Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons, the most devastating weapons yet developed, produce catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences. The weapons release heat and explosive force that incinerate or crush people near the hypocenter and burn or otherwise injure those farther away. Radioactive fallout spreads the harm across time and space, causing long-term health effects, such as cancer and birth defects. Nuclear weapons also destroy the environment, impede development, and displace communities. About 70 years after the dropping of the first atomic bomb, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and like-minded states reframed nuclear weapons as a matter of humanitarian, rather than national security, concern.

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Credit: US Department of Defense, 1946

In 2013 Norway launched the Humanitarian Initiative, a series of international conferences that ultimately led the UN General Assembly to mandate treaty negotiations. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons bans the development, possession, transfer, testing, and use of nuclear weapons and requires possessing states parties to destroy their nuclear arsenals. The treaty also includes positive obligations to assist victims of use and testing and to remediate contaminated environments. ICAN received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in achieving this treaty.