Education, advocacy and campaigning for nuclear weapons abolition are core to the work of MAPW.
Nuclear weapons are the most inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. They violate international law, cause severe environmental damage, undermine national and global security, and divert vast public resources away from meeting human needs.
From January 2021, when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force, nuclear weapons will be illegal under international law.
Their total elimination is a medical and public health imperative. There is no meaningful medical response to a nuclear explosion: the only ethical approach is to prevent the development, storage, and use of these weapons.
Towards a Ban Treaty
In 2007, MAPW and IPPNW launched the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN), with the goal of a treaty to prohibit all aspects of nuclear weapons, including their use and possession.
On 7 July 2017 – following a decade of advocacy by ICAN and its partners – an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations adopted a landmark global agreement to ban nuclear weapons, known officially as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. ICAN was the key civil society partner in this process.
In 2017, ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In October 2020, the treaty received its 50th ratification. Read the full list of states parties.
The Treaty is in force as of January 2021.
The major impact of the ban treaty will be in stigmatising and delegitimising these weapons.
This will change the global norm, so that nuclear weapons possession is seen as a violation of civilised behaviour as well as a violation of international law.
The treaty will also exert pressure on financial institutions to disinvest from nuclear weapons producing companies. Our Quit Nukes disinvestment campaign launched in Australia in October 2019: learn more about Quit Nukes by visiting quitnukes.org
Who has nukes?
There are currently around 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world, owned by just nine nations. Russia and the USA possess over 93% of today’s nuclear weapons. The other nuclear armed nations are the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
WHAT CAN HEALTH WORKERS DO?
The global movement to abolish nuclear weapons was born from the commitment of health workers: what could not be cured, must be prevented.
Today, health workers provide expertise and credibility to efforts to universalise the nuclear ban treaty. When more states - like Australia - ratify the treaty, its normative effect is increased.
Health workers from every field can join MAPW and be part of an international network of peacebuilders.
Health workers can ask their college, professional association, union, or workplace to endorse MAPW's call to the Australian government - or sign on as an individual.
WHAT ABOUT AUSTRALIA?
Australia does not have nuclear weapons, but is involved in the production process. We have around 30% of the worlds known uranium resources, which we sell to nuclear armed nations. “Safeguards” do not guarantee that it will not end up in nuclear weapons.
We have a clear responsibility to renounce support for US nuclear weapons and to work urgently towards abolishing these ultimate weapons of mass destruction.
In 2018, the Australian Labor Party committed to signing and ratifying the treaty when next in government.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF NUCLEAR WEAPONS ARE USED?
The Federation of American Scientists has made an estimate of the size of each country’s nuclear arsenal using the best information available.
The dangers of this large stockpile are many;
- In 2020 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday clock to 100 seconds to midnight to represent "how close the world is to catastrophe"
- Detailed modelling by IPPNW has shown that even with a limited nuclear exchange a decade long winter would follow, causing a 10-15% reduction in crop yields for wheat, corn and rice, causing global famine and putting two billion lives at risk.
- Production of nuclear weapons creates deadly nuclear waste.
- A nuclear weapon detonation could occur accidentally or by unintended launch. There have been a frightening number of near misses.
- The production and maintenance of nuclear weapons takes vital resources away from healthcare and other essential services. On average, the United States spends $98 billion a year on nuclear weapons
- Nuclear weapons are unique in their capacity to cause human suffering. The first nuclear weapons, used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, caused the deaths of over 200,000 people before the end of that year.
- Nuclear testing has caused irreparable environmental damage, and has had long-lasting effects on the health of people in Australia and the Pacific, and at other test sites across the world. Read the testimony of Australians affected by nuclear weapons.
- Nuclear weapons create international instability and insecurity, rather than acting as a deterrent.
- Joint working paper from four global federations of health workers stating “Nuclear weapons require urgent action to prohibit and eliminate them” signed by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the World Medical Association (WMA), the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), and the International Council of Nurses (ICN). The working paper summarizes the evidence presented at three international conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
- Get up-to-date facts on arms control from the Arms Control Association
- For UN Ban Treaty updates check out the ICAN website