A Nuclear Ban Treaty: Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations

Briefing 13-01-2017

On 23 December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a resolution on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, thus paving the way for a conference in 2017 to ‘negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’. The adoption of the resolution has been hailed as historic by supporters of an initiative that has gained ground in the last few years to rid the world of the most destructive weapon known to humankind. Opponents of a ‘ban treaty’ argue that the deterrence provided by nuclear weapons is essential to maintain the existing global order, and the official nuclear-weapon states have mostly indicated that they will not participate in the conference. The majority of United Nations member states voted in favour of the resolution, but five nuclear-armed states and all but four NATO members voted against it. EU Member States, most of which are members of NATO, have taken different positions on the prospect of a nuclear weapons ban, with some supporting it, but most against. The European Parliament welcomed the convening of a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, noting that this would reinforce the non-proliferation and disarmament objectives and obligations contained in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and help to create the conditions for global security and a world without nuclear weapons. In a resolution adopted on 27 October 2016, the European Parliament invited the EU Member States to support the convening of such a conference in 2017 and ‘to participate constructively in its proceedings’.