Positive Obligations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,

Official Side Event to the 2nd Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW

Report Written by Christian N. Ciobanu

Arman Baissuanov, Veronique Christory, Bonnie Docherty, Christian Ciobanu, Ivana Nikolic Hughes , Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki and Benetick Maddison Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock, 2023

On the opening day of the 2nd Meeting of States Parties (2MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), Kiribati and Kazakhstan, in collaboration with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, its youth initiative Reverse The Trend, Marshallese Educational Initiative, Hiroshima Prefecture, Rotarian Action Group for Peace, and The Prospect Hill Foundation  hosted a side event on the humanitarian provisions contained in Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW. Speakers included: H.E. Ambassador Teburoro Tito of Kiribati; Mr. Arman Baissuanov, Director of the Department of International Security at Kazakhstan’s MFA; Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki of Hiroshima; Veronique Christory, Senior Arms Adviser of the ICRC Delegation, UN;  Bonnie Docherty,  Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) and Director of its Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative; Dr. Ivana Nikolic Hughes, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a representative of the Scientific Advisory Group; and Benetick Kabua Maddison, Executive Director of the Marshallese Educational Initiative. 

As the co-chairs of the intersessional working group on victim assistance, environmental remediation, international cooperation and assistance, Kiribati and Kazakhstan delivered the introductory remarks. Ambassador Tito of Kiribati presented the co-chairs’ working paper submitted to the 2MSP and advocated for the establishment of an international trust fund by the 3rd Meeting of States Parties.

Building upon Ambassador Tito’s comments, Mr. Arman Baissuanov, Director of the Department of International Security at Kazakhstan’s MFA, explained that the working group will continue to address the feasibility of a voluntary trust fund and the possible guidelines it will follow. He further explained the fund would provide much needed aid to the survivors of nuclear tests.  

Moreover, concerning environmental remediation, Baissuanov noted that the “past or present efforts to clean up former test sites have been woefully inadequate.” He lamented that former test sites still contain  dilapidated infrastructures, which pose ongoing environmental risks.

Following the co-chairs’ presentations, Governor Yuzaki discussed Hiroshima Prefecture’s efforts in helping the survivors of the atomic bombing known as the hibakusha. Specifically, the Governor explained the evolution of Japan’s laws related to victim assistance, including the Act on Medical Care for Atomic Bomb Survivors (1957), the Act on Special Measures for Atomic Bomb Survivors (1968), Action No. 86, Directive No. 42 (Implementation of the Act for Partial Revision to the Act on Medical Care for Atomic Bomb Survivors and the Act on Special Measures for Atomic Bomb Survivors, 1974), The Act on Relief for Atomic Bomb Survivors (1995), Implementation of the Act on Relief for Atomic Bomb Survivors (Notice Hatsu-Ken-I No. 158 of 1995, given by the Vice Minister of Health and Welfare to the prefectural governors and the mayors of Hiroshima City and Nagasaki City), and Implementation of the Cabinet Order, etc. for Partial Revision to the Order for Enforcement of the Act on Relief for Atomic Bomb Survivors (Notice Ken-Hatsu No. 0301002 of 2003, issued by the Director-General of the Health Service Bureau of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to the prefectural governors and the mayors of Hiroshima City and Nagasaki City). 

As part of his concluding remarks, the Governor explained the significance of Japan’s decision to support Kiribati and Kazakhstan’s resolution on addressing the legacy of nuclear weapons because it provides another opportunity for Japan to help assist the victims of nuclear testing. 

Following the Governor’s presentation, Veronique Christory of the ICRC expressed strong support for the continuation of the working group’s mandate, including the establishment of a Trust Fund to provide financial compensation to the victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, and measures to remediate contaminated environments. Christory further noted the ICRC published a detailed briefing note with guidance on the interpretation of the provisions of Articles 6 and 7. Christory further stated that the ICRC warmly welcomed the adoption, by a large majority, including States not party to the TPNW, the UN First Committee Resolution on providing victim assistance and environmental remediation to states affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons. 

After the ICRC’s presentation, Bonnie Docherty of Harvard Law School addressed the reporting guidelines on victim assistance and environmental remediation contained in the co-chairs report, emphasizing their voluntary and non-burdensome nature. She noted that the format is designed to simplify the gathering, presentation, and analysis of relevant information. The format also includes a cover sheet that allows states parties to simply check a box if a certain part of the format is not applicable or their information is unchanged. Third, the guidelines and format draw heavily on existing humanitarian disarmament treaties, including the Landmine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Weapons. She concluded by urging the states parties to adopt the co-chairs’ proposed voluntary reporting guidelines and format at the 2MSP and recommend their use, albeit on a voluntary basis. 

Dr. Ivana Nikolic Hughes of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Scientific Advisory Group of the TPNW elaborated upon the significance of Kiribati and Kazakhstan’s joint resolution. She explained that the vote was stunning, with 171 states voting in favor of the resolution. It demonstrated the impact the TPNW has on the norms and expectations for all states, even those which are not party to the treaty. 

Speaking in her capacity as a representative of the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG), Dr. Hughes provided a brief overview of its formation. She noted that the SAG is composed of 15 members who were nominated by several states, including Austria, Bangladesh, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kiribati Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa. The co-chairs are Dr. Zia Mian of Princeton University and Dr. Patricia Lewis of Chatham House. She mentioned that the first SAG meeting occurred on March 1, 2023,  the anniversary of Castle Bravo. Dr. Hughes also explained the SAG’s report to the 2MSP. Additionally, she highlighted the SAG’s interest in engaging with the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. She also explained that the SAG should analyze the effects of ionizing radiation on women and girls, assist with the implementation of Articles 6 and 7, as well as a study about the humanitarian and climatic impacts of a nuclear exchange between states. 

To conclude the panel discussion, Benetick Kabua Maddison of the Marshallese Educational Initiative discussed the humanitarian and environmental impacts of the 67 US nuclear tests, which were conducted in the Marshall Islands. He shared the need for the international community to provide nuclear justice to the Marshallese community.

Bonnie Docherty, Veronique Christory, Arman Baissuanov, Christian Ciobanu, Ivana Nikolic Hughes, Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki and Benetick Maddison

UN Trusteeship Council