Research shows 31 states holding back progress on nuclear disarmament

By agency reporter
October 18, 2019

The 2019 report of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor was launched at a side event during the UN General Assembly in New York on 16 October. This watchdog report measures progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons, by using the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as a yardstick. The report also evaluates the extent to which the policies and practices of all states comply with the prohibitions in the TPNW, regardless of whether they have joined the treaty yet.

The 2019 report of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, which is researched and published by ICAN’s partner organisation Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA),  identifies 31 mostly European states – including countries like Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain – as "nuclear-weapon-complicit states". These are states that do not themselves possess nuclear weapons but have outsourced their nuclear postures to one or more nuclear-armed allies through arrangements of extended nuclear deterrence, or so-called 'nuclear umbrellas'. They have endorsed or acquiesced in the continued possession and potential use of nuclear weapons on their behalf.

“It is not only the nine nuclear-armed states that stand between the international community and its long-standing goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. So do the 31 nuclear-weapon-complicit states. Their role in assisting, encouraging, and inducing continued retention of nuclear weapons had not been given much attention prior to the adoption of the TPNW in the UN in 2017”, says the editor of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, Grethe Lauglo Østern of NPA.

The nine nuclear-armed states and the 31 nuclear-weapon-complicit states do not support the TPNW, and some of them actively oppose it. The majority of the world’s states, however, stand behind the treaty. The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor categorises a total of 135 countries as TPNW supporters.

As of October 2019, 32 states are full states parties to the TPNW and 79 countries are signatory states.

Support for the TPNW is high in all regions apart from Europe, where 34 states (or 69 per cent) today are opposed to signing it. 

The TPNW will be binding, international law when 50 states have ratified it. The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor shows that the Treaty is moving steadily towards early entry into force, despite obstructionism from nuclear-armed states. At the time of writing, the TPNW had, by a close margin, the second-fastest speed of adherence of the treaties on weapons of mass destruction, though significantly slower than the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Among the states that have ratified the TPNW already are Kazakhstan and South Africa, both of which once had nuclear weapons but subsequently disarmed; two of only four states ever to do so.

“A facts-based debate on the UN prohibition on nuclear weapons is essential if we are to achieve the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. This applies to civil society, and to politicians and diplomats. The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor gathers and makes available crucial data”, said NPA’s Secretary-General, Henriette Westhrin.

“This report documents the clear support by the vast majority of the world’s countries for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and a world free of nuclear weapons”, said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN. “Countries that continue to possess and endorse nuclear weapons must heed their call.”

Even though the nuclear-armed states are resisting the TPNW, Westhrin believes it is important that countries without nuclear weapons now are taking the lead and becoming the first states parties to the treaty. In doing so they are creating a long-overdue norm that nuclear weapons are unacceptable, and an international framework for their elimination.

“The first parties to the TPNW have a responsibility to use this tool to break decades of acquiescence to the nuclear threat and to encourage other states to stop justifying the ‘benefits’ of nuclear weapons. The impact of the TPNW will be built gradually and will depend on how it is received and used by each and every UN member state,” says Westhrin.

* Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor

* International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons


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