Ditulis oleh Yunizar Adiputra, MA. [lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, and a researcher at the Institute of International Studies (IIS), a partner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)]
Dipublikasikan di Jakarta Post tanggal 5 Agustus 2017
On July 7, more than 120 countries adopted a new treaty that will, for the first time in history, categorically ban nuclear weapons. The treaty was adopted by a vote, with 122 countries for, one abstaining and one against. The adoption capped a decade-long effort to bring back humanitarian arguments to the security-centric nuclear disarmament discourse. Other than banning nuclear weapons, the humanitarian-centered treaty also obliges nations to provide victim assistance and environmental remediation.
The adoption of this treaty is timely, because in the same building there was also a United Nations Security Council meeting discussing how to respond to the reportedly successful test of North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
It seems this treaty is the answer to the majority of the world to the North Korea crisis. The act of annihilating cities and the populations in it, carried out by whichever nation and for whatever reasons, cannot be accepted and therefore should be illegal.
Expectedly, nuclear-armed states and nuclear umbrella states — those that do not possess nuclear weapons but are reliant on nuclear weapons for their defense — did not participate in the negotiations, and, after the treaty’s adoption, rushed to declare that they have no intention to become state parties.
Rather than showing that the treaty is meaningless, the absence of nuclear states and the subsequent efforts at derailing the process indicate that the treaty is in fact significant. Otherwise, why do these countries bother to boycott, protest and even pressure other countries not to join this process? The only reason for this is because the nuclear states fear that this treaty will threaten their possession of nuclear weapons.
And they are right. This treaty affects their possession of nuclear weapons by altering the environment in which they exist in today’s world. This alteration occurs in at least three aspects: legal, political and economic.
This treaty removes the legal ambiguity of nuclear weapons by categorically prohibiting them. It, therefore, completes the international legal norm banning weapons of mass destruction, which started in the 1970s with the Biological Weapons Convention and continued in the 1990s with the Chemical Weapons Convention.
But more importantly, this treaty will set a standard of state behaviors and practices in regards to nuclear weapons, and may over time contribute to the development of customary international law, which has been recognized as one of the sources of international law and, therefore, is binding.
Politically, this treaty alters the way nuclear weapons are seen as political currency. Nuclear weapons have all this time been seen as carrying prestige in international politics. But this prestige only comes from the perception that all countries want nuclear weapons and crave to be a member of the “exclusive” club of countries that own them.
This treaty eliminates this prestige by stigmatizing nuclear weapons as morally and legally reprehensible weapons and by unequivocally declaring that the majority of the world in fact does not want them under any circumstances.
Following simple logic: the fewer people that want a product, the less value the product carries. Rather than prestige, nuclear weapons will over time become political baggage.
Most tangibly, perhaps, is on how the treaty will alter the economy of nuclear weapons. The treaty stipulates that state parties cannot in any way assist in any nuclear weapon-related activities. This includes financial investments in the nuclear weapons industry.
By choking the flow of capital to the industry, it makes it more expensive for nuclear-armed states to develop and maintain nuclear arsenals. The changes in the legal, political and economic environment shall set the stage for the emergence of exogenous as well as endogenous forces that push for policy changes in the nuclear states. After all, countries like the United States the United Kingdom and France, by virtue of their democratic system, have to listen to the voices of their peoples. Even countries like China and Russia, given the right conditions, will adapt to the environment, as they did in other matters of international politics.
But this outcome cannot be taken for granted and depends on what happens after the adoption of the treaty. If states and civil society can galvanize support for ratifications effectively, then the sooner the treaty enters into force, the sooner the environmental changes will take place.
This treaty may not succeed in ridding the world of nuclear weapons overnight, as big normative and behavioral changes rarely occur instantly. But it is definitely a big step in the right direction.
Nuclear weapons will over time become political baggage.
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