Supporters describe the treaty as a historic achievement but the nuclear-armed states have dismissed the ban as unrealistic, arguing it will have no impact on reducing the global stockpile of 15,000 nuclear weapons. Led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, 141 countries have taken part in three weeks of negotiations on the treaty that provides for a total ban on developing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.
Advocates hope it will increase pressure on nuclear states to take disarmament more seriously. “This will be a historic moment,” Costa Rica’s ambassador, Elayne Whyte Gomez, the president of the UN conference on the treaty. The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – took part in the negotiations. Australia was also not present at the talks.
Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decades-old NPT seeks to prevent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles.
Disarmament campaigners say the treaty will go a long way in increasing the stigma associated with nuclear weapons and will have an impact on public opinion. It stops states with nuclear weapons from being able to hide behind the idea that they are not illegal This is really about removing the prestige from nuclear weapons.