By Shizuka Kuramitsu
States-parties to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will hold their second meeting in New York on Nov. 27-Dec. 1. Amid the crisis facing the international arms control and disarmament regime, they are expected to review and continue implementing their plans for a total ban on nuclear weapons.
The TPNW, which entered into force on Jan. 22, 2021, bans states-parties from involvement in any nuclear weapons activities, including the use, threat of use, production, development, possession, and stationing of these weapons. Spearheaded by non-nuclear-armed states and civil society groups, the treaty originated from their frustration over the long stalemate among nuclear-weapon states to engage in serious nuclear disarmament as called for by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
At their first meeting, in June 2022, TPNW states-parties produced two documents aiming to advance the treaty, a 50-point action plan and a political statement. (See ACT, July/August 2022.)
They established three informal working groups to make progress during the intercessional period on important topics such as nuclear disarmament verification, victim assistance, environmental remediation, and universalization of the treaty. In addition, the action plan agreed to create a scientific advisory group, to implement gender provisions in the treaty, and to promote TPNW complementarity with existing treaties.
For the November meeting, each working group is preparing reports on their respective intersessional activities. The meeting is expected to issue a final document, according to the provisional agenda and government officials.
The “expectation of all the parties is to continue implementing the plans [and] having a meeting that reviews what was agreed in 2022 and its implementation,” María Antonieta Jaquez, coordinator for disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control for the Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretariat, told Arms Control Today.
She suggested that the states-parties would continue following the 50-point action plan from 2022 because it “cannot be reinvented or rewritten every year.”
One key focus is universalization of the treaty. “The treaty has to continue growing,” Jaquez said. She emphasized that the participation of all TPNW states-parties, as well as states that remain outside the treaty, should be “all welcomed” and “it is important that we have as many stakeholders [join the treaty] as possible.”
Meanwhile, deepening geopolitical divides continue casting shadows over the nonproliferation and disarmament regimes. After the first TPNW meeting concluded, two NPT-related meetings failed to achieve a consensus and concluded with no substantive final documents (See ACT, September 2023.)
A contentious issue likely to be raised in November is how TPNW states-parties interpret the treaty provisions. In April 2023, Russia conducted a test launch of a missile that can carry nuclear warheads from a test site in Kazakhstan, an active TPNW member state. Although the treaty bans assistance with nuclear weapons development, it leaves the definition of “assistance” open to interpretation. Since the last meeting of states-parties, seven more states have signed the treaty, bringing the total number to 93 states, and four more states have ratified it, bringing the total to 69.
Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez, Mexico’s ambassador to the United Nations, will serve as president of the second meeting of TPNW states-parties.