The Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty
On 7 July 2017 – following a decade of advocacy by ICAN and its partners – an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations adopted a landmark global agreement to ban nuclear weapons, known officially as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It entered into force on 22 January 2021.
Prior to the treaty’s adoption, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a comprehensive ban, despite their catastrophic, widespread and persistent humanitarian and environmental consequences. The new agreement fills a significant gap in international law.
It prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities.
A nation that possesses nuclear weapons may join the treaty, so long as it agrees to destroy them in accordance with a legally binding, time-bound plan. Similarly, a nation that hosts another nation’s nuclear weapons on its territory may join, so long as it agrees to remove them by a specified deadline.
Nations are obliged to provide assistance to all victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons and to take measures for the remediation of contaminated environments. The preamble acknowledges the harm suffered as a result of nuclear weapons, including the disproportionate impact on women and girls, and on indigenous peoples around the world.
The treaty was negotiated at the United Nations headquarters in New York in March, June and July 2017, with the participation of more than 135 nations, as well as members of civil society. It opened for signature on 20 September 2017. It is permanent in nature, and will be legally binding on those nations that join it.
HOW THE TREATY WORKS
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – adopted by 122 nations on 7 July 2017 – offers a powerful alternative to a world in which threats of mass destruction are allowed to prevail. It provides a pathway forward at a time of alarming global crisis.
Prior to the treaty’s adoption, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a categorical ban, despite their catastrophic humanitarian consequences. The new agreement thus fills a major gap in international law.
History shows that the prohibition of certain types of weapons facilitates progress towards their elimination. Weapons that have been outlawed by international treaties are increasingly seen as illegitimate, losing their political status.
Arms companies find it more difficult to acquire funds for work on illegal weapons, and such work carries a significant reputational risk. Banks, pension funds and other financial institutions divest from these producers.
The UN nuclear weapon ban treaty complements the prohibitions on biological and chemical weapons, land mines and cluster munitions, and reinforces various other legal instruments on nuclear weapons, including the non-proliferation treaty of 1968.
Underpinning the decision by governments and civil society to pursue the ban was our belief that changing the rules regarding nuclear weapons would have a major impact even beyond those nations that would formally adopt the treaty at the outset.
This belief stemmed from experience with treaties outlawing other weapons, which have established powerful norms that greatly influence the policies and practices of states that are not yet parties to them.
The treaty aims not only to advance nuclear disarmament, but also to prevent further proliferation. It will enhance the security of people everywhere, not least of all those in nations currently armed with nuclear weapons.
The three conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in 2013 and 2014 shed new light on the perils of living in a world armed to the brink with these weapons. They clarified the urgent need to prohibit them under international law.
The treaty embodies the principle that there can be no safe hands for nuclear weapons, establishing the same standard for all its parties. Far from ignoring the security concerns of governments, the treaty is a direct response to them.
STATUS OF SIGNATURES AND RATIFICATIONS
There are currently 86 signatories and 55 states parties.
For more information on national positions, click here.
