A nuclear weapon, which is also known as an atom bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, is an explosive device that can devastate an entire city by blast, fire, and radiation. They are weapons of mass destruction, and they have been deployed twice in a war.
In 1945 during World War II, the United States had dropped them on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing an estimated 90,000 to 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 people in Nagasaki. However, the number of lives that were immediately lost due to exposure to the blast, heat or due to radiation, is unknown.
With so much destruction, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) came up with the first resolution in 1946, which was a mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. Ever since, the United Nations has been at the forefront of many major diplomatic efforts to advance nuclear disarmament, and achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of its oldest goals.
But despite its efforts, there are around 12,705 nuclear weapons in the world today, and countries that possess such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernise their nuclear arsenals. The number of nuclear weapons deployed has declined since the Cold War, but no nuclear weapon has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty.
There has been a growing frustration amongst Member States regarding the slow pace of nuclear disarmament. The frustration has gained sharper focus as concerns grow about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences should even a single nuclear weapon be used.
International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
To highlight the importance of eliminating nuclear weapons, the UNGA decided to mark September 26 as International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The announcement was made in December 2013 and it has been observed annually since 2014.
The idea behind the Day is to provide an occasion for the world to reaffirm its commitment to global nuclear disarmament, and to educate the public and their leaders about the benefits of eliminating such weapons. It also seeks to enhance public awareness about the threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity and why they need to be totally eliminated.
“Eliminating nuclear weapons would be the greatest gift we could bestow on future generations. On this important day, let us commit to forging a new consensus around defusing the nuclear threat for good and achieving our shared goal of peace,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.
Some Notable Events:
1945 – Two atomic bombs destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and are estimated to have killed a total of 213,000 people immediately.
1963 – The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty, was opened for signature. Years-long discussions between the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States had been given a renewed sense of urgency by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
1967 – The nuclear arms race and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis prompted Latin American Governments to negotiate the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), which established the first nuclear weapons-free zone in a highly populated area.
1985 – The South Pacific became the second nuclear-weapon-free zone (Treaty of Rarotonga).
1991 – South Africa voluntarily renounced its nuclear weapons programme.
1992 – By the Lisbon Protocol to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine voluntarily renounced nuclear weapons in their possession following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
1995 – Southeast Asia became the third nuclear-weapon-free zone (Bangkok Treaty).
1996 – Africa became the fourth nuclear-weapon-free zone (Pelindaba Treaty).
2006 – Central Asia became the fifth nuclear-weapon-free zone (Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia).
2013 – The General Assembly held its first-ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament. The General Assembly, through its resolution 68/32, declared that September 26 will be the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
2017 – On July 7, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is adopted. It is the first multilateral legally binding instrument for nuclear disarmament to have been negotiated in 20 years.
2021 – Entry-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on January 22. On February 3, the Parties agreed to extend the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (“new START”) until February 2026.
2022 – At the First Meeting of the States parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), States parties adopted the “Vienna Declaration” reaffirming their determination to realise the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
In addition, the “Vienna Action Plan” was adopted to facilitate effective and timely implementation of the Treaty and its objectives and goals.