A signing session at the United Nations inched the world closer to a first-of-its-kind nuclear weapons ban. Besieging the effort, however, is the nuclear-armed world.
As General Assembly proceedings continued in New York on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened more than fifty nations to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Absent from the ceremony were nations already in possession of nukes: the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea. Nuclear-armed countries also declined to participate in the entire treaty process, from its negotiations to its adopting vote.
Despite their opposition, the pact has the support of enough nations to go into effect–though it will be toothless since its reach won’t extend to parts of the world where the stockpiles actually exist. Nuclear powers are also the only UN members with permanent Security Council veto power.
“The Treaty is an important step towards the universally-held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. It is my hope that it will reinvigorate global efforts to achieve it,” Secretary General Guterres said on Thursday.
“We cannot allow these doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children’s future,” he added.
The treaty will take effect 90 days after at least fifty nations have signed on to it. It received the support of 122 nations when it was adopted by vote in July. Every nation in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean favored the ban, along with several Southeast Asian and Pacific countries.
The few countries supportive of the treaty in Europe include Ireland and Austria.
Back in July, the US, France, and the UK laid out their objections to the treaty in a statement.
“This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment,” it read.
“Accession to the ban treaty is incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years,” the statement went on.
The US and other nuclear armed nations, instead, support the far weaker Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was ratified in 1970.
During Thursday’s ceremony, new signatories of the treaty urged the nuclear armed contingent to reconsider their position.
“We call upon them to join this date with history,” said Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis–the leader of a country without a standing army.
The United States is the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons against another country, dropping two bombs on Japan in 1945. Following the Soviet Union’s acquisition of the bomb, a policy of deterrence has held in place to prevent future use of the weapon—though it has often been tested.