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THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE NUCLEAR
NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY (NPT)

WRITTEN BY
OKAFOR MICHAEL UGOCHUKWU

TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. BACKGROUND
2. INTRODUCTION
3. CONTRIBUTIONS OF UN TO THE NPT
3.a THE ROLES OF UN IN THE NPT
3.b THE IAEA AND THE NPT
3.c. THE POST COLD WAR PERIOD
3.c.i THE AGREED FRAMEWORK
3.c.ii THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE ZONES
4. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE NPT
4.a THE THREE REASONS
4.b. OTHER KEY OBJECTIVES
5. NPT SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES
5.a SUCCESSES
5.b CHALLENGES
6. CONCLUSION
6.b CONTRIBUTIONS

1. BACKGROUND
The United States nuclear attack on the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, which consequently ended the second world war (1939-1945) revealed the
potentials of nuclear weapons and the need for its possession and control. This was brought
to light in the rivalry between US and USSR during the cold war (1947-1991). But it was not
just these states that desired nuclear weapon proliferation, as the Soviet Union in 1949, the
United Kingdom in 1952, France in 1960, and the Peoples Republic of China in 1964, became
nuclear-weapon states and increasingly it was becoming apparent that earlier assumptions
about the scarcity of nuclear materials and the difficulty of mastering nuclear technology
were inaccurate(1). Other developments and prospects further underscored the threat of
nuclear proliferation.
Hence considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear
war and the believe that the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the
danger of nuclear war, the United nations in accordance with its charter of desiring to further
the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between states, facilitated
and provided a forum for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT)(2).
The United nations is in the best position to forge the remaining work towards world
weapons control and the only organisation available to deal with these issues and capable of
serving the needs and interest of a bread range of countries each having multifaceted
disarmament goals(3).

1. INTRODUCTION
The treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, commonly known as the nonproliferation treaty (NPT), is an international treaty signed on July 1 st 1968 and entered into
force in march 5th 1970, seeks to inhibit the spread of nuclear weapons (4). It’s 190 statesparties, with the exemption of Israel, Pakistan, South Sudan and India, are classified in two
categories; nuclear weapon states (NWS) consisting of the United States, Russia, China,
France and the United Kingdom and the non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS)(5). Under the
treaty, the five NWS commits to pursue general and complete disarmament while the NNWS
agree to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons, which are the first two “pillars” of
the treaty(6).
The third pillar ensures that non-nuclear weapons states can access and develop
nuclear technology for peaceful application. With its near-universal membership, the NPT has
the widest adherence of any arms control agreement, with only the aforementioned states
remaining outside the treaty and calls for a review conference every five years to assess
progress on achieving the treaties key objective(7).
Thus the present essay is an attempt to examine briefly, the united nations
contributions to the NPT, the objectives of the NPT, it’s successes and it’s challenges.

3. CONTRIBUTIONS OF UN TO THE NPT
3.a THE ROLES OF UN IN THE NPT
The elimination of nuclear weapons has been at the forefront of the United nations
agenda since its inception. Despite the fact that nuclear weapons have only ever been used
twice in warfare history (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) there are around 22,000 nuclear weapons
that remain globally and it would take only one of these to cause irreversible and catastrophic
damage, potentially leading to existential risk(8).
The organisation began immediately to address the nuclear problem through
multilateral and bilateral treaties to prevent nuclear proliferation and testing including the
NPT, Partial Test Ban Treaty, Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control
Program as well as creating a commission to deal with the problems relating to atomic energy
known as International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA was established in 1957 as an autonomous international organisation within
the United nations system which serves as the world foremost intergovernmental forum for
scientific and technical cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy(9).

3.b THE IAEA AND THE NPT
The IAEA is not a party to the NPT but is entrusted with a key verification under it and
reports to the UN general assembly, security council and the office for disarmament affairs.
With its 168 member states, the IAEA has a specific role as the international safeguard
inspectorate and also serves as a multilateral channel for transferring peaceful application of
Nuclear technology which is stated in NPT Articles III and IV respectively(10).

With the withdrawal of North Korea (1974-1994), the IAEA has been heavily criticised
after the nuclear reactor explosion near Chernobyl, Ukraine and in Fukushima, Japan. But
since the 2010 review conference, the IAEA has continued it’s effort to resolve outstanding
safeguards implementation issues in the states-Finland, Australia and Japan(11).

3.c THE POST COLD WAR PERIOD
3.c.i THE AGREED FRAMEWORK
On the 4th November 1994, the United nations security council formally endorsed the
“Agreed Framework”, a nuclear accord discussed for years and was negotiated between the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) and the United States of America.
This encouraged the latter to replace the formal’s graphite-moderated reactors and related
facilities with light-water reactors (LWR) power plant and also to seek full normalization of
political and economic relations between the two states, security on a nuclear free Korean
peninsula and to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Despite the success of the Agreed framework in nearly one decade, North Korea’s
failure to come into full compliance with its IAEA safeguard obligations and the United
States failure to help in building of LWR and moving to normalize relations (the two crucial
precept of the agreement) lead to the collapse of the agreement in 2006(12).

