Joint Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – Vienna, Austria,
21-23 June 2022
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation (IFRC), which is composed of 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, are honored to jointly address this first meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
The Japanese Red Cross Society and the ICRC were among the first responders to the atomic bombings of 1945. Having understood the horrors of nuclear warfare and the limits of our capacity to help, the international Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is steadfastly committed to ensuring that these weapons are never again used and are eliminated.
The new international legal norm comprehensively prohibiting nuclear weapons in the TPNW is an historic achievement. It reflects global revulsion towards these weapons. It honors the hopes and dreams of atomic bomb survivors or “hibakusha” and the memory of so many victims who have not lived to see this day. The Japanese Red Cross, through its hospitals for hibakusha in Hiroshima and Nagasaki has for decades come to know and care for tens of thousands of survivors. As a representative of Japanese Red Cross youth, I would like to share some of what we have learned from the hibakusha.
Hibakusha have taught us why the scenes they lived through must “never again” happen anywhere on this earth. Their persistence, patience and humility have moved us and motivated us. As fewer and fewer hibakusha remain with us today Japanese Red Cross youth are committed to keeping their voices and stories alive for future generations. Without the testimony of the hibakusha nuclear weapons can become just a military-technical abstraction devoid of the ghastly horrors they rain down upon people and their societies. With the TPNW we now have a crucial tool that most hibakusha could only dream of: a global treaty that recognizes the horrors of nuclear weapons and bans them on humanitarian, moral and legal grounds. We thank the States Parties for responding to the appeal of humanity by establishing this legacy and invite all others to do the same.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has consistently called for the prohibition of nuclear weapons since 1945. Recent advocacy efforts were launched by a resolution of our 2011 Council of Delegates that helped re-frame the nuclear weapons issue in human terms. The ICRC and National Societies throughout the world played a key role in the “humanitarian initiative” on nuclear weapons that gave rise to the TPNW and in supporting its negotiation in 2017.
Tomorrow, the same Council of Delegates is expected to adopt a new resolution and multi-year Action Plan on nuclear weapons that will welcome the adoption and entry into force of the TPNW and recommit the Movement to continuing work in all contexts to reduce the risks of nuclear weapon use and to keeping the catastrophic human costs of these weapons at the center of national and international debates. The draft resolution commits the Movement to “seizing with determination and urgency the unique opportunities provided by the entry into force of the TPNW to ensure that it ushers in a new era for nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation”. Our Movement will work tirelessly to promote all States’ adherence to the TPNW and its implementation as well as adherence to and faithful implementation of other mutually reinforcing international legal instruments on nuclear weapons.
We are grateful that article 7.5 of the TPNW recognizes the ICRC, the IFRC and National Red Cross and Crescent Societies as potential partners in providing assistance for implementation of the treaty and most notably assistance for the victims of nuclear weapon use or testing.
As a Movement with long experience assisting hibakusha while also assisting the victims of radiation releases following several major accidents at civilian nuclear facilities, we appreciate the trust given to us by States Parties. We warmly welcome the draft Action Plan being considered by this meeting and stand ready to support States Parties in treaty universalization, national legislation where needed, as well as in victim assistance. We look forward to opportunities to engage with States Parties in need of assistance in the preparation of the national plans called for in the draft action plan. We would also consider expanding our own support for victim assistance, to the extent possible, based on such plans and available resources.
In closing, we call upon all States to recognize the crucial role that the TPNW plays in international efforts to prevent the “catastrophic consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons” that all States Parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty have recognized.
States have a solemn responsibility to prevent these consequences, to reduce the risk that nuclear weapons will ever again be used and to move towards a world without nuclear weapons.
The TPNW now provides a road map to this end. Nuclear disarmament is a legal obligation under the NPT, a moral duty, and above all, a humanitarian imperative aimed at nothing less than ensuring the survival of humanity.