D.5.c. Campaigning Against Nuclear Weapons -> D.5.c.i. Mobilizing against Nuclear Weapons through the UN and International Law
Nae Place for Nuclear Weapons, Scottish delegation to Nuclear Ban Treaty negotiations, Peace News, issue 2608-2609, 2017, pp. 7-10

This is a detailed day by day account of the activities of the Scottish civil society team at the negotiations in New York from 15 June to 24 June and 29 June to 7 July based on the blog kept by the Scottish delegation. The group received regular briefings and lobbied delegates involved in the negotiations, but also attended external meetings and protests organized by peace activists.

Acheson, Ray ; Castro, Loreta ; Fihn, Beatrice ; Ngayu, Linnet ; Umaña, Carlos, Rebuilding the antinuclear movement, The Nation, 01/06/2018,

Discusses dominant narratives about nuclear weapons as tools of “safety” and “security” and “peace,” and the need to reinforce of a mass social movement against nuclear weapons.  The authors also outline the emergence and core activities of the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

On ICAN see 

Barron, Dan, A Challenge to Trident, Red Pepper, 2015, pp. 30-31

This brief, but informative, article focuses on the campaign by the Marshall Islands to arraign the UK before the International Court of Justice for failure to fulfill its legal and moral obligations under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: to negotiate for nuclear disarmament. Barron notes that the 70,000 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands suffered the effects of 67 US nuclear weapons tests from 1946-58, and as a UN Trust Territory only achieved independence from the US in 1990.

Bolton, Matthew, The Nuclear Taboo and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, E-International Relations, 02/05/2018,

Analysis of how ICAN, by choosing a precise discursive strategy to establish a categorical prohibition, helped to build the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, placing nuclear weapons in the same legal category as other pariah weapons. The article uses Mary Douglas’ landmark theorization of ‘purity’ and ‘danger’ to explore the development of the ‘nuclear taboo’ and ICAN’s creative manipulation of discourses of nuclear pollution.

Bolton, Matthew, The nuclear taboo and the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, Revista de Direito Brasileira (Brazilian Journal of Law), Vol. 22, issue 9, 2019, pp. 318-325

This article explores the development of the ‘nuclear taboo’ and ICAN’s creative manipulation of discourses of nuclear pollution. ICAN placed people who had long been marginalized by nuclear diplomacy – Atomic Bomb survivors, women, indigenous people, civilians, representatives of small states – at the centre of the debate about conversation about nuclear weapons. In doing so, ICAN deconstructed discourses legitimating nuclear weapons, revealing the ambivalence and fear underneath diplomatic euphemism. ICAN also turned the stigma associated with nuclear weapons onto those who defended them.

Borrie, John ; Spies, Michael ; Wan, Wilfred, Obstacles to understanding the emergence and significance of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 30, issue 2, 2017, pp. 95-119

The article examines accidentally the emergence of the TPNW, including how, and to what degree, efforts to alter states’ framing of nuclear weapons have influenced the treaty’s emergence and negotiation. It also examines the humanitarian perspective on the consequences of nuclear weapons, the activities of ICAN and the role played by transnational institutions like the UN and the Red Cross Movement to highlight lessons and limits on transnational advocacy network models of norm emergence.

Clark, Roger ; Sann, Madeleine, The Case Against The Bomb, Camden, NJ, Rutgers University School of Law, 1996, pp. 354

Elaborates on the case the Marshall Islands, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands jointly brought before the International Court of Justice in Advisory Proceedings on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, as part of the process leading to the 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

Dewes, Kate ; Green, Robert, The World Court Project: How a citizen network can influence the United Nations, Pacifica Review: Peace Security and Global Change, Vol. 7, issue 2, 1995, pp. 17-37

The authors explain the purpose of this campaign (that brought together peace activists, doctors and lawyers from around the world): to prohibit under international law the use or threat to use nuclear weapons, as the Conventions on Biological and on Chemical Weapons had done for these weapons of mass destruction. The campaign persuaded the UN to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion on the issue. This article (written before the Court had delivered its decision) focuses on how the umbrella network of NGOs in the World Court Project successfully lobbied governments to gain support at the UN General Assembly, and how it persuaded the ICJ to accept citizens' evidence for the first time.

