Latin American and Caribbean states intensify efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons


“If large geographic regions like Latin America and the Caribbean can be kept free of nuclear weapons, why not, one day, the entire world?” This was a question posed by ICAN campaigner Cristian Wittmann on 17 November at a conference of states parties to the Treaty of Tlatelolco held in Mexico City. Signed in 1967, the landmark regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaty for Latin America and the Caribbean was the first of its kind in a populated area.

“In these times of heightened global tensions, with the spectre of nuclear war looming large once again, the example set by the Treaty of Tlatelolco is more important than ever,” Mr Wittmann said on behalf of ICAN, which was invited to observe the conference. “We may not agree on all issues at all times. But the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean do not exchange nuclear threats. We do not deploy nuclear bombs on warplanes or at sea to deter our adversaries. We do not squander our peoples’ wealth on instruments of terror and mass destruction.”

The Treaty of Tlatelolco and its sibling treaties covering other parts of the world – the South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia – continue to make a vital contribution to the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. They provided a legal basis and inspiration for the successful negotiation in 2017 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). “Through the TPNW, we are transforming, with each new ratification, our robust regional norms into global norms,” Mr Wittmann said.

ICAN applauded the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean for their leadership role in bringing the TPNW into being and their ongoing efforts to universalise it. To date, 26 of the states of this region have ratified the TPNW, including earlier this year Guatemala, Grenada, and the Dominican Republic. In June, Central America became the first entire sub-region to ratify the treaty.

ICAN also welcomed the signatures this September by Barbados and Haiti, and encouraged those states, as well as signatories Brazil and Colombia, to ratify the treaty as soon as possible. Furthermore, ICAN called on Argentina, the Bahamas, and Suriname – the only non-signatories in the region – to become states parties swiftly.

In November 2023, Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente of Mexico will preside over the second meeting of states parties to the TPNW at the United Nations headquarters in New York – an opportunity to make further progress in implementing the treaty and solidifying its norms. ICAN has proposed that November 2023 be set “as a deadline for securing the seven outstanding ratifications in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

Seth Shelden, ICAN’s UN Liaison, who participated in the Mexico City conference, stated: “For those who envision a world free of nuclear weapons, the Treaty of Tlatelolco continues to provide inspiration. Today we understand, more than ever, that no region, even one far removed from the conflict, would escape the devastating effect of a nuclear war anywhere, in light of effects on climate chaos, food shortages, economic catastrophe, and refugee crises. It is therefore increasingly urgent to expand regional norms against nuclear weapons into global norms. ICAN was grateful to participate in the Tlatelolco conference as an observer and to help further its ultimate objective for a nuclear-weapons-free world.”

Through its partner organisations in the region, in particular members of SEHLAC (Seguridad Humana en América Latina y el Caribe), ICAN is actively promoting adherence to the TPNW in the region and raising public awareness about the importance of the treaty for international peace and human security.