Nuclear weapons ban treaty

Despite being the most destructive, inhumane weapons ever invented, nuclear weapons are the only “weapons of mass destruction” that are not yet banned under international law. (Chemical and biological weapons are both banned internationally.)

In December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly took action to address this crucial gap, voting to begin negotiations in 2017 for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. New Zealand joined 33 other countries in sponsoring this resolution, which was ultimately supported by 113 states.

In late March 2017, and again from mid-June to early July, the General Assembly will meet in New York to negotiate for a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Four New Zealanders will be attending the negotiations in New York to represent Aotearoa/NZ Civil Society and NGOs. Read about the delegation here. Watch this space as we will continue to update this page with further information and ways that you can get involved. For regular updates check out the blog section of the website.

Further reading about the Ban Treaty:

The Ban draft text has now been released – read it here: BanDraft

Publication from ICAN explaining the negotiations:

ican-2017 banning-nuclear-weapons

Publications from ICAN and WILPF explaining what should be in the Treaty:

ICAN: banning-nuclear-weapons

WILPF banning-nuclear-weapons


Analysis of the Ban Treaty draft text:

The Ban draft text has now been released – read it here: BanDraft

Ramesh Thakur: A U.N. milestone on the road to nuclear abolition

The Guardian: UN panel releases draft treaty banning possession and use of nuclear weapons

New York Times: U.N. Panel Releases Draft of Treaty to Ban Nuclear Arms

Japan Times: Draft of nuke ban treaty references atomic bomb victims


The first round of negotiations (27-31 March) is now over. What results have been reached so far?

Reaching Critical Will : ‘Last week was transformative’.

Those negotiations are symbolic for modern international relations. The mere fact that 130 States and 220 citizens groups reunited to discuss a ban on nuclear weapons is already an unprecedented victory in itself, given that nuclear states (including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) oppose the treaty.

The debates were engaged in a positive and productive spirit.

Overall, the participants agreed over the majority of topics, such as the appalling humanitarian consequence of nuclear weapons; the prohibition of ‘stockpiling, use, deployment, acquisition, development, and production of nuclear weapons, assistance, encouragement, and inducement of prohibited acts’, ’the transfer of nuclear weapons’, and the ‘explicit’ prohibition of financing activities related to nuclear weapons (see here).

Those clauses are still to be clarified in the first draft of the treaty (see draft text above). For instance, all parties agreed on outlawing stockpiling and possession of nuclear weapons, but it is still unclear how to address disarmament processes, particularly because the adhesion of nuclear-armed states to the treaty is uncertain. It is also unclear how the prohibition on testing will be addressed, as the parties disagreed whether there is a risk of undermining the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty by creating a loophole, or, on the contrary, reinforcing the norm against testing.

Unsolved questions are to be tackled in the next weeks, such as how to reinforce the rights of the victims and survivors and compensate environmental damage, and whether the treaty should outlaw threat of use, testing and financing.

The reach of a ban is now considered ‘an achievable goal’ by Costa Rican Ambassador Elayne White Gómez, President of the conference.

Read the full issues here and here, and the minutes here. Have a look at the statements here.

UNFOLD ZERO’s look at the negotiations

One of the proposal discussed was the prohibition of any financing to produce nuclear weapons, supported by UNFOLD ZERO and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament. They defend the inclusion of a clause forbidding investments in the dozen of corporations and lobbies that rule the nuclear weapons industry. As highlighted in their post-coreference statement, ‘a prohibition on nuclear weapons investments would be one of the few elements of a ban treaty that would have direct impact on the nuclear-armed States’. Similarly, both groups are pushing for the treaty to affirm ‘the illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons (…) under international law’, in order to make a legal norm, which would extend the reach of the treaty not to only to its signatories, but also to States that were not originally part of it. In the end, this would undermine the supposed legitimacy of nuclear deterrence as the current paradigm of international relations.

ICAN’s update on this week 

One of the highlights of the conference was the speech delivered by Sue Coleman-Haseldine, a nuclear test survivor who lives in Australia, one of the few countries to have boycotted the negotiations. Talking about how her community and land were affected by the testing, she urged the international community to ‘connect the past, present and future, and work towards a treaty to ban all nuclear weapons, so there will be no new victims under a mushroom cloud’.

Australia’s absence to the negotiations was widely denounced, representatives of ICAN Australia protesting outside the Parliament House in Canberra and Senators vigorously defending the ban.


The first round of negotiations ended on a successful note. A draft text for the treaty is now circulating, and NGOs and Governments are analysing the text. The second round of negotiations will be held June 15th – July 7th. Check out our blog for regular updates.