Forty-five years ago, the international community signed a global convention banning biological weapons. Two decades later, it concluded a similar accord categorically rejecting chemical weapons. Now, after decades of deadlock over disarmament, the United Nations is developing a treaty to prohibit the worst of all weapons of mass destruction: nuclear weapons.
At an event in Geneva on May 22, Costa Rican ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, who is presiding over negotiations on the historic treaty, unveiled the first draft text and took questions from the world’s media. The draft broadly reflects the discussions and input received during the first round of negotiations, held in New York in March.
More than 130 nations participated in that session. Notably absent were the nine nuclear-armed nations and most of their allies that claim protection under a “nuclear umbrella.” But this boycott—which had been widely anticipated—is no barrier to the treaty’s adoption. The new law will advance disarmament by stigmatizing nuclear weapons and establishing the foundations for their elimination.
Formal work on the “legally binding instrument” will resume on June 15. Many of the participating nations are quietly confident that agreement can be reached by July 7, the final day set aside for negotiations this year under the mandate given by the UN General Assembly. As there is no strict requirement for consensus, a troublesome few cannot block the process.