For the first time in the seven-decade effort to avert a nuclear war, a global treaty has been negotiated that proponents say would, if successful, lead to the destruction of all nuclear weapons and forever prohibit their use.
The document, called the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, was formally adopted on Friday at United Nations headquarters in New York during the final session of the negotiation conference. It will be open for signature by any member state on Sept. 20 during the annual General Assembly.
Elayne G. Whyte Gómez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and the chairwoman of the conference, said in a telephone interview before the adoption that she had been “pleasantly surprised” at how quickly participants agreed on a final draft. She commended “the level of commitment and determination of delegations to accomplish the task.”
Disarmament groups and other proponents of the treaty said they had never expected that any nuclear-armed country would sign it — at least not at first. Rather, supporters hope, the treaty’s widespread acceptance elsewhere will eventually increase the public pressure and stigma of harboring and threatening to use such weapons of unspeakable destruction, and make holdouts reconsider their positions.
“This treaty is a strong categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons and is really rooted in humanitarian law,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a Geneva-based coalition of groups that advocated the treaty.
“It provides a path for nuclear-armed states to join,” Ms. Fihn said in an interview on Thursday. “We don’t expect them to sign the treaty right now, but it’s a good starting point for changing perceptions.”
Treaties that banned biological and chemical arms, land mines and cluster bombs have shown how weapons once regarded as acceptable are now widely, if not universally, reviled. That is the kind of outcome sought by proponents of the nuclear ban pact.
- European Nuclear Weapons Program Would Be Legal, German Review Finds via The New York Times