In January 2021, an international agreement enters into force that bans nuclear weapons under international law. Photo: Tim Wright.


Historical nuclear ban may come into force

On January 22, 2021, nuclear weapons may be banned. That after Honduras became the 50th state to adopt the UN Nuclear Weapons Convention. All nuclear weapons states have boycotted the agreement, but Svenska Fred's chairman Agnes Hellström believes that the agreement will still have major effects.

October 24 this year was Honduras the 50th state to ratify, that is, stand behind, the UN Nuclear Weapons Convention. This means that the convention will enter into force on 22 January 2021. conventions prohibits, among other things, the use, manufacture, testing, posting and threats to use nuclear weapons. 

-This is really a historic event. Once and for all, we have banned nuclear weapons, says Agnes Hellström, chairman of Svenska Freds. 

Humanitarian consequences in focus

Swedish Peace is a part of ICAN, which is an umbrella organization that for several years has campaigned against nuclear weapons and for the adoption of the UN Convention on Nuclear Weapons. UN Nuclear Weapons Convention differs from previous disarmament agreements as it completely bans nuclear weapons and emphasizes the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. 

- Today there are enough nuclear weapons to wipe out humanity several times over. Thanks to the agreement, it has come up on the agenda. The more we raise the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the stronger I think public opinion against nuclear weapons will be, says Agnes.

Agnes Hellström, chair of Swedish Peace, believes that the UN Nuclear Weapons Convention is important because it focuses on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Photo: Swedish Peace,
Nuclear weapons states not included

All nuclear weapons states (USA, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel) has boycotted the negotiations of the Convention and neither signored or ratified the agreement. Agnes Hellström believes that the reactions from the nuclear weapon states have been contradictory:

- One moment the nuclear states argue that the convention will have no effect, the next they urge states not to sign. I think they feel affected by the agreement.

Agnes highlights that it is common for weapons-producing states to stand outside bans. She draws an analogy to the ban on anti - personnel mines, which was adopted in 1997. 

- The USA, China and Russia are examples of previous large producers of anti-personnel mines that have never joined the agreement. Despite this, all three have more or less ceased their production of mines.

Agnes therefore believes that it is important to ban nuclear weapons because a ban has a norm-creating effect and can delegitimize the use, development and possession of nuclear weapons. Agnes further emphasizes that a ban can have decisive financial consequences. When a weapon is illegal, weapon manufacturers find it more difficult to finance their production. Banks, pension funds and other financial institutions do not want to invest to the same extent in something that is prohibited.

- If the interest in financing and investing in the type of weapon decreases, it will affect the entire industry. It will be more difficult to develop and modernize nuclear weapons because it will be a weapon no one wants to be associated with, says Agnes.

Want to see change

When Agnes looks ahead, she hopes that countries will continue to support the UN Nuclear Weapons Convention.

- The majority of the world's countries need to show what we want to see for change. If we are to wait for the nuclear-weapon states to want to relinquish power, we will have to wait our whole lives. It is by organizing the grassroots that change takes place. With collective strength, we force them to listen, she says. 

Facts nuclear weapons

Today, there are about 13 nuclear weapons in the world, of which about 400 are "high operational alert", which means that they are ready to be fired within minutes. Nine states hold nuclear weapons - the United States, Russia, China, North Korea, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel (Israel has never denied or confirmed that it possesses nuclear weapons) - but the United States and Russia together account for 1800% of the arsenals. Several international agreements have been concluded to limit the proliferation and testing of nuclear weapons. The UN Nuclear Weapons Convention is the latest agreement and also the first to completely ban nuclear weapons under international law.  

Source: Sipri, Swedish UN Federation. 

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