Report: Why NATO members should join the UN nuclear weapon ban


Ahead of NATO summit in Brussels on 14 June 2021, ICAN has launched a major new report, outlining why members of the transatlantic alliance should embrace the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force this January. It highlights the growing tide of political support for the TPNW in many NATO states, and the mounting public pressure for action. 

The report proposes that NATO take steps to become a "non-nuclear alliance", in line with the new norm set by the United Nations. It notes that NATO members face no legal barrier to joining the treaty, so long as they commit not to engage in or support any nuclear-weapon-related activities. Any NATO members that are ready to join the TPNW should be free to do so, without fear of repercussions from their allies, particularly the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, which still possess nuclear arsenals.

Read the report > 

The report also highlights the widespread support for the TPNW within many NATO states, as evidenced by public opinion polls, parliamentary resolutions, political party declarations, and statements from past leaders.

Ultimately, governments are accountable to their citizens and cannot indefinitely ignore the democratic will. It is only a matter of time before one or more NATO member states take steps towards joining the treaty.


Key conclusions

  • NATO has long recognised the threat that nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction pose to its security. Rising tensions and risks are only increasing the incentives for disarmament.
  • Instead of accelerating its efforts to advance nuclear disarmament, NATO has been moving in the opposite direction – contrary to its own objectives, and undermining its own security.
  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now a permanent part of international law, and enjoys broad global support. NATO’s hostility towards it is directly contrary to its own interests.
  • By joining the TPNW, NATO members can help to strengthen barriers against proliferation, open up pathways for disarmament, and assist victims of nuclear testing.
  • While NATO as an alliance remains firmly opposed to the TPNW, there is strong and growing support for it within many NATO states.
  • Much of the opposition to the TPNW, including from NATO states, is based on myths and misconceptions, as well as deliberate falsehoods.
  • While total elimination of nuclear weapons may remain a distant goal, envisioning and planning for NATO as a “non-nuclear alliance” should begin now – in line with the new global norm.


Support for the TPNW within NATO

  • Opinion polls in 11 NATO states have shown overwhelming public support for joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  • More than 50 former leaders, foreign ministers, and defence ministers – including two who served as NATO secretaries general – have implored current leaders to “show courage and boldness” and join the treaty.
  • Parliaments, including in Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, have conveyed their broad support for the treaty and called for executive action.
  • More than a thousand parliamentarians in NATO states have pledged to work to bring their respective countries on board.
  • More than 400 cities in NATO states, including Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Oslo, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, have urged their respective national governments to ratify the treaty.