|Algeria||20 September 2017||–|
|Angola||27 September 2018||–|
|Antigua & Barbuda
||26 September 2018||25 November 2019|
|Austria||20 September 2017||8 May 2018|
|Bangladesh||20 September 2017||26 September 2019|
|Belize||6 February 2020||19 May 2020|
|Benin||26 September 2018||12 December 2020|
|Bolivia||16 April 2018||6 August 2019|
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||–||–|
|Botswana||26 September 2019||15 July 2020|
|Brazil||20 September 2017||–|
|Brunei||26 September 2018||–|
|Cabo Verde||20 September 2017||–|
|Cambodia||9 January 2019||22 January 2021|
|Central African Republic||20 September 2017||–|
|Chile||20 September 2017||–|
|Colombia||3 August 2018||–|
|Comoros||20 September 2017||19 February 2021|
|Congo||20 September 2017||–|
|Cook Islands||–||4 September 2018 (A)|
|Costa Rica||20 September 2017||5 July 2018|
|Cote d’Ivoire||20 September 2017||–|
|Cuba||20 September 2017||30 January 2018|
|DRC (Congo)||20 September 2017||–|
|Dominica||26 September 2019||18 October 2019|
|Dominican Republic||7 June 2018||–|
|Ecuador||20 September 2017||25 September 2019|
|El Salvador||20 September 2017||30 January 2019|
|Fiji||20 September 2017||7 July 2020|
|Gambia||20 September 2017||26 September 2018|
|Ghana||20 September 2017||–|
|Grenada||26 September 2019||–|
|Guatemala||20 September 2017||–|
|Guinea-Bissau||26 September 2018||–|
|Guyana||20 September 2017||20 September 2017|
|Holy See||20 September 2017||20 September 2017|
|Honduras||20 September 2017||24 October 2020|
|Indonesia||20 September 2017||–|
|Ireland||20 September 2017||6 August 2020|
|Jamaica||8 December 2017||23 October 2020|
|Kazakhstan||2 March 2018||29 August 2019|
|Kiribati||20 September 2017||26 September 2019|
|Laos||21 September 2017||26 September 2019|
|Lesotho||26 September 2017||6 June 2020|
|Libya||20 September 2017||–|
|Liechtenstein||20 September 2017||–|
|Madagascar||20 September 2017||–|
|Malawi||20 September 2017||–|
|Malaysia||20 September 2017||30 September 2020|
|Maldives||26 September 2019||26 September 2019|
|Malta||25 August 2020||21 September 2020|
|Mexico||20 September 2017||16 January 2018|
|Mozambique||18 August 2020||–|
|Myanmar||26 September 2018||–|
|Namibia||8 December 2017||20 March 2020|
|Nauru||22 November 2019||23 October 2020|
|Nepal||20 September 2017||–|
|New Zealand||20 September 2017||31 July 2018|
|Nicaragua||22 September 2017||19 July 2018|
|Niger||9 December 2020||–|
|Nigeria||20 September 2017||6 August 2020|
|Niue||6 August 2020||6 August 2020 (A)|
|Palau||20 September 2017||3 May 2018|
|Palestine||20 September 2017||22 March 2018|
|Panama||20 September 2017||11 April 2019|
|Papua New Guinea||–||–|
|Paraguay||20 September 2017||24 January 2020|
|Peru||20 September 2017||–|
|Philippines||20 September 2017||19 February 2021|
|St Kitts & Nevis||26 September 2019||9 August 2020|
|St Lucia||27 September 2018||23 January 2019|
|St Vincent & Grenadines||8 December 2017||31 July 2019|
|Samoa||20 September 2017||26 September 2018|
|San Marino||20 September 2017||26 September 2018|
|Sao Tome & Principe||20 September 2017||–|
|Seychelles||26 September 2018||13 July 2021|
|South Africa||20 September 2017||22 February 2019|
|Sudan||22 July 2020||–|
|Tanzania||26 September 2019||–|
|Thailand||20 September 2017||20 September 2017|
|Timor-Leste||26 September 2018||–|
|Togo||20 September 2017||–|
|Trinidad & Tobago||26 September 2019||26 September 2019|
|Tuvalu||20 September 2017||13 October 2020|
|United Arab Emirates||–||–|
|Uruguay||20 September 2017||25 July 2018|
|Vanuatu||20 September 2017||26 September 2018|
|Venezuela||20 September 2017||27 March 2018|
|Vietnam||22 September 2017||17 May 2018|
|Zambia||26 September 2019||–|
|Zimbabwe||4 December 2020||–|
(A) = Accede
POSITIONS ON THE TREATY
Which nations were involved in negotiating the Treaty?
According to official records, 135 nations participated in the negotiations:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, DRC (Congo), Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, São Tomé & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
In addition, several nations participated informally. Their officials were not accredited, but they did attend parts of the negotiations. According to ICAN’s records, these nations included:
Central African Republic, Comoros, Dominica, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mali, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan.
Which nations voted in favour of adopting it?
The following 122 nations – comprising almost two-thirds of the total UN membership – voted in favour of adoption of the treaty on 7 July 2017 (only the Netherlands voted against the adoption and only Singapore abstained from voting):
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, DRC (Congo), Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, São Tomé & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
For more information on national positions, click here.
Nine countries together possess around 14,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.
The failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons. The only guarantee against the spread and use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them without delay. Although the leaders of some nuclear-armed nations have expressed their vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world, they have failed to develop any detailed plans to eliminate their arsenals and are modernizing them.
