As the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) moves into its implementation phase, the proposal to create a victim assistance and environmental remediation trust fund has generated much discussion among states parties and other stakeholders. The TPNW trust fund could offer significant value to the implementation process as a mechanism that would bolster the humanitarian purpose of the treaty and help states parties fulfill their legal duties.
To inform these discussions, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) has released a new report that examines key questions about international trust fund design. The 26–page report presents IHRC’s comparative analysis of 10 existing trust funds and its proposal for the fundamental structural elements of a trust fund established under the TPNW. The Clinic makes its recommendations for a TPNW trust fund based on precedent, the humanitarian objectives of the TPNW, and the distinctive challenges of dealing with the complex and long-term effects of nuclear weapons.
IHRC focused its research on five trust fund features, which largely align with questions posed by Kazakhstan and Kiribati, co-chairs of the TPNW’s positive obligations working group. These features are: who should be eligible to contribute, who should make distribution decisions, who should be eligible to receive funds, what kinds of projects should be funded, and what measures should be used for reporting and accountability.
The report’s appendix includes a table comparing the 10 existing trust funds, which come from disarmament, international human rights law, and international criminal law, according to these and other design features. The report also recommends areas for further research, including trust fund administration and decision-making criteria.
Bonnie Docherty, director of the Clinic’s Armed Conflict and Civilian ProtectionInitiative, presented the report’s findings to TPNW states parties, civil society members, and others at a January 13, 2023 meeting of the positive obligations working group.
Clinical students Arnaaz Ameer LLM ’23, Alexa Santry JD ’24, Elliot Serbin JD/MPP ’24, and Laila Ujayli JD ’24 worked on this publication under the supervision of Bonnie Docherty, director of the Clinic’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative.