Two of the largest countries in the world by population, Brazil and Indonesia, will soon ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapon (TPNW), according to their respective governments. Both countries were among the first to sign the landmark United Nations accord in 2017, and their ratification processes are now nearing completion. Their inclusion among the treaty’s states parties will be an important boost to the new disarmament regime.
The TPNW was adopted at the UN headquarters in New York six years ago, on 7 July 2017, with the backing of 122 countries, and entered into force in 2021. It is the first comprehensive, globally applicable prohibition on the use and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as the first multilateral framework for eliminating nuclear weapon programmes and addressing the ongoing harm from past nuclear tests.
When the treaty opened for signature on 20 September 2017, the then-president of Brazil, Michel Temer, was the first world leader to sign it. He described it as “a historic moment”. A year later, he submitted the treaty to the Brazilian national congress for ratification. But lawmakers failed to take any further action between 2019 and 2022, under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro.
The ratification process now appears to be back on track. Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, saidduring a G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, in May 2023: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, there will always be the possibility of their use. It was for this reason that Brazil was actively engaged in the negotiations of the [TPNW], which we hope to be able to ratify soon.”
The foreign affairs and national defence committee of the chamber of deputies – the lower house of the federal congress – is currently preparing a report on the TPNW, after which it will be sent to the federal senate for final review.
As a member of a core group of states that instigated the treaty-making process, Brazil was instrumental in the TPNW’s creation in 2017. It has described the treaty as “the most important international agreement negotiated in the field of disarmament in recent years” and “an evolutionary leap for the disarmament and non-proliferation regime”.
Like Brazil, Indonesia is also poised to complete its TPNW ratification process in the coming months. The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, submitted the treaty to the lower house of the national legislature last October. A parliamentary commission on foreign affairs and defence is now examining it and has conducted hearings with academics and government officials.
In February, Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, said that “Indonesia is currently finalising the ratification process [for the TPNW], and expects other countries to ratify it soon”. It “has already established supportive lawsand regulations to accommodate the treaty into our national regulation system”.
In 2021, Indonesia described the TPNW’s entry into force as “a very important milestone”, providing a “legal framework to delegitimise nuclear weapons” and raising “moral barriers against their threat”. It called on “countries that have not signed the treaty to do so and be part of the positive force towards global nuclear disarmament”.
Sixty-eight states are parties to the TPNW, having ratified or acceded to it. A further 27 have signed but not yet ratified it, including Brazil and Indonesia. Currently the largest parties by population are Nigeria, Bangladesh, Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Close to half of the world’s countries will soon be counted as either parties or signatories.