How many nuclear weapons are there in the world?
|COUNTRY||NUCLEAR PROGRAMME||SIZE OF ARSENAL
|United States||The first country to develop nuclear weapons and the only country to have used them in war. It spends more on its nuclear arsenal than all other countries combined.||6,185 warheads|
|Russia||The second country to develop nuclear weapons. It has the largest arsenal of any country and is investing heavily in the modernization of its warheads and delivery systems.||6,500 warheads|
|United Kingdom||It maintains a fleet of four nuclear-armed submarines in Scotland, each carrying 16 Trident missiles. Its parliament voted in 2016 to overhaul its nuclear forces.||200 warheads|
|France||Most of its nuclear warheads are deployed on submarines equipped with M45 and M51 missiles. One boat is on patrol at all times. Some warheads are also deliverable by aircraft.||300 warheads|
|China||It has a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia. Its warheads are deliverable by air, land and sea. It appears to be increasing the size of its arsenal at a slow pace.||290 warheads|
|India||It developed nuclear weapons in breach of non-proliferation commitments. It is increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal and enhancing its delivery capabilities.||130–140 warheads|
|Pakistan||It is making substantial improvements to its nuclear arsenal and associated infrastructure. It has increased the size of its nuclear arsenal in recent years.||150-160 warheads|
|Israel||It has a policy of ambiguity in relation to its nuclear arsenal, neither confirming nor denying its existence. As a result, there is little public information or debate about it.||80-90 warheads|
|North Korea||It has a fledgling nuclear weapons programme. Its arsenal probably comprises fewer than 10 warheads. It is not clear whether it has the capability to deliver them.||20-30 warheads|
The wider problem
Five European nations host US nuclear weapons on their soil as part of a NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement, and roughly two dozen other nations claim to rely on US nuclear weapons for their security. Furthermore, there are many nations with nuclear power or research reactors capable of being diverted for weapons production. The spread of nuclear know-how has increased the risk that more nations will develop the bomb.
|Nations with nuclear weapons||United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea|
|Nations hosting nuclear weapons||Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey|
|Nations endorsing nuclear weapons||Albania, Australia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain (plus the five host nations)|
The global stockpile has been reduced significantly since the height of the Cold War, is that a sign that the nuclear weapon states are on the right track?
The arms race is not over. Despite reductions of the huge arsenals throughout the cold war, there are still more than 16,000 nuclear warheads remaining. And while the stockpiles have gone down since the 1980s, three more states (India, Pakistan and North Korea) have tested and developed nuclear weapons. At the moment, all nuclear-armed states are undergoing significant maintenance and modernization programmes. Instead of a race for more nuclear weapons, the race has become about more advanced nuclear weapons.
So despite a lower number, “better” and more advanced nuclear weapons with more firepower still remain a central part of the nuclear-armed states military policies, with many warheads constantly on high alerts.
Will a ban on nuclear weapons be useful if states like North Korea won’t sign it?
A ban on nuclear weapons will establish an international norm against the possession of nuclear weapons, which will help to reduce the perceived value of such weapons. It will draw the line between those states that believe nuclear weapons are unacceptable and illegitimate, and those states that believe nuclear weapons are legitimate and able to provide security.
If nuclear weapons continue to be portrayed as a legitimate and a useful mean to provide security, non-nuclear weapon states might aim to develop such weapons themselves.
A ban on nuclear weapons would create a global norm against nuclear weapons, which would not only put pressure on both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear weapon states to reject nuclear weapons permanently, but it would also set the stage for future progress in states like North Korea should its domestic political situation change.
Will nuclear-armed states give up their arsenals if a ban on nuclear weapons is negotiated?
Banning nuclear weapons is not the same as eliminating them. A ban will be a necessary starting point for disarmament to happen. While the dismantlement of all nuclear arsenals might be a long process, a clear international rejection of these weapons is going to be an essential component of future disarmament efforts.
The world did not wait for Syria to eliminate their chemical weapons before the prohibition of chemical weapons was negotiated and brought into force. It did not make the chemical weapons convention any less important, rather it helped the international community to swiftly respond and put an end to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
A ban on nuclear weapons will make the maintenance and development of nuclear weapons less attractive and more difficult, both for existing nuclear weapons possessors and potential new ones. It will create better conditions for effective disarmament measures.
