A new chapter for nuclear disarmament

The United Nations logo at the entrance of the Geneva headquarter The United Nations logo at the entrance of the Geneva headquarter © Photo by Askolds on iStock

In Focus by Carla Leonetti; Editor: Francesca Mencuccini

In a video statement released on 22 January, the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, announced the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), referred to as the first multilateral disarmament treaty in more than two decades. Guterres has described the event as a “new chapter for nuclear disarmament”, and “a major step toward a world free of nuclear weapons”.

The Treaty was adopted on 7 July 2017 by a majority of 122 votes at the UN member states' Conference convened by General Assembly's resolution 71/258, with the aim of adopting a legally binding instrument leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. On 24 October 2020, the treaty reached its 50th ratification, that is the threshold necessary for its entry into force, which occurred on 22 January. By ratifying the Treaty, the parties have committed to the prohibition to develop, stockpile, test, produce, possess, use, or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The treaty also includes obligations to provide assistance to persons affected by the use of nuclear weapons and to implement measures of environmental remediation in the areas under national jurisdiction which have been contaminated by the testing or use of these lethal weapons.

The Secretary General has dedicated this achievement to the survivors of nuclear attacks and testing who, by representing the living testimony of the brutality of such weapons, embody “the moral force behind the Treaty”. However, the world’s nuclear powers, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have not signed the Treaty.  In the statement, Antonio Guterres underlined the fundamental role played by civil society in concluding the agreement and called for urgent action to ensure the elimination of such catastrophic weapons.


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