#ICANSAVE my city!

Your country might not endorse the ban treaty, but your city can

From the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

In the blink of an eye a nuclear detonation will wipe a metropolitan center off the map, laying waste to countless lives, destroying all infrastructure and poisoning the environment. This isn’t hypothetical: cities are the main targets of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are designed to inflict comprehensive damage upon their targets. It is the very nature of the nuclear threat to a rival country’s most important places that underpins the theory and practice of nuclear deterrence, which is promoted as a legitimate defense strategy by all nine nuclear-armed states, and the several dozen more that endorse the use of nuclear weapons.

These governments are putting their citizens’ lives at risk by subscribing to this strategy, which has been undermined time and again by near misses and miscalculations which very nearly unleashed nuclear war. Local governments bear a special responsibility for the safety of their residents. It is therefore incumbent upon cities to speak out against nuclear weapons.

Engaging the cities is an important way to pressure governments to be responsive to the will of their people. When cities call on their governments to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it’s a tangible reminder that citizens are against these weapons of mass destruction and that governments are consistently ignoring this view. A new coalition of cities and towns around the world will amplify these voices and compel governments to ditch any involvement with nuclear weapons and encouraging their peers to follow suit.

Why should cities take the lead in nuclear disarmament? Check out some of the main arguments below for your advocacy efforts. Then download the ICAN Cities Appeal.

  • As cities are the main targets of nuclear weapons, cities have a special responsibility to their constituents to speak out against any role for nuclear weapons in national security doctrines. The pressure from the grassroots, catalyzed by city governments, can contribute directly significantly to the success of the TPNW.
  • Cities are champions in challenging the world’s most urgent existential issues. Just like with nuclear weapons, climate change is forecasted to impact cities the hardest. This has motivated cities to take action and we are seeing the establishment of new coalitions of cities across the world to deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level.
  • This approach also underpins the ICAN Cities Appeal, which aims to promote initiatives that municipalities can take to stand up against nuclear weapons and explore measures which promote nuclear disarmament. ICAN’s suggested initiatives include taking steps to ensure that funds administered by a city are not invested in nuclear weapon producers, informing the national government of a city’s support for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and awareness-raising steps aimed at local populations and the media.
  • It is vital that states committed to nuclear disarmament and a rules-based world order work to strengthen the nuclear taboo by joining the TPNW. Nuclear weapons serve no legitimate military or strategic purpose and this new instrument, through its stigmatising normative effect, offers the best hope of ending decades of deadlock in disarmament and moving the world towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Municipal governments form a close and active link with their constituents and local social movements. An international coalition of cities and civil society can therefore play a game-changing role in breaking the unacceptable status quo in nuclear weapons policy, taking a decisive step towards elimination.  
  • National awareness is needed to advance the norm embodied by the TPNW, especially in nuclear weapon states and those countries that are in military alliances which involve the threat of use of nuclear weapons. It is these States which can play the most influential role in pressuring nuclear weapon states to stop the new nuclear arms race and take steps to reject nuclear weapons once and for all.

Is your city on the list?

Check out the list to see if your city, council or state has already taken the Cities Appeal. If they have not, reach out to your city council or elected representatives and urge them to do so. This process is different in each city, so get in touch with your local authorities to ask which steps you’ll need to take.

The nuclear-free City of Takoma Park, MD, where Beyond Nuclear is based — and where Roscoe the Rooster is memorialized — is a proud signatory to the ICAN Cities Appeal. (Photo: “Roscoe Keeping Warm” by Mike J Maguire is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Didn’t find your city? Get your city on board!

Live in a city or a town? Here’s how you can get involved. Send a letter asking your town to join. A simple letter can go a long way in getting a local authority to take a stand for nuclear disarmament. Here’s a template for a letter you could send to your city or town, but it’s always best to adapt it to your local context as far as necessary. In addition, you can:

  1. Get inspired: dive into the stories behind the latest cities taking the ICAN Cities Appeal.
  2. Do your research: How does decision-making work in your city? Are there are similar initiatives? Has your city spoken out on nuclear disarmament already? Is your city a member of Mayors for Peace?
  3. Find your allies: get in touch with other ICAN partners and reach out your local elected official to put the item on the legislative agenda. 
  4. Get social: share why you love your city or cheer on the cities taking action.

Has your city already called on your government to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but is it not on the list? Are you actively trying to get more cities involved in your country? It’s possible we may have overlooked it! let us know in an email to info@icanw.org A little inspiration goes a long way (and so do tips, tricks and resources!).

(Editor’s note: Indeed, because of the high fuel load today in cities of dense population, the outcome of a nuclear attack on such a city would be far worse than estimated when a Nuclear Winter was first hypothesized by Carl Sagan and his colleagues. The conflagrations and resulting smoke would be bigger and more widespread, resulting in far-reaching devastation to agriculture, especially in the northern hemisphere.)

More information can be found on the #ICANSAVE MY CITY website. Beyond Nuclear is a member of ICAN.

Headline: “Denver Nightscape” by dagpeak is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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