Gibbons, Rebecca, The humanitarian turn in nuclear disarmament and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 25, issue 1-2, 2018, pp. 11-36

On July 7, 2017, at the UN General Assembly, 122 states voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the culmination of pressure from a global network of states and grassroots activists. This article traces the history of the ban movement from 2005.  It identifies six factors that led to the successful adoption of the treaty: a small group of committed diplomats; an influx of new coalition members; the contribution of civil society; the reframing of the narrative surrounding nuclear weapons; the pursuit of a simple ban treaty; and the context provided by the Barack Obama Administration.

Ginger, Ann, Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal. The Historic Opinion of The World Court And How It Will Be Enforced, New York , The Apex Press, 1998, pp. 561

Discusses the 1996 Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice on the illegality of nuclear weapons within the provisions of the UN Charter, by putting it into political and legal context. Includes the full text of the ICJ, as well as the separate opinions and dissents of the individual judges. It also provides an account of how NGOs and governments worked together toward the World Court’s decision.

Intondi, Vincent, 2020 is the year of nuclear disarmament (You heard me right), Instick, 10/01/2020,

Following the rise of tensions between the US and Iran during 2019 and the increased of awareness within the public of the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear attack, this article critically discuss the potential for movements to advocate a ‘No First Use’ policy in the US, and the potential embedded within the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Mayault, Isabelle, Beatrice Fihn, determined anti-nuclear campaigner, LaCroix, 08/03/2018,

Gives Beatrice Finh’s personal account of her experience as ICAN’s Director, the story behind the idea of the international treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons and her activism immediately after its approval at the United Nations.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – Nobel Lecture

See also Beatrice Fihn’s speech on the occasion of the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Award in 2017: and

Prawitz, Jan ; Leonard, James, A zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East: A political project, Pacifica Review: Peace, Security & Global Change, Vol. 11, issue 3, 1999, pp. 257-271

This paper describes the Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone’s proposal, originally advanced by Iran and Egypt in 1974, as well as the extension of the concept in 1990 to include all weapons of mass destruction.

Ritchie, Nick ; Egeland, Kjøv, The diplomacy of resistance: power, hegemony and nuclear disarmament, Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 30, issue 2, 2018, pp. 121-141

This article explores the nexus of power and resistance in global nuclear politics to explain the aims and practices of the humanitarian movement (politically weak  in relation to the nuclear weapon states) that led to the TPNW. It argues that the movement’s coherence and effectiveness was fostered by a coalitional logic that allowed different ‘identities of resistance’ to be steered towards a treaty banning nuclear weapons within the UN’s institutional framework.

Ruff, Tilman, Negotiating the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the role of ICAN, Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 30, issue 2, 2018, pp. 233-241

Discusses ICAN’s work, principles and strategies in the context of the ‘stigmatise – prohibit’ approach that was effective for the signing of the TPNW at the UN General Assembly in 2017.

Tannenwald, Nina, The Humanitarian Initiative: A Critical Appreciation, In Sauer, Tom, Jorg Kustermans, Barbara Segaert (eds) Non-Nuclear Peace. Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies, Cham, Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 115-129

A critical assessment of the campaign on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the gains and limitations of the resulting 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is best seen as a stigmatization rather than a disarmament treaty. While the treaty may strengthen the taboo on using nuclear weapons, the ultimate challenge is to undermine nuclear weapons as a currency of power. The author examines four themes: processes of stigmatization, the democratization of disarmament politics, the advantages and disadvantages of codification, and normative strategies of disarmament more broadly.