Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The International Humanitarian Movement for Nuclear Disarmament

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The International Humanitarian Movement for Nuclear Disarmament

The tides are turning. On July 7, 2017, the U.N. adopted the first-ever treaty imposing a comprehensive prohibition against nuclear weapons; more than 120 nations were in support. Inspired by past efforts that led to bans on land mines and cluster bombs, the treaty—negotiated without the nine nuclear-armed countries—reframes nuclear disarmament as a global health imperative and provides a vision for a nuclear weapons-free world.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) mobilized civil society across more than 100 countries to create the political momentum at the U.N. to achieve the treaty. ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. PSR’s global affiliate, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), founded ICAN in 2007. PSR is a proud US-partner of ICAN.

About the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

On July 7, 2017, the U.N. adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons and related activities. The medical community’s advocacy and research helped civil society and the international community devise public health solutions to the threat of nuclear weapons.

Why is a ban on nuclear weapons necessary?

The 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty requires nuclear-armed countries party to the treaty to negotiate nuclear disarmament. However, all nine nuclear-armed countries are working to significantly upgrade and expand their nuclear arsenals. A twenty-first-century nuclear arms race obstructs progress toward disarmament and significantly increases the risks of a nuclear catastrophe.

Without the treaty, the nuclear-armed countries’ dangerous arms race has no end in sight.

How does the treaty work?

1. The TPNW fills the legal gap in international humanitarian law.

All other weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and landmines, have been sharply curtailed following a categorical ban introduced by the international community. Unlike the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the TPNW prohibits the possession of nuclear weapons and applies a universal standard to all countries.

2. The TPNW creates international norms that delegitimize nuclear weapons.

A comprehensive prohibition against nuclear weapons stigmatizes nuclear weapons as weapons of mass destruction that are inconceivable as tools of “security.” Once the norm against nuclear weapons becomes universalized, the TPNW will renew pressure on nuclear-armed countries by underscoring their existing disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

What’s included in the treaty?

  • Comprehensively bans nuclear weapons and related activities.
  • Bans any assistance with prohibited acts.
  • Creates a path for nuclear-armed countries to join the treaty and eliminate their weapons.
  • Creates verification mechanisms to ensure countries comply with the treaty. The treaty requires that the destruction of nuclear weapons and programs is verifiable, time-bound, transparent, and irreversible.
  • Requires victim and international assistance and environmental remediation.

How might the TPNW influence the nuclear-armed countries?

Read PSR’s publication, Convincing Nuclear-armed Countries to Take the Path to Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, by Jeremy Cotton.

Current Status

On October 24, 2020, Honduras was the 50th nation to ratify the TPNW, triggering Entry Into Force on January 22, 2021.