Context

  • The adoption of the historic United Nations pact to ban nuclear weapons underscores a paradigm shift in the discourse on global disarmament.

The pact

  • The universal goal of total elimination of these weapons of mass destruction has been disentangled from the narrow focus on the maintenance of a deterrent by the nuclear weapons states against threats from one another.
  • Instead, the case for abolition, under the treaty finalized in July, is premised on the potential danger to the very survival of civilization from another holocaust.
  • The new treaty, which 122 nations have approved, outlaws the entire range of activity relating to the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.
  • The ban on the conduct of underground explosions envisaged under Article 1 is a breakthrough.
  • The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has not entered into force because many among the 44 designated nuclear-capable states, whose ratification is mandatory under the pact, have not come on board.

For victims

  • The litigation at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has underpinned the need to codify a strong provision on the protection of victims.
  • Assistance for people exposed to extreme radiation and contamination of the environment has been spelt out explicitly under Article 6 of the current treaty.
  • The most central provision is Article 1(d) which categorically prohibits the use of nuclear weapons, or a threat to that effect, under all circumstances.
  • The ICJ’s 1996 advisory opinion was that the use of these deadly arms, or even a threat, was generally illegal.
  • Support for the new treaty has steadily grown over the years to cover nearly two-thirds of the UN member states which adopted it last month.
  • It is hence not unreasonable to anticipate that the required 50 instruments of ratification for its entry into force would be submitted swiftly.
  • Moreover, the nuclear weapons treaty marks the completion of a process to enforce an international ban on all categories of weapons of mass destruction following the prohibition of biological and chemical arms.
  • This is another strong incentive for its early ratification, about a century after the deadliest deployment of chlorine gas in Ieper, Belgium during the First World War unleashed an arms race.
  • The world’s nuclear powers, which boycotted the negotiations on the landmark agreement, have remained defiant ever since its adoption.
  • Their continued resistance will no doubt jeopardize its effectiveness. But that does not take away from its sound basis in moral and legal principles.

 

CTBT

  • The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the Treaty banning all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
  • The Treaty was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • It opened for signature on 24 September 1996. Since then, the Treaty has reached near-universality.
  • 182 countries have signed the Treaty, the last country to do so was Trinidad and Tobago on 8 October 2009 which also ratified the Treaty on 26 May 2010. 154 countries have ratified the Treaty – most recently Ghana on 14 June 2011.
  • The CTBT is the last barrier on the way to develop nuclear weapons.
  • It curbs the development of new nuclear weapons and the improvement of existing nuclear weapon designs.
  • When the Treaty enters into force it provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing.
  • The Treaty also helps prevent human suffering and environmental damages caused by nuclear testing.

 

Treaty of Non – Proliferation Treaty

  • The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.
  • The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.
  • Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. On 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely.
  • A total of 191 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.
  • More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty’s significance.

2015 Review Conference

  • The 2015 review conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, held in New York from 27 April to 22 May and presided over by Ambassador Taous Feroukhi (Algeria), ended without the adoption of a consensus substantive outcome.
  • After a successful 2010 Review Conference at which States parties agreed to a final document which included conclusions and recommendations for follow-on action.
  • It includes the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, the 2015 outcome constitutes a setback for the strengthened review process instituted to ensure accountability with respect to activities under the three pillars of the Treaty as part of the package in support of the indefinite extension of the Treaty in 1995.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons prohibits the use, threat of use, development, production, manufacturing, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing and installment of nuclear weapons or assistance with any prohibited activities.
  • It requires states-parties to declare if they once had or currently have nuclear weapons and if there are nuclear weapons on their territory.
  • It requires states-parties that currently have nuclear weapons to destroy them and those that have nuclear weapons on their territory to remove them.
  • States-parties must also provide victim assistance to those impacted by nuclear weapon use and testing and environmental remediation assistance to areas impacted by nuclear weapon use and testing.

Effectiveness of Nuclear Ban Treaties

  • The weapons modernisation craze has inflamed debate about the depth of the United States’ commitment to the NPT.
  • The NPT has done relatively little to curb nuclear proliferation.
  • Numerous states, such as Iraq, have cheated on their NPT commitments, suggesting that the treaty is incapable of reining-in determined proliferators.
  • NPT members would have proliferated even in the absence of a treaty commitment.
  • They attribute the slow rate of proliferation to other factors, such as alliances that provide “nuclear umbrellas.”
  • Japan, for instance, is nonnuclear because of its alliance with the United States not because of the NPT.

Challenge to Nuclear Deterrence

  • The result of a nuclear weapons ban treaty, which is due to be negotiated beginning this month as authorized by the UN General Assembly on December 23, 2016, by a vote of 113-35, with 13 abstaining.
  • Negotiating sessions in 2017 are scheduled for March 27-31 and from June 15 to July 7.
  • The purpose of this treaty will be to prohibit but not eliminate nuclear weapons.
  • The intent to do so will be to delegitimize nuclear deterrence, a concept that has been used to justify the possession of nuclear weapons among the five nuclear-weapon states, as well as the rationale for others inclined to seek their own nuclear arsenals.
  • This will be an attempt to overturn what has been a central tenet of every U.S. administration since that of President Harry Truman, that nuclear deterrence is fundamental to international peace and security, at least until a safe, effective, and verifiable way to eliminate these weapons can be found.

Way ahead

  • As there is no way to force the changes demanded, cooperation, not confrontation, is essential.
  • There is a risk that the ban campaign increasingly will resort to condemnation and ridicule of the nuclear-weapon states and their allies, making its goals even more difficult to achieve.
  • Those determined to stay with the status quo on nuclear deterrence need to understand the risks to civilization of that approach and that they cannot continue to ignore the demands from the majority of citizens on Earth.

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Did you like what you read?

Enter your email address below to get all our updates in your inbox the moment it is published. Once you enter your email address, you will be subscribed immediately.


We do not spam you, so you can easily unsubscribe anytime, by clicking on unsubscribe link in the email.