On 7 July 2017, a draft treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons was adopted at the United Nations in New York.
The process leading up to the draft was set up by a United Nations General Assembly resolution of 23 December 2016 calling for a "United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination."
The draft treaty is built on a comprehensive set of prohibitions of activities associated with nuclear weapons and weapon programs with far reaching implications.
Article 1: Prohibitions
Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
(a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;
(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly;
(c) Receive the transfer of or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly;
(d) Use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;
(e) Assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;
(f) Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;
(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
The draft also requires states that have nuclear weapons to eliminate them through a verifiable and irreversible time bound process agreed with the States Parties to the treaty. This may have a significant impact on debates and policies concerning the production, stockpiling and use of fissile materials.
Article 4.2 states requires that each State Party that owns, possesses or controls nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices shall:
- immediately remove its nuclear weapons from operational status, and destroy them as soon as possible but not later than a deadline to be determined by the first meeting of States Parties.
- This destruction will be in accordance with a legally binding, time-bound plan for the verified and irreversible elimination of that State Party's nuclear-weapon program, including the elimination or irreversible conversion of all nuclear-weapons-related facilities.
- This plan will be submitted by the state to the States Parties or to a competent international authority designated by the States Parties no later than 60 days after the entry into force of this Treaty for that State Party.
- The plan shall be negotiated with the competent international authority, which shall submit it to the subsequent meeting of States Parties or review conference, whichever comes first, for approval.
In addition, a State Party that has nuclear weapons shall conclude a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency sufficient to provide credible assurance of the non-diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities and of the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activities in the State as a whole. Negotiation of such a safeguards agreement shall commence no later than the date upon which implementation of the nuclear program elimination plan is completed.
Any state that had nuclear weapons after 7 July 2017 and eliminated them and completed the elimination or irreversible conversion of all its nuclear weapons-related facilities before joining the treaty is required to cooperate in a process to verify the irreversible elimination of its nuclear-weapon program.
States that only host nuclear weapons (currently Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey, which host US weapons) are required to "ensure the prompt removal of such weapons, as soon as possible but not later than a deadline to be determined by the first meeting of States Parties" and "submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations a declaration that it has fulfilled its obligations".
As a treaty based on international humanitarian law and principles, the treaty also contains provisions for assistance for people affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons and environmental remediation of areas contaminated as a result of the testing or use of nuclear weapons.
The draft treaty was adopted by a vote of 122 in favor to one against (Netherlands), with one abstention (Singapore). There are 193 states in the United Nations.