Toward the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

SIPRI 2012: See the following chapters: Latest figures on World nuclear forces and Nuclear arms and non-proliferation.

Despite the end of the Cold War, our planet still bristles with approximately 23,000 nuclear warheads. After President Obama vowed convincingly in April 2009 to pursue “the security of a world without nuclear weapons,” a path toward such a world is opening and momentum is building. Under President Obama’s leadership, the UN Security Council passed unanimously a resolution calling for a nuclear-weapon-free world, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2010 reaffirmed that goal. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the vast majority of states and people on Earth are demanding liberation from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Unfortunately, powerful forces still resist this liberation. This resistance was most obvious at the NPT Review Conference when the nuclear-weapon states forcefully struck down every effort by non-nuclear-weapon states to launch negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention. The nuclear-weapon states have been legally obligated for forty years to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenals, and yet they continue to refuse even to begin those negotiations. This refusal to submit to international law and the will of the overwhelming majority is no longer acceptable. The majority must find nonviolent, courteous but persuasive ways of applying social, economic and political pressure on the recalcitrant minority.


Nuclear Free Zones


Nuclear-free zones are created through formal promises that countries within a defined area will never manufacture, test, acquire, or possess nuclear weapons. These treaties thus reduce the threat of nuclear war and ameliorate international tensions. Declaring a zone nuclear-free does not necessarily make it so, but the spread of such zones reinforces the framework for preventing nuclear proliferation. Thus, they are an effective means of moving the world toward nuclear abolition. The two zones in preparation now are Northeast Asia, which includes Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and the Middle East, including Israel.


Nuclear Weapon Free Status of Mongolia

Treaty on Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia

African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty

Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone

South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty

Antarctic Treaty

Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapon in Latin America and the Caribbean

Nations that have conducted nuclear tests


Arousing the International Public


The abolition of nuclear weapons will not happen without global public demand. International public opinion must be aroused to turn national policies toward disarmament. Individuals, groups, corporations, cities and nations must be committed to peace and determined to build a society free from nuclear weapons. People around the world must strengthen their solidarity and work together. The efficacy of such cooperation was amply demonstrated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in promoting the World Court Project and in establishing the International Treaty Banning Anti-personnel Landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Only the collective power of an inspired populace can move countries around the world and the United Nations to create a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons.


The 4th Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons


The 4th Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was held from February 6 to 8, 2010 in Nagasaki to help cities, citizens and NGOs work together for the abolition of nuclear weapons. A total of 3,833 people attended workshops, plenary sessions and other events during the assembly. The Nagasaki Appeal adopted by the assembly called on world leaders to take specific actions towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. Specifically, it called for early commencement of negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention and the creation of a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.

The Organizing Committee of the Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons sent a delegation to the NPT Review Conference in New York in May 2010. The delegation presented the Nagasaki Appeal to the conference as the voice of Nagasaki.


World Court Project


The World Court Project was a campaign to “obtain an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons under international law.” This movement began with a few people in New Zealand who, obtaining support from three international NGOs, officially launched the “World Court Project” in May 1992. Their clear and concrete goal was to obtain from the International Court of Justice a declaration that nuclear weapons are illegal under international law. Because of this successful movement, the ICJ did deliberate the legality of the use of nuclear weapons, and on July 8, 1996, handed down its advisory opinion that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law.” It found unanimously that: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”


Treaties Banning Anti-personnel Landmines and Cluster Munitions


The campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines is a worldwide movement started by NGOs in the US and Germany. It grew and eventually led to an international conference in Ottawa, Canada in 1996 on the total prohibition of anti-personnel landmines. The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty) opened for signatures of national representatives at the Signing Conference in Ottawa in December 1997; it entered into force in March 1999. (To date, some major possessors and exporters like the US, China and Russia are still not signatories to this treaty.) A group of international NGOs and other organizations met in Oslo, Norway in February 2007 to discuss how to effectively address the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions. They adopted the Oslo Conference Declaration which initiated the Oslo Process with the goal of concluding by 2008 a legally binding international instrument to prohibit cluster munitions. One hundred and eleven states met in Dublin, Ireland in May 2008 and adopted unanimously the Convention on Cluster Munitions (the US, China, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan and others refused to participate in this event). The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) attended this meeting as an observer. Among the participants was the Cluster Munitions Coalition, the NGO that initiated the campaign for this Convention. Anti-personal mines and cluster munitions are inhumane weapons that bring death and injury to innocent noncombatants. Nuclear weapons are worse. The time has come to outlaw nuclear weapons with a Nuclear Weapons Convention.


Mayors for Peace


On June 24, 1982, at the 2nd Special Session on Disarmament held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki announced a Program to Promote the Solidarity of Cities toward the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. In 1991, Mayors for Peace became an NGO with Special Consultative Status under the UN Economic and Social Council. In 2003, Mayors for Peace launched the 2020 Vision Campaign. The graph below tracks the increase in Mayors for Peace member cities.

2020 Vision Campaign

In response to the current nuclear weapons crisis, Mayors for Peace launched an Emergency Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons in November 2003. Because the goal of this campaign is to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2020, it quickly became known as the 2020 Vision Campaign. The rapid growth of Mayors for Peace since 2003 reflects the tremendous global response to this campaign.

To learn more and explore how you can get involved, please visit


Current Initiatives


1) Cities Are Not Targets (CANT) Petition Drive

One of the main activities of the 2020 Vision Campaign is the Cities Are Not Targets (CANT) Petition Drive*. This petition asks the nuclear-weapon states to: 1) assure citizens that their cities are not targeted by nuclear weapons and 2) immediately begin substantive negotiations toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. We began this CANT petition drive in 2007. Thanks to active campaigning by thousands of supporters, as of July 1, 2011, we had gathered more than 1.11 million signatures. In May 2010, we submitted 1.02 CANT signatures to the President of the NPT Review Conference. Since March 2011, those petition forms have been on display at UN Headquarters in NY. The CANT Petition we are currently promoting calls specifically for the prompt commencement of negotiations toward a nuclear weapons convention. The vast majority of nations, NGOs, and citizens agree that such a convention is the appropriate next step toward nuclear weapons abolition. The Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference mentioned this nuclear weapons convention, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called clearly for a convention or similar framework agreement. Mayors for Peace is pressing for this convention to be signed by 2015 and for all nuclear weapons to be eliminated by 2020. Working closely with other civil society institutions, we are calling on the government of Japan, the only A-bombed nation, to work with other nation states, for the prompt commencement of negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention. * “Cities” here refers not to a municipal entity of a certain size but to any area that is home to children and non-combatants.


2) Negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention

The NPT Review Conference of May 2010 breathed new life into an endangered treaty. It reaffirmed the global consensus that the goal is a nuclear-weapon-free world, but it failed to take the next step. The next step is to commence negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention. Mayors for Peace is now working with like-minded cities, NGOs, and national governments to press in every way possible for an early start to these negotiations. This campaign takes different names and forms in different regions, countries and locales. Please find out what the campaign is doing in your area, or contact us if you need guidance.

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