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Progress on treaty to prohibit nukes; focus on universities

Note: Ann Suellentrop gave these remarks at the annual program, Remembering Hiroshima & Nagasaki: Never Again! on Aug. 7 in Kansas City, MO. It was cosponsored by both PeaceWorks KC and Veterans for Peace. Ann, representing PeaceWorks and Physicians for Social Responsibility, began with a reference to some 60 flags at the gathering.

Why do we fly these colorful flags today? Because they are a sign of great hope! They are the flags of most of the 66 countries that have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first treaty to call for the complete destruction of all nuclear weapons and for compensation for the victims of nuclear production, use and testing, as well as for environmental remediation.

There is a lot happening around this Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. The first Meeting of the States Parties was held in June of this year, and many committees and working groups were formed. Scientists, legislators and activists from all over the world are working on details of the treaty, to make it concrete and workable. They will be reporting back on their progress in November and December of 2023 at the UN in New York City.

Good news is steadily being reported, such as a bank in Italy deciding to totally divest from nuclear weapons. The treaty has stigmatized nuclear weapons, making them controversial investments. One committee I’m involved in is the Schools of Mass Destruction Working Group. Our group has made a flier for students, faculty and alumni with a QR code on it that immediately lets you sign a pledge against your university’s involvement with nuclear weapons. For example, many of the major universities in this entire region have relationships with Honeywell and encourage students to pursue careers there. To use the QR code is quick and easy. Using the flier, open your camera app and focus on the QR code as if to take a picture of it, but don’t. Just hold your cell phone over it and touch the tiny yellow tab that pops up. This will take you to the page to sign the pledge.

Alumni, students, faculty–take action 

Will you take the pledge to save the world?

Seriously. Nuclear weapons are an existential threat—if they are ever used, it will essentially be the end of life on the planet. The nuclear powers have 13,000 nuclear weapons now and are spending billions of dollars building more—we are in a new global nuclear arms race.

Tom Scott and Patty Wernel hold a sign at a January 2022 rally for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons–calling on countries to repurpose nuclear weapon facilities for peaceful pursuits.

Stopping the nuclear arms race is not up to someone else. It’s up to us. So we are asking you to take the pledge. Since universities and colleges play a key role in US nuclear weapons production, we need to break that connection and separate our schools from the nuclear weapons complex.

Your school may be on the Schools of Mass Destruction list—directly involved in weapons production—or it may be investing in companies and financial institutions that are paying for nuclear weapons through its endowment. Either way, you can say, “No!”

The first step is easy. You can sign the pledge at https://universities.icanw.org/university_pledge.

You can also stay informed about what others are doing to end the nuclear threat.

The University PLEDGE for Universities, Colleges, and Schools 

We, the undersigned, 

Recognizing the entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on 22 January 2021 as a significant step toward the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free world, 

Sharing the deep concern expressed in the TPNW about the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons, and 

Recognizing the consequent need to eliminate these inhumane and abhorrent weapons, 

Hereby declare our deep concern about the links between our universities, colleges or schools and the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex, which contradict our personal values as well as the mission of our institutions, and 

Hereby pledge to abstain from research, development, and investments, as applicable, that contribute to the production, maintenance or financing of nuclear weapons, and 

Hereby urge our universities, colleges or schools to cut all ties with the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex, and to pursue the abolition of nuclear weapons as a global public good of the highest order and as an essential to the security and well-being of all peoples.

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Man hanging origame peace cranes.