photo credit: ICAN | Seth Shelden

States reaffirm support for Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty at UN First Committee


Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, with its attendant nuclear risks, a majority of the world’s countries have reaffirmed their support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force last year and makes nuclear weapons illegal under international law. In a vote at the United Nations on Friday, 124 countries supported a resolution calling for greater adherence to this landmark disarmament treaty.

In a separate vote, 141 countries supported a resolution reiterating “deep concern about the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons” and stressing “that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons never be used again, under any circumstances”. The resolution also urged UN members “to exert all efforts to totally eliminate the threat of these weapons of mass destruction”. These votes in support of the TPNW took place as part of the General Assembly’s first committee session, where issues of disarmament and international security were on the table. 

In the committee many states voiced their support for the TPNW “grounded in the firm belief that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be a gross violation of the Charter of the United Nations, a crime against humanity, and a violation of international humanitarian law” which a statement by CARICOM echoed. Later on in the thematic debate, states such as Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, New Zealand, and others not only stated their support and belief in the TPNW, but spoke on clear compatibility of the treaty with other non-proliferation regimes such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and imminence of nuclear disarmament. 

States also cited the groundbreaking victim-assistance and environmental remediation clauses of the TPNW while recalling the comprehensive Vienna Plan of Action passed in June 2022 condemning any nuclear threats. States such as Viet Nam urged all states to sign on and ratify the TPNW as a matter of humanitarian urgency given the “catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons to human health, livelihood, and environment”.

But the nine nuclear-armed states – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan or North Korea – opposed these resolutions on the TPNW, and all except India voted against or abstained from voting on the resolution on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Many of their allies did the same based on their views that the use of nuclear weapons can be justified in some circumstances. One notable development was Australia’s shift in position, dropping its opposition to the TPNW by abstaining from voting on the resolution. Regrettably, however, Sweden and Finland opposed the TPNW resolution for the first time.  

“Like climate change and pandemic disease, the terrible risks posed by nuclear weapons constitute a global problem and require a global response,” said Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s executive director. “It is therefore in the interest of all states – and the responsibility of all states – to confront and condemn threats to use nuclear weapons and to take action to reinforce the norm against their use.”

Global support for the TPNW continues to grow, with nine more countries ratifying it so far this year and five signing it. Their actions bring the total number of states parties to 68 and signatories to 91. Over the past month, dozens of countries have voiced support for the TPNW in statements to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, including all Caribbean, African and Arab states.