Switzerland

Nuclear-weapon-free state

Has not yet joined the TPNW

Status

Switzerland has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

 

National position

Switzerland has consistently abstained from voting on an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the TPNW and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

In a statement to the United Nations in October 2021, Switzerland said that it would participate in the first meeting of states parties to the TPNW in Vienna in 2022 as an observer. It added: “Irrespective of the still open question of Switzerland’s accession to the TPNW, we are ready to contribute to a constructive relationship between the [1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty] and the TPNW.”

 

Political developments

In 2018, the Swiss government published a report on the implications of becoming a state party to the TPNW, which concluded: “At this stage, the reasons against an accession of Switzerland outweigh the potential opportunities accompanying a signature and ratification of this treaty.”

Both houses of the Swiss parliament subsequently instructed the government to proceed with signature and ratification of the TPNW without delay. The government responded by announcing in 2019 that it would review its decision by the end of 2020. However, no such review has taken place.

Switzerland’s reluctance to date to join the TPNW has prompted some commentators to question whether the government has abandoned its “humanitarian tradition” and become too closely aligned with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a so-called “nuclear alliance”.

In a letter to ICAN in 2020, the then-president of the Swiss Confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga, said that the federal council took note of the position of the parliament and agreed to re-evaluate the Swiss position on the TPNW “earlier than originally planned”.

Responding to a question in parliament in 2021, the head of the foreign ministry, Ignazio Cassis, said that “there will be no problem in joining this treaty” if concerns expressed by some other states about the TPNW’s impact on the Non-Proliferation Treaty are “abandoned”.

Several Swiss cities, including Bern, Geneva, and Zurich, have appealed to the Swiss government to sign and ratify the TPNW.

 

TPNW negotiations

Switzerland participated in the negotiation of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and was among 122 states that voted in favour of its adoption “because we share the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons”.

“We see the pressing necessity to take steps in this direction, an imperative that has been reinforced by the process on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons that unfolded over the past few years,” it said. However, it also indicated that it was not fully supportive of the treaty text as adopted.

In its opening statement to the negotiating conference, Switzerland said that it “stands ready to actively participate in this endeavour, and help elaborate an instrument that brings us closer to the shared goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons”.

In 2016, Switzerland abstained from voting on the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

 

Before the negotiations

Prior to the adoption of the TPNW in 2017, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a comprehensive, globally applicable treaty prohibition. Switzerland supported calls in the UN General Assembly fill this “legal gap”.

A banner in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2013 declares that nuclear weapons will be the next category of weapons to be prohibited under international law. Photo: ICAN

Nuclear-weapon-free state

Has not yet joined the TPNW

[HIGHLIGHTS]

Status

Switzerland has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

 

National position

Switzerland has consistently abstained from voting on an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the TPNW and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”.

In a statement to the United Nations in October 2021, Switzerland said that it would participate in the first meeting of states parties to the TPNW in Vienna in 2022 as an observer. It added: “Irrespective of the still open question of Switzerland’s accession to the TPNW, we are ready to contribute to a constructive relationship between the [1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty] and the TPNW.”

 

Political developments

In 2018, the Swiss government published a report on the implications of becoming a state party to the TPNW, which concluded: “At this stage, the reasons against an accession of Switzerland outweigh the potential opportunities accompanying a signature and ratification of this treaty.”

Both houses of the Swiss parliament subsequently instructed the government to proceed with signature and ratification of the TPNW without delay. The government responded by announcing in 2019 that it would review its decision by the end of 2020. However, no such review has taken place.

Switzerland’s reluctance to date to join the TPNW has prompted some commentators to question whether the government has abandoned its “humanitarian tradition” and become too closely aligned with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a so-called “nuclear alliance”.

In a letter to ICAN in 2020, the then-president of the Swiss Confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga, said that the federal council took note of the position of the parliament and agreed to re-evaluate the Swiss position on the TPNW “earlier than originally planned”.

Responding to a question in parliament in 2021, the head of the foreign ministry, Ignazio Cassis, said that “there will be no problem in joining this treaty” if concerns expressed by some other states about the TPNW’s impact on the Non-Proliferation Treaty are “abandoned”.

Several Swiss cities, including Bern, Geneva, and Zurich, have appealed to the Swiss government to sign and ratify the TPNW.

 

TPNW negotiations

Switzerland participated in the negotiation of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and was among 122 states that voted in favour of its adoption “because we share the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons”.

“We see the pressing necessity to take steps in this direction, an imperative that has been reinforced by the process on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons that unfolded over the past few years,” it said. However, it also indicated that it was not fully supportive of the treaty text as adopted.

In its opening statement to the negotiating conference, Switzerland said that it “stands ready to actively participate in this endeavour, and help elaborate an instrument that brings us closer to the shared goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons”.

In 2016, Switzerland abstained from voting on the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

 

Before the negotiations

Prior to the adoption of the TPNW in 2017, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to a comprehensive, globally applicable treaty prohibition. Switzerland supported calls in the UN General Assembly fill this “legal gap”.

A banner in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2013 declares that nuclear weapons will be the next category of weapons to be prohibited under international law. Photo: ICAN

[PARTNERS]

Business and Rights Conform (BHCR)

ICAN Switzerland

website


KLAR! Schweiz 

website


Physicians for Social Responsibility (Switzerland)

website


Ärztinnen und Ärzte für Umweltschutz (AefU) 

website


Sortir du nucléaire Suisse Romande

website


World Federation of Public Health Associations

website


Friedenskraft.ch 

website

[LOCALSUPPORT]

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  • Business and Rights Conform (BHCR)
  • ICAN Switzerland

    website

  • KLAR! Schweiz 

    website

  • Physicians for Social Responsibility (Switzerland)

    website

  • Ärztinnen und Ärzte für Umweltschutz (AefU) 

    website

  • Sortir du nucléaire Suisse Romande

    website

  • World Federation of Public Health Associations

    website

  • Friedenskraft.ch 

    website