The Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Wishful Thinking and Nuclear Deterrence Reality

Dr. Ardit Memeti
Assistant Professor – Kuwait International Law School – Doha – Kuwait


The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 6, 2017 for its efforts to achieve a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) adopted in July 2017 is the first clear and unequivocal attempt to prohibit nuclear weapons in international law. The TPNW aims to outlaw nuclear weapons in the same way international law has already outlawed other weapons of mass destruction, such as biological and chemical weapons. This landmark achievement in nuclear disarmament could have hardly come at a better time. The world is again faced with potential nuclear war with mounting tensions in the Korean Peninsula(and elsewhere) that may trigger the use of nuclear weapons and release their unmatched destructive potential. Nuclear disarmament in good faith has been a continuous legal obligation for nuclear states for decades. However, in the meantime, the number of nuclear states has increased and modernization programs have resulted in more destructive nuclear weapons.
This paper explores the recent developments in international law on nuclear disarmament by comparing the existing framework provided by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the emerging one in the TPNW. The adoption of the TPNW and its potential entry into force may represent an important avenue to achieve a nuclear free world. However, at the same time, it may diminish efforts to comply with the NPT and remain a wishful de lege ferenda without the participation of nuclear-armed states.
In terms of structure, introductory remarks are provided in section I; section II explores the main features of the NPT as the cornerstone of the existing legal framework; section III explores the emerging TPNW and its key features; section IV explores the relationship between the NPT and the TPNW through the dichotomy of wishful thinking and nuclear deterrence reality; and finally, section V provides concluding remarks.
Key terms:
nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, nuclear free world, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

Read Full PDF Text (English)