- No nuclear warhead has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty
Achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations. It was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946. As the UN commemorates the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, there are still some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain.
Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals. More than half of the world’s population still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances.
As of 2017, while there have been major reductions in deployed nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear warhead has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty, bilateral or multilateral, and no nuclear disarmament negotiations are underway.
Meanwhile, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence persists as an element in the security policies of all possessor states and their nuclear allies. The prevailing security challenges cannot be an excuse for continued reliance on nuclear weapons and for abrogating our shared responsibility to seek a more peaceful international society.
After general and complete disarmament first came onto the General Assembly’s agenda in 1959, nuclear disarmament has remained the most important and urgent objective of the United Nations in this field.
Since 1975, it has been a prominent theme of the review conferences of States parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1978, the General Assembly’s first Special Session on disarmament reaffirmed that effective measures for nuclear disarmament have the highest priority. And it has been supported by every United Nations Secretary-General.
These facts provide the foundation for the General Assembly’s designation of 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an occasion for the world community to reaffirm its commitment to global nuclear disarmament as a high priority.
It also provides an opportunity to educate the public—and their leaders—about the real benefits of eliminating such weapons, and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them. Commemorating this Day at the United Nations is especially important, given its universal membership and its long experience in grappling with nuclear disarmament issues. It is the right place to address one of humanity’s greatest challenges, achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted on 7 July 2017, marks an important step and contribution towards this common goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
The Treaty reflects growing concerns over the risk posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons as well as awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result if nuclear weapons were ever used again.
It is the result of a global campaign focused on the unacceptability of the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances and the hope that the Treaty’s adoption will give renewed momentum to nuclear disarmament.
The General Assembly declared the International Day in December 2013, in resolution A/RES/68/32 as a follow-up to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament held on 26 September 2013.
The resolution, inter alia, calls for the “urgent commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons to prohibit their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer and use or threat of use, and to provide for their destruction.”
The resolution declares 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons devoted to furthering the objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, including through enhancing public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world and furthermore “decides to convene, no later than 2018, a United Nations high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament to review the progress made in this regard.”
In addition, the Assembly called upon Member States, the United Nations system and civil society, including non-governmental organizations, academia, parliamentarians, the mass media and individuals, to commemorate and promote the International Day through all means of educational and public awareness-raising activities about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution on 5 December 2013 with a vote of 137-28 with 20 abstentions.