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United Nations Conference on Legally Binding Instrument Leading towards Total Elimination of Nuclear

Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 71/258, the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, will convene its first substantive session from 27 to 31 March at United Nations Headquarters.

Elayne Whyte Gómez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office in Geneva, will preside over the conference. It will be taking place in the context of an absence of concrete outcomes from two decades of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations within the framework of the United Nations. In that regard, the conference represents the first multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations in more than 20 years.

The impetus for the negotiations has also been driven in recent years by growing awareness of and concern over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. Three international conferences on the humanitarian impact, convened in 2013 and 2014, played an important part in making the case for urgent action. Those meetings, held respectively in Norway, Mexico and Austria, sought to facilitate a facts-based discussion of the effects of any detonation of a nuclear weapon.

As of 2016, it is estimated that more than 15,000 nuclear warheads remain in global stockpiles. While that represents a considerable reduction from the inventories maintained during the cold war, there has been growing frustration in recent years over the declining pace of reductions, continued reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines and continuing programmes to modernize and improve nuclear weapons.

Supporters of a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons consider that it would be an interim or partial step towards nuclear disarmament because it would not include measures for elimination — matters that would be left for future negotiations. Rather, it would be aimed at contributing to the progressive stigmatization of nuclear weapons. States supporting such an instrument considered it to be the most viable option for immediate action.

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