3.c.ii THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE ZONES
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ) are distinct areas or zones around the world
which have been agreed upon under a treaty or convention by states themselves to be in
“total absence of nuclear weapons” as defined by the UN General Assembly. These zones are
an important part of nuclear non-proliferation and the wider aim at complete disarmament
as they act as a regional effort to solidify these norms (13).
The UN Disarmament Commission has outlined a set of recommended principles and
guidelines for states to follow in the establishment of NWFZ in accordance with the safeguard

agreement of IAEA and the requirements of NPT which are as follows: emphasising the need
for states to arrive at these arrangements themselves; nuclear-weapon states should be
consulted on agreements in order to facilitate their signature and ratification as not to
threaten or use nuclear weapons against nations that are party to the Treaty and finally NWFZ
should not prevent the use of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes(14).
There are five Treaties on regional NWFZ but for the sake of this paper, attention shall
be focused on post cold war NWFZ Treaties which are as follows.


Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok,1995)



African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba, 1996)



Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia (Treaty of Semipalatinsk,
2006)(15).

4. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE NPT
The NPT consists of a complex sets of obligations each of which is represented in its
objectives, which centres on the Desire to further the easing of international tension and the
strengthening of trust between States in order to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture
of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from
national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery pursuant to a Treaty on
general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control(16).
Hence, it is on this note that the NPT rested it’s three grand pillars; non-proliferation,
the peaceful use of nuclear energy and disarmament, which shall be discussed in details as
well as the summary of NPT Article.

4.a THE THREE PILLARS
Non-proliferation: Under Article I of the NPT, nuclear- weapon states pledge not to
transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to any recipient or in any way
assist, encourage or induce any non-nuclear-weapon state in the manufacture or acquisition

of a nuclear weapon. Under Article II of the NPT, non-nuclear-weapon states pledge not to
acquire or exercise control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and not
to seek or receive assistance in the manufacture of such devices. Under Article III of the
Treaty, non-nuclear-weapon states pledge to accept IAEA safeguards to verify that their
nuclear activities serve only peaceful purposes(17).
Peaceful Uses: NPT Article IV acknowledges the right of all Parties to develop nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes and to benefit from international cooperation in this area, in
conformity with their non-proliferation obligations. Article IV also encourages such
cooperation(18).
Disarmament: Under Article VI of the NPT, all Parties undertake to pursue good-faith
negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear
disarmament, and to general and complete disarmament(19).
These pillars are interrelated and mutually reinforcing but they are not the only
obligations that provides an essential foundation for progress on disarmament, as their are
other objectives which makes possible greater cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear
energy.

4.b OTHER KEY OBJECTIVES
Article v emphasized on peaceful nuclear explosions which is interpreted in light of
the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) while Article VII enshrines the right of any group
of states to conclude regional treaties to assure the absence of nuclear weapons in their
respective territories (nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties)(20).
The remaining articles are procedural. In accordance with Article VIII, States parties convene
every five years to review the implementation of the Treaty and, since 1995, to set a forward-looking
agenda. At the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, States parties decided to "strengthen" the
review process and to convene 10-day Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings in each of the
three years preceding a Review Conference (RevCon). If necessary, a fourth PrepCom may convene in
the year of the Conference(21).

5. THE NPT SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES
5.a SUCCESSES
The NPT is the bedrock of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime which
includes the framework of legal restrictions, safeguards, export controls, international
cooperation, and other mechanisms that help to prevent proliferation. The success of the
NPT shall be categorized into; security, non-proliferation regime, peaceful uses

and

disarmament.
Security: The NPT is the only internationally-binding agreement that provides a global
barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons. The Treaty, the norm of non-proliferation which it
embodies, and the elements of the wider non-proliferation regime that the NPT underpins
have helped prove wrong the mid-20th century predictions that 20 to 30 states would acquire
nuclear weapons(22). The bulwark against proliferation that they provide enhances the
individual security of every state, as well as global and regional security. The Treaty lessens
the incentives for states without nuclear weapons to acquire them and contributes to the
peaceful settlement of disputes between states. Once opened for signature, the Treaty
helped crystallize decisions by countries to cease serious consideration of nuclear weapons
programs. Later, it provided a valuable framework to support countries’ decisions to
renounce nuclear weapons(23). Thus, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina gave up its nuclear
weapons program and adhered to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state(24). The NPT also
encourages groups of states to conclude treaties to assure the total absence of nuclear
weapons in their respective territories. Five nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties have been
concluded(25).
The Non-proliferation Regime: The NPT is the cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime. The regime also includes the International Atomic Energy Agency’s


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