Scope of guide
This guide describes government positions on a future treaty, or series of treaties, banning nuclear weapons, as well as the emerging discourse on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. It does not include related information about government positions on issues such as arms reductions, non-proliferation and nuclear energy. For that, we suggest visiting the Reaching Critical Will website and reading national statements in full.
The guide focuses specifically on what governments have said about “banning”, “prohibiting” or “outlawing” nuclear weapons entirely. It does not include references to partial bans, such as a treaty banning only the use of nuclear weapons, as advocated by some governments. Similarly, mere expressions of support for a “nuclear-weapon-free world”, a “world without nuclear weapons” or the “elimination of nuclear weapons” are not included. The guide is concerned only with the idea of a ban.
As the guide shows, views among governments diverge on what a treaty banning nuclear weapons should look like, whether nuclear-armed states must be involved in the negotiations, and which negotiating forum is the most appropriate (some favour the Conference on Disarmament, while others propose negotiations outside the UN). Importantly, not all nations listed as “supportive” endorse the precise approach advocated by ICAN, though all do endorse the basic concept of a ban on nuclear weapons.
Information is drawn primarily from national statements in the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, the Conference on Disarmament, the UN Disarmament Commission and Non-Proliferation Treaty review meetings. The guide also includes comments by government ministers in response to parliamentary questions; correspondence from governments to ICAN; official press statements; public opinion polls; and General Assembly votes. Where possible, we have hyperlinked the relevant source.
All 195 nations in the guide have been placed in one of three categories – “supportive”, “on the fence” or “opposed” – based on their stated position on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The guide makes no judgment as to the sincerity of national statements. Some nations might voice support for a ban but have no real intention of joining negotiations. In the case of the four nuclear-armed states listed as “supportive”, the guide notes that this should be considered in light of their continuing refusal to disarm.
- Supportive: Most nations in this category have delivered statements at the UN or in other intergovernmental forums supporting a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Where no such statement could be found, inclusion in this category is based on the nation’s vote in favour of the annual UN General Assembly resolution calling for negotiations on a treaty “prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons”. Nations that have called for intensified efforts “to outlaw nuclear weapons” are also deemed to be supportive of a ban.
- On the fence: Most nations in this category have delivered statements indicating highly qualified, or “in principle”, support for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Many have described a ban as a distant goal, and not something to be pursued in the short term. They typically abstain from voting on the annual UN General Assembly resolution calling for negotiations on a treaty “prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons”.
- Opposed: All nations in this category vote against the annual UN General Assembly resolution calling for negotiations on a treaty “prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons”. Some have also delivered statements opposing a treaty banning nuclear weapons, or have said that they would be willing to entertain the idea of a ban on nuclear weapons only once all nuclear weapons have been eliminated from the world.
Updates and feedback
The first version of this guide was published in August 2010. The most recent full update was in May 2013. New information on government positions will be added as it becomes available. Comments, clarifications, corrections, additional information and suggested updates from governments and individuals are most welcome. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the descriptions in this guide, but we cannot guarantee that it is entirely free from errors. Please email comments to [email protected].