Written by Ben Purden
On May 13th, 2019, the residents of Belchertown, Massachusetts voted by majority to pass Article 33 at the annual town meeting, creating a resolution calling for the US to join the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Notwithstanding the lack of favorable attention the executive branch of the current US government gives to international agreements, the resolution calls for the federal government to join the Treaty. Knowing full well the need for action at all levels of government, especially at a time when national leadership is in question, the resolution also calls for legislation at the state level, and for its own local Select Board to “take all necessary steps to align” with the Treaty.
Campaigners have defined “alignment” as consisting of three elements: prohibiting any and all activity related to nuclear weapons within town limits; rejecting contracts with any of 27 primary nuclear weapons contractors, and divesting town funds from these same companies. Establishing town policy to fall within these parameters would be following Article 1(e) of the Treaty, which makes illegal to “assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any of the prohibited activities.”
Doing so will thus align the town of Belchertown with the Treaty, and it falls now to the Select Board to investigate how they can do so.
Supporting action at the state level, the resolution also calls on its Select Board to signal the town’s support for legislation currently under review. Sponsored by local representatives Lindsey Sabadosa and Jo Comerford, respectively, House Bill H.3239 and Senate Bill S.2157 would create a Citizens’ Commission that would explore what it would take for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to align with the Treaty itself, how severing ties with the nuclear weapons industry would impact its economy, and what opportunities it would create, especially in the establishment of a green economy.