By Spencer Graves;  updated 2020-08-23

Nigeria and Ireland officially ratified the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on Aug. 6, and Niue, a tiny island country in the South Pacific, acceded to it that day. A few days later, the UN declared St. Kitts and Nevis officially signed onto the treaty.

This brings the total number of countries that have ratified, accepted, approved, or acceded to the TPNW to 44. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after the 50th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession has been deposited. We need only 6 more. As of Aug. 24, I estimate the 50th signing onto the treaty may occur Jan. 20, 2021. If that happens, the treaty will take effect April 20, 2021. Of course, it’s not likely to happen on that exact day. I currently estimate only a 2% chance that it will happen before the end of 2020.

Of course, we should not rest on our laurels:  It’s virtually certain that some of the world’s nuclear weapon states are actively trying to prevent more countries from ratifying the TPNW.  The progress so far came only because thousands and perhaps millions of activists convinced their governments to ratify, accept, approve or accede to this treaty.

To make the treaty even more effective, we should still work to expand the list of countries that have ratified, accepted, approved, or acceded to it to many more.

I hope that after the TPNW enters into force, many of the parties to it will adopt national security taxes on trade with nuclear weapon states and use some of the money generated by such taxes to promote further steps toward abolition of nuclear weapons. (I have not seen any documents promoting a national security tax, but I’ve heard informally that such has been discussed.)

—Spencer Graves, Ph.D., a statistician (can you tell?) serves on the Board of Directors of PeaceWorks-KC.

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