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High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament (26 September 2013)

Multilateral Efforts

A number of multilateral treaties have been established with the aim of further preventing nuclear proliferation and testing, while promoting progress in nuclear disarmament. These include the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

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 a world free of nuclear weapons, while calling for a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. 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 190 parties 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.

For the exclusive purpose of verifying their obligations assumed under the Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, non-nuclear-weapon States parties undertake to accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all their peaceful nuclear activities.

Furthermore, the Treaty ensures the inalienable right of all the parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and promotes cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology and access to this technology for all States parties.

The 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) met at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 3 to 28 May 2010. States parties agreed to a final document which included a review of the operation of the Treaty, reflecting the views of the President of the Conference, as well as agreed conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions. The action plan contains measures to advance nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and regional issues, including the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans nuclear-weapon test explosions and any other nuclear explosions on the Earth's surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground.

Negotiated -but not agreed- by the Conference on Disarmament, the treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996 and opened for signature on 24 September 1996. So far, 183 countries have signed the Treaty, of which 159 have also ratified it, including three nuclear-weapon States: France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. Before the CTBT can enter into force, however, 44 countries listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty, must sign and/or ratify it. Of these, eight have yet to do so, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.

Over 2000 nuclear explosions were recorded between July 1945 when the first nuclear bomb was tested by the United States and 1996 when the CTBT banning such explosions was opened for signature.

Nuclear-weapon-free zones

A nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) is a specified region in which countries commit themselves not to manufacture, acquire, test, or possess nuclear weapons. Five such zones exist today, with four of them spanning the entire Southern Hemisphere. The regions currently covered under NWFZ agreements include: Latin America (the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (the 1995 Treaty of Bangkok) Africa (the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba) and Central Asia (the 2006 Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone).

Article VII of the NPT affirms the right of countries to establish specified zones free of nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly reaffirmed that right in 1975 and outlined the criteria for such zones. Within these NWFZs, countries may use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Each treaty establishing an NWFZ includes a protocol for the five nuclear-weapon States recognized under the NPT - China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States - to sign and ratify. These protocols, which are legally binding, call upon the nuclear-weapon States to respect the status of the zones and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against treaty States parties.

In addition to the regional zones, Mongolia has made a declaration on its international security and nuclear-weapon-free status and is recognized as such by the UN through the adoption of UN General Assembly resolution 53/77D and subsequent resolutions, which have further consolidated its nuclear-weapon-free status.

Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations

The General Assembly of the United Nations established by resolution A/RES/67/56 PDF an open-ended working group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.

The group will meet in Geneva in 2013 for up to fifteen working days. International organizations and the civil society will contribute to the work of the group. The group shall submit a report on its work, reflecting discussions held and all proposals made, to the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session. This report will also be transmitted by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission.

The organizational meeting of the open-ended working group took place on 14 March 2013 at the Palais des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva. 

Pursuant to the established practice and the provisions of resolution A/RES/67/56 of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General of the United Nations circulated an invitation note verbale PDF on 15 February 2013.

Additional information on the preparations PDF of the open-ended working group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations was provided at an informal open-ended briefing on 7 March 2013.

Available on the website of the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG): Documentation and resource materials and information on open-ended working group meetings in 2013.