By Rita Joshi
BERLIN (IDN) – The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017, has criticized Sweden’s decision not to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström announced at a press conference on July 12, 2019 that Sweden will not currently sign the UN nuclear ban treaty. “Sweden’s decision … is a step backwards and a historic violation of Swedish security policy,” said ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn, a Swedish national. [2019-07-14]
“The UN has said that the risk of use of nuclear weapons is the highest it has been since WWII. By failing to fully reject the use and possession nuclear weapons through the TPNW, Sweden has gone against its own long tradition of standing up against these weapons of mass destruction,” said Fihn.
“While the initiatives announced at the press conference, like starting a knowledge centre and proposing an international secretariat for disarmament are welcomed, it falls very short of concrete steps to combat the grave threat that nuclear weapons pose today. This move seriously harms Sweden’s reputation as a leader on disarmament,” she added.
Setsuko Thurlow, ICAN activist and survivor of the Hiroshima bombing in 1945, said she was “truly disappointed … and deeply disheartened” that the Swedish government “will, as it stands now, not sign” the TPNW.
Sweden has a strong history of supporting humanitarian causes and disarmament, she said, adding: “In the past, I have had the honor to meet with FM Wallström and discuss humanitarian imperative to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. Indeed, I cannot emphasize enough how much Sweden’s vote in support to adopt the TPNW in July 2017 encouraged us the Hibakusha.”
Thurlow urged the Swedish government “to reconsider the decision”, and emphasized, “the Hibakusha and the civil society at large expect Sweden to listen to our voice and show the commitment to work towards signing and ratifying the TPNW.”
The Swedish Foreign Minister’s announcement followed “a scandal-ridden consultation period”, after the methodology used by former Swedish diplomat Lars-Erik Lundin for his inquiry into whether Sweden should sign the TPNW was heavily criticized for its lack of transparency.
The decision has been met with much criticism in Sweden too, prompting critical questions during the press conference and a flurry of negative media coverage. In response, the government has clarified that it would be open to revisiting the decision if the international context changes.
ICAN said: “The decision is also widely unpopular with the Swedish people. ICAN campaigners in Sweden have announced they will scale up their efforts to hold the Swedish government accountable to its own position on nuclear disarmament and will keep mobilizing to ensure that Sweden signs the treaty.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 July 2019]
Photo: Banner with Swedish text: Support UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. Credit: IKFF Sverige
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