Fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia, 2020

Image: United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA).

On December 5, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 73/71 by means of which decided: «to convene the fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia as a one-day conference at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 24 April 2020».

The resolution welcomed the offer by Mongolia to act as coordinator of the fourth Conference and mentions that the objective of the Conference will be to consider ways and means to enhance consultations and cooperation among nuclear-weapon-free zones and Mongolia, the treaty agencies and interested States, with the purpose of promoting coordination and convergence in the implementation of the provisions of the treaties and in strengthening the regime of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Resolution 71/73 was co-sponsored in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly by Argentina, Brazil, Mongolia and Nicaragua. It was adopted in the plenary by 179 votes in favour, none against, and 5 abstentions and it mentions, inter alia:

  • Recognizes the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to ensure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.
  • Welcomes the important contribution of the treaties of Tlatelolco, Rarotonga, Bangkok and Pelindaba and the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia, Mongolia, as well as the Antarctic Treaty to the achievement of the objectives of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.
  • Urges the establishment of other nuclear-weapon-free zones, particularly in the Middle East.

The fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia is an opportunity to, inter alia, improve communication among States Party and Signatories to treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones and Mongolia. It can also help to affirm the legitimacy of treaties and decisions that establish nuclear-weapon-free zones as valuable instruments for the regime of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

To date, three Conferences of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia have been held. The first Conference was proposed by OPANAL and was held in Mexico, with the coordination of Mexico. The second and third Conferences, in 2010 and 2015, were held in New York one day before the NPT Review Conference and were respectively coordinated by Chile and Indonesia.

The proposal to create an International Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones is an  initiative of OPANAL, dating from the XVI Session of its General Conference (Lima, Peru, November 30, 1999) through Resolution CG/Res.388 «Strengthening of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL)», which decided:

1. To request that the Secretary General of the Agency, with the approval of the Council, prepare a proposal containing the specific objectives for holding an international conference of the parties
of the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZs); and establish contacts with the authorities of other NWFZs in order to express interest in holding said conference and ascertain their opinion […]

A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone is a delimited geographical space where, by means of a treaty or convention, its parties legally undertake themselves to prohibit nuclear weapons in all their aspects. Likewise, by adhering to the protocols to the treaties establishing the Zones, the nuclear-weapon States undertake not to deploy nuclear weapons in the areas of application of the Zones and also they legally commit not to use or threaten to use their nuclear weapons against the parties to the treaties.

There are five Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones currently in force. They comprise a total of 114 States Party and Signatories, all of them free of nuclear weapons: Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco, open for signature in 1967); South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga, 1985); Southeast Asia (Treaty of Bangkok, 1995); Africa (Treaty of Pelindaba, 1996); Central Asia (Treaty of Central Asia, 2006); and the territory of Mongolia, which in 2000 gained international recognition as a nuclear-weapon-free State through resolution 55/335 S of the United Nations General Assembly.

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