A Nuclear Weapons Convention would be a global treaty, including both nuclear armed and non-nuclear countries, which would prohibit the threat or use of nuclear weapons and establish a program for their complete elimination under strict and effective international control.
In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on UN member states to implement their legal obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament by commencing negotiations leading to the conclusion of a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), an international treaty including both nuclear armed and non-nuclear countries which would prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.
The UN resolution has been re-adopted most years since then, with support of over 130 countries including some of the nuclear-armed States – China, India, North Korea and Pakistan.
The resolution was been followed up by the drafting of a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention in 1997, which was updated in 2007. Both versions of the Model NWC have been published by the UN in its six official languages, and circulated to all UN members by successive UN Secretary-Generals as a guide for potential negotations to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.
The Model NWC, outlines the legal, technical and institutional requirements to achieve the complete elimination of nuclear weapons under strict and effective verification, compliance and international control, and to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again produced.
In October 2008, the UN Secretary-General released a Five-Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament which called for negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, plus other interim and supporting measures. The proposal reminds UN Member States of the Model NWC as a ‘good point of departure’ for nuclear disarmament negotiations.
In 2010, the States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – which includes five nuclear armed states China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – adopted a final document of the NPT Review Conference by consensus which affirms the obligation to build the framework for a nuclear-weapon-free world, noting the UN Secretary-General’s five-point proposal and in particular its call for negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or a framework of agreements.
Since 2013, the UN General Assembly has adopted an annual resolution reaffirming the call for negotiations on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons (NWC), requesting feedback from member states on ways to make progress on achieving a comprehensive convention, highlighting the UN International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons as a day to educate and mobilize civil society on nuclear disarmament including on a NWC, and re-inviting the UN Secretary-General to convene the annual high level UN meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day.
In 2010, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament presented a collection of parliamentary resolutions supporting the NWC from around the world to the UN Secretary-General, President of the NPT Review Conference and States Parties to the NPT. This helped move the States Parties to the NPT to commit to building the framework for a nuclear-weapon-free world, citing the UNSG’s five-point proposal.
This was followed up in 2014 a resolution adopted by the 164 Member parliaments of the Inter Parliamentary Union calling on governments to eliminate the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines, and urging the commencement of negotiations to achieve a NWC or package of agreements. This includes the parliaments of most nuclear armed countries and countries under extended nuclear deterrence relationships.
In 2017, the United Nations hosted negotiations undertaken by 122 non-nuclear states on a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The resulting treaty was opened for signature in September 2017 and entered into force for states parties in January 2021.
The TPNW has some similarities to the proposed NWC, including the general prohibitions on the threat or use of nuclear weapons as well as on the testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling or transfer of nuclear weapons.
However, there are also fundamental differences, the main one being that none of the nuclear armed or allied States are parties to the TPNW, where-as the NWC would require participation of most, if not all, of them.
As a consequence of this, the TPNW was adopted without verification or compliance measures, without a plan for the systematic destruction of existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and without an implementing agency.
In 2021, Abolition 2000, the global civil society network campaigning for a nuclear weapons convention, established NWC Reset: Frameworks for a nuclear weapon-free world, a project to update and re-evaluate the role of a nuclear weapons convention or similar framework for achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world in light of recent developments including adoption of the TPNW.
A particular focus of the project is how to engage nuclear-armed and allied states in a comprehensive nuclear disarmament process, including through a nuclear weapons convention, or a framework agreement or negotiating protocols to the TPNW that could facilitate nuclear armed and allied states joining.