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Reflecting on The Second Meeting of States Parties (2MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) – Áine Beattie

My name is Áine Beattie, and I’m the Senior Fundraising Officer at Positive Action in Housing. At the 2023 AGM, I was appointed as the Secretary of Scottish WILPF. Since then, I have been granted the opportunity to travel to the United Nations in Vienna to attend part of PrepCom and was present for the full duration of 2MSP in New York City. 

WILPF actively participated in the 2MSP, including members from various Sections as well as the Reaching Critical Will team, which provided fantastic daily briefings. My favourite side event was ‘Rising Together: Gender Responsive Disarmament and the TPNW’, which was held by UNIDIR, Chile and Ireland. It discussed how the TPNW is the first and unique treaty that has hardwired gendered perspectives into it. It specifically acknowledges the disproportionate impact on indigenous people and women, recognises that equal, full, and effective participation is essential for sustainable peace and security, and supports and strengthens the participation of women in nuclear disarmament. 

There was active participation of state parties during the intersessional period, especially in Mexico. They discussed women’s full equality and effective participation and leadership. The three informal intersessional meetings came to the following conclusions: 

  1. Civil society participation is crucial. 
  2. Women’s active and meaningful participation must be guaranteed. 
  3. The catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons are unlimited. 
  4. Negative, powerful gender stereotypes must be avoided. We must promote the dissemination of information surrounding how a gendered perspective can contribute to improving human lives. 
  5. State parties should collaborate, share NAPs, and exchange good practices, data, and resources. 

Dr Rebecca Gibbons noted that when we think about justice mechanisms, we have to acknowledge the differences in specific harms; children face the worst outcomes, girls, specifically, face greater harm to their reproductive systems, and women have greater negative psychological effects, for example, mothers of children face particularly high levels of stress. Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki faced harsh gender-specific discrimination, such as lack of marriage proposals, potential infertility, and loss of traditional and cultural roles due to the loss of lands. She discussed gender-sensitive recommendations for justice mechanisms: 

  1. Increased information sharing.
  2. Compensation. 
  3. Apologies from Governments.  
  4. Policy change. 

Rebecca Johnson raised the interesting argument that we shouldn’t think of just women and girls as victims, despite them being biologically impacted more, as women are agents of change and activists within their own communities in nuclear-armed states and elsewhere. 

Campaigner Dimity Hawkins raised the excellent point that we need to look at who is not in the room and how do we work collaboratively to ensure that we are hearing from the people most impacted by nuclear policies and harms? The expertise that people with lived experience have is persuasive, and we cannot underestimate the strength of collaboration. She also said that we need to reassess the scope of the term ‘affected community’ and understand the true reach beyond incomplete data sets and maps. 

In my opinion, there was a notable increase in discussion regarding human security throughout the side events and the plenary compared to PrepCom. Although overall, a traditional security approach was utilised frequently, security risks were framed in terms of humanitarian impact in numerous side events. This may have been due to the increasingly diverse make-up of panels: youth, victims, and indigenous peoples’ perspectives and expertise were increasingly centred. However, although it is incredibly important to consider and amplify victims’ voices, speaking about their experiences often is re-traumatising, and Hibakusha and Marshallese people are tired of working hard and not seeing tangible results. 

2MSP also highlighted the work that is still to be done in this realm due to the controversy surrounding the inclusion of progressive understandings of gender. This was clearly exemplified by, for example, the hostile statements from CRD stating that “the issue of gender is limited to men and women” and The Holy See similarly saying that the reinterpretation of gender in the inter-sessional period jeopardises the implementation of the treaty, and that “highly problematic elements” that depart from the original approach of the TPNW meant that they couldn’t support the recommendations put forward by the focal point. This just further emphasises the crucial need for progressive perspectives on gender and intersectionality to be integrated into the TPNW’s work. 

Also, the weaponisation of AI and other emerging technologies increasing the risk of nuclear escalation was raised in multiple side events, including Ward Wilson’s How to Persuade Nuclear States event. However, the intrinsically gendered nature of the management and deployment of these weapons was not acknowledged as a risk-multiplying factor to consider when tackling these new developments.Overall, it was inspiring to hear expert individuals and organisations working towards abolishing nuclear weapons discussing how the issues of gender equality, climate change, colonialism, reparations, and nuclear disarmament are intrinsically linked. I learnt a huge amount in a short space of time and am really inspired to continue my feminist education and raise awareness of WILPF and the importance of disarmament. A personal highlight was meeting Hibakusha, such as Mr Kido Sueichi, who survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the WILPF and Janet specifically for supporting me to attend, and I look forward to my continued involvement with WILPF and the change that will be made in the next year.

[The views expressed in blogs do not reflect those of WILPF]