NPT 2022: An Opportunity to Advance Nuclear Justice

By Jana Baldus, Caroline Fehl and Sascha Hach - 13 May 2022
NPT 2022: An Opportunity to Advance Nuclear Justice

2022 will see intense discussions on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at two high-profile global conferences, the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the first Meeting of States Parties of the young Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). While both meetings are likely to be overshadowed by the ongoing war in Ukraine and the Russian nuclear threats, it is important not to lose sight of key long-term challenges that need to be discussed at both meetings. Specifically, we draw attention to the long-neglected question of how to deal with the ‘nuclear past’ and provide justice to the victims of past nuclear use and testing. We make the case for discussing this issue through the conceptual prism of transitional justice and elaborate how the principle of redress for victims can be put in practice in the nuclear context. We propose the creation of a Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation Fund (VAERF) that both TPNW members and non-members should contribute to and that would help build bridges between the two major nuclear treaties.

Policy Recommendations

  • At the NPT Review Conference and the TPNW Meeting of States Parties, urgent debates about the nuclear dimension of the ongoing war in Ukraine must not come at the expense of addressing key long-term challenges for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
  • The increasing risk of nuclear escalation highlights the significance of addressing the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. In particular, the question of how to deal with the historical damage caused by nuclear weapons must be brought to the fore in order to avoid future nuclear injustice.
  • At the TPNW meeting, a focus on implementing the treaty’s ‘positive obligations’ for victim assistance and environmental remediation would offer a promising route for advancing the treaty agenda in a time of strong political headwinds for nuclear disarmament.
  • In discussing ‘positive obligations’, activists and engaged governments should draw on concepts and ideas from the field of transitional justice to frame support for victims and environmental clean-up as (shared) legal and moral responsibilities of both nuclear and non-nuclear states.
  • The proposal to set up a “trust fund” for nuclear victims merits particular attention. We propose that TPNW members conceptualize and plan such a fund as a Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation Fund (VAERF) that both TPNW members and non-members can and should contribute. Contributions by nuclear and non-nuclear should be based on an agreed formula that reflects principles of nuclear justice.
  • Nuclear weapon states and umbrella states concerned about the growing nuclear threat associated with the Ukraine war and seeking joint action should address the nuclear justice issue prominently at the NPT Review Conference.
  • This could include supporting the initiative to establish a VAERF fund as a joint NPT-TPNW cooperative framework and making a substantial contribution to it.


Photo by Алесь Усцінаў