As long as one country has nuclear weapons, will it be dangerous for others to give theirs up?
A ban on nuclear weapons will send a clear signal that all nuclear weapons are unacceptable. The work to stigmatize, ban and eliminate nuclear weapons is the best defence against the use of nuclear weapons.
As long as nuclear weapons are seen as important and legitimate, it will encourage proliferation and maintenance of current arsenals.
A ban on nuclear weapons is not about unilateral disarmament of nuclear arsenals, it is about creating an international norm against the use and possession of nuclear weapons. A clear and unequivocal rejection of the possession and use of nuclear weapons will make it harder for all states to continue investing in the maintenance and development of nuclear weapons.
A ban on nuclear weapons lead by non-nuclear weapon states can and should work as mutually reinforcing to other disarmament efforts by nuclear-armed states, such as the ratification of the test-ban treaty, further reductions of arsenals, and de-alerting. A ban does not preclude or prevent bilateral or multilateral agreements to reduce numbers of warheads between nuclear armed states.
But a ban can put external pressure on such nuclear-armed states to make further efforts on disarmament. This is particularly important at a time when relations between the major nuclear weapon states are worsening, and their domestic political situation makes any international progress difficult.
Can a NATO state work for a ban even if NATO has nuclear weapons?
There are no legal grounds for why a NATO country would not be able to work for a ban on nuclear weapons. It is fully possible to develop a national standard regarding nuclear weapons that is different from other NATO states.
While NATO’s strategic concept from 2010 says that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance, the concept also declares that the alliance should work to create conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons. A ban on nuclear weapons will stigmatize and prohibit nuclear weapons, creating better conditions for nuclear disarmament. Working for nuclear disarmament is not just a reference in a strategic concept, this is also an obligation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty signed by all member states of NATO.
The 2010 NPT outcome document called for the reduction of reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines. By leading the work to stigmatize and prohibit nuclear weapons, NATO states can implement their national obligations by increasing the influence over NATOs next strategic concept and implement the commitments from 2010 to ”reduce the reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines”.
The facts that have emerged during the three humanitarian consequences, as well as the new discussion about the risks such weapons pose should be the start of a dialogue in all NATO states about what more NATO states can do to reach a world free of nuclear weapons.
Does history show that nuclear weapons create stability and prevent war?
The last three years, facts and information about historical processes, as well as the consequences and risks around nuclear weapons, have put the deterrence theory under scrutiny. It is increasingly being questioned. In addition to this, the critical question is not if deterrence has worked for 70 years, but if we should take the chance that it will work for another 70 years. The world no longer consists of two ideological blocks, but is a much more unpredictable situation – including both state and non-state actors.
If our security should be based on nuclear deterrence, that strategy must work perfectly for ever. It won’t. If nuclear weapons are kept, sooner or later the world will see a nuclear detonation, either by intent or accident. The utility of nuclear weapons is at best doubtful, but what we know for sure is that nuclear weapons put us at risk of facing a humanitarian catastrophe.
Is it better to focus on non-proliferation efforts to prevent new states or terrorist groups to acquire nuclear weapons?
A ban will be an effective tool to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Many non-nuclear weapon states have signed the Non Proliferation Treaty because of the ”bargain” contained in the treaty: you promise to not develop nuclear weapons maintaining your right to develop nuclear energy, in exchange for the promise of nuclear-armed states to disarm their weapons. A ban would instead prohibit nuclear weapons universally and as result of an unequivocal rejection, strengthening the NPT and making it a powerful tool to prevent proliferation.
Continuing to argue that nuclear weapons are essential for providing security will only encourage other states to follow suit.
Negotiations archive → ICAN briefing papers and statements from the 2017 negotiating conference for the Treaty.
Nuclear Ban Monitor → The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, established by Norwegian People’s Aid, is a research programme to monitor and advance universalisation and faithful implementation of the TPNW and progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons. It measures progress related to signature, ratification, entry into force and universalisation of the TPNW.
The Monitor will also assess the performance of all states (signatories, States party and States not party) in relation to the provisions and norms of the TPNW, including each of the specific prohibitions contained in Article 1, the positive obligations on victim assistance and environmental remediation in Article 6, and the reporting obligations.