There are approximately 12,705 nuclear bombs that have been developed for the military use. More than half of the world’s population resides in countries with nuclear weapons or that are part of nuclear alliances. Nuclear war is a constant threat to everyone. The threat of a nuclear catastrophe has been heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Life on this planet will not be safe until all nuclear weapons are completely removed, and every warhead has been disassembled.
Following the United Nations’ High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament on September 26, 2013 General Assembly passed resolution A/RES/68/32, urging “the urgent opening of negotiations” in the Conference on Disarmament for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons. It sought to prohibit nuclear weapons possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use.
In addition, Resolution 68/32 establishes September 26 as “the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”, enhancing public awareness about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their complete elimination. It seeks to mobilize international efforts towards attaining the common goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world. This resolution was approved by the UN General Assembly on December 5, 2014, with 137 votes in favor, 28 against, and 20 abstentions.
Historically Nuclear disarmament was first recognized as a substantial agenda during general Assembly’s first resolution in 1946. The atomic energy commission was authorized to make detailed recommendations for the regulation of nuclear energy and the abolition of all significant weapons of mass destruction, including atomic weapons. Furthermore in 1959, the General Assembly affirmed the goal of total and universal disarmament. It substantiated the agenda of nuclear disarmament .The General Assembly conducted its first Special Session devoted to disarmament in 1978. Subsequently, each Secretary-General of the United Nations has accorded particular importance to the agenda of disarmament within the UN.
Since the end of the Cold War, the global effort for arms control has certainly improved global security. Moreover, the activism around disarmament has made the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons a taboo.
Additionally, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was ratified on July 7, 2017. The fact that this Treaty is the first multilateral legally enforceable agreement for nuclear disarmament to be negotiated in 20 years makes it extremely significant.
In recent times, numerous non-nuclear governments and civil society members have called upon nuclear-armed nations and their allies to make a commitment to eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2045. Two crucial avenues for taking concrete actions towards nuclear disarmament, reducing the risk of a nuclear detonation, and addressing the damage caused by nuclear weapons’ use and testing on both people and the environment are the Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
The NPT, which is at the core of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, has grown to be a crucial pillar of global peace and Security. To eliminate nuclear weapons from the world, Nuclear weapon states that are signatories to the NPT must reduce the importance of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines and policies. States need to work for full adherence to the NPT obligations, including the outcome documents of the Treaty’s review conferences. They should commit to reducing all nuclear stockpiles both qualitatively and quantitatively, and uphold the highest standards of accountability and transparency.
States must continue efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and further engage in getting needed legal instruments in place, such as the multilateral treaty known as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It forbids the explosive testing of nuclear weapons. The CTBT was made available for signatures on September 24, 1996, although the CTBT has not officially taken into effect. The international security treaty system will be significantly impacted if the CTBT is ratified. A functioning CTBT regime will be a step towards realizing the long-term objective of destroying all nuclear weapons.
Regardless of the ultimate resolution of the grave situation in Ukraine, there is a looming specter of a fresh arms race on the horizon, one that could intensify states’ dependence on nuclear weapons. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has raised significant doubts about the credibility of the international nonproliferation regime, especially when disputes arise between nuclear-armed nations and non-nuclear states. This underscores the apprehensions articulated in the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which seeks to entirely delegitimize nuclear arsenals. States can only hope for a peaceful agreement that prevents this ominous trajectory from materializing.
Writer is Research Officer at Centre for International Strategic Studies AJK