Beginning next month, the recently adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will be open for signature, marking the next phase in a long-sought but largely symbolic ban. Approved in July by nearly two-thirds of the world’s countries, the ban would prohibit testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives. It will enter into force following ratification by 50 countries.
Supporters of the ban treaty say it serves to delegitimize nuclear weapons and reinforce global norms against use; however, without the support of the nuclear-armed states, some argue that the treaty will be ineffective. There also are serious concerns that the current text of the treaty could undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), regarded as the bedrock of international efforts to stem the spread of nuclear weapons and technology. Regardless, the new treaty is clear evidence of the worrying polarization of states—polarization driven, in part, by a perceived complacency among the nuclear-armed states and unwillingness to take serious steps to reduce the risks posed by nuclear weapons.
We asked five nuclear experts from around the world to give us their thoughts on the new ban treaty and their recommendations for making progress on global nuclear disarmament.
Irma Arguello, Head of Secretariat, Latin American and Caribbean Leadership Network (LALN) and Chair, NPSGlobal FoundationThe nuclear weapons ban treaty is a symbolic milestone and reflects the fact that many countries view the prohibition of nuclear weapons as the only path to total disarmament. Because this path has been rejected by the nuclear-armed states the treaty currently stands as a strong moral statement, rather than an instrument of practical application. Regardless, several major flaws in the draft text should be fixed before its entry into force. These include inconsistencies with the international law of armed conflict and issues relating to verification and safeguards. Importantly, the treaty must avoid confusion and prevent any erosion to the NPT. The current process of bi-annual meetings and reviews for the new treaty also adds a significant diplomatic burden for states.