Nuclear weapons: the current situation

The call for the elimination of nuclear weapons has been on the international agenda since the US dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. However, despite the threat these weapons represent to humanity, no comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons yet exists. While the nuclear-armed states have agreed on a legally-binding commitment to nuclear disarmament through the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), meaningful disarmament has not occurred. Instead, the nuclear-armed states and their nuclear-dependent allies continue to rely heavily on nuclear weapons in their security doctrines and invest billions of dollars upgrading and modernising their arsenals.

Diplomatic efforts in the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations have been deadlocked for many years. There is a steadfast divide between those proposing multilateral negotiations on comprehensive disarmament and those seeking a so-called step-by-step approach to deal with certain aspects first. However, largely thanks to a humanitarian initiative that is changing the discourse on nuclear disarmament, a growing number of non-nuclear armed states, international organisations, and civil society groups argue against the step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, given that the incremental steps that have been agreed to over the past twenty years have not been implemented.

In response to the impasse and the (attempted) blocking by the nuclear-armed states of any diplomatic efforts they do not support, in 2016 an Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament (OEWG) will take place over three sessions.

The purpose of the OEWG is to address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that will need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.

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