27th July 2020
This material can be used for all educational purposes. It is especially relevant to Geography (place-specific knowledge), Government and Politics (internationalism), and Citizenship (global issues).
Explore the map and scroll down to learn more about the countries that have ratified to the ‘nuclear ban’ treaty.
Nuclear disarmament around the world
The campaign for nuclear disarmament is not just an organisation, but a global movement with campaigners found across the world working towards a nuclear-free world. Those campaigners and activists made a huge advance in 2017 when The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It is the first legally binding agreement banning nuclear weapons, and will enter into force once 50 countries have ratified it.
Previous treaties, such as the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), have helped to limit the number of states with nuclear weapons. No treaty, however, has resulted in disarmament. The TPNW is designed to go further than previous treaties, nations which are party to the treaty cannot develop, test, produce, stockpile, station, transfer, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. In short, they cannot have anything to do with them. For nuclear armed states, joining the treaty means they must work to get rid of their nuclear weapons for good, and in a certain amount of time.
The treaty will only come into force once it has been ratified by 50 states, which is different to simply signing the treaty. Ratification usually requires a senior government official or head of state approving the treaty and making sure it does not contradict any existing laws that country has. So far, the treaty has 81 signatories and 41 state parties, a country becomes a ‘state party’ to a treaty once it has ratified to that particular treaty. Below, you can find out some information on each of the 40 countries which have ratified the TPNW.
treaty – a legal agreement made between multiple states, or countries
United Nations (UN) – An organisation which aims to maintain, peace, security and friendly relations between all nations
ratify – making something official
disarmament – getting rid of weapons, in this case nuclear weapons
party – to be involved with something
stockpile – a built-up supply of something, such as nuclear weapons
signatory – someone who has signed an agreement
State parties to the TPNW
Antigua and Barbuda is an island state in the West Indies made up of two separate islands, Antigua and Barbuda which are 39 miles apart and found between the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Antigua and Barbuda participated in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and ratified it in September 2018.
Austria is a landlocked country in central Europe. Austria was one of the main drivers behind the treaty and since the end of the Cold War it has been heavily involved in peace and disarmament through its promotion and signing of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Ottawa Treaty) in 1997 and the Convention on Cluster Munitions signed in Oslo in 2008.
Belize is a Caribbean country located in Central America, it was colonised by the British Empire and still has Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. Due to its position between North and South America, Belize has a uniquely diverse eco-system with a wide variety of land based and marine species found in the country.
Bolivia is a land-locked country in the Western part of South America. In recent years Bolivia has taken a number of steps to promote nuclear disarmament through endorsing the ‘humanitarian pledge’ in 2015 to cooperate ‘in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons’, this helped to build momentum for the negotiations which led to the signing of the TPNW.
Botswana is a land-locked African country in the southern part of the continent. It became the most recent state to ratify the TPNW on 15 July 2020, an important day that marked 75 years since the ‘Trinity test’, which was the first atomic bomb test explosion. It is Africa’s oldest democracy, running democratic elections since 1988 and is also one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.
The Cook Islands are a collection of 15 islands in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. The islands govern themselves but are in association with New Zealand who have typically made decisions on foreign affairs on their behalf. However, more recently the Cook Islands have an increasingly independent foreign policy and the ratification of the TPNW was completed by the ministry of foreign affairs of the Cook Islands. Cook islanders often take a strongly anti-nuclear stance as many of them can remember seeing nuclear tests happening from their homes. The Cook Islands are a signatory to the Rarotonga treaty which established the South Pacific as a nuclear free zone.
Cota Rica is a country in the heart of Central America. The country has a long history of pacifism, having abolished its army in 1948 and dedicating that money to health care and education. As a result, Costa Rica often ranks favourably on the Human Development Index (HDI) which ranks countries based on life expectancy, education and income per head.
Cuba is a country made up of the island of Cuba and Isla de la Juventud in the Caribbean. Cuba’s anti-nuclear stance is partly owed to its involvement in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis where a full-scale nuclear war nearly broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union. In response to an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government by the United States, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Soviet Union, with the permission of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, placed nuclear missile launch facilities on the island of Cuba, 140km from Florida. The US blocked the delivery of the missiles to the island resulting in a confrontation which put both states, and the world, at risk of nuclear war. This was resolved after then leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Kruschev, sent a message to then US President John F Kennedy offering to remove the missiles if the US promised not to overthrow the Cuban government and to remove its missiles from Turkey. Had it been rejected, a US invasion of Cuba, followed by a nuclear retaliation from the Soviet Union would have been likely.
Dominica is an island in the Caribbean. It is unique for being a relatively ‘young’ island, in geological terms, and one which is still being shaped by geo-thermal activity. It is home to the world’s second largest hot spring known as the ‘boiling lake’ filled with bubbling grey-blue water and covered by a thick cloud of vapour.
Ecuador is a South American country in the North-Western part of the continent. Ecuador was the first state in the world to have established the promotion of the concept of universal citizenship in its constitution, aiming to promote the universal recognition and protection of the human rights of migrants.
El Salvador is a country in Central America, it is also the smallest and most densely populated country in the region. 7 million people live in the country, which is just over 21,000 sq km, making it a similar size to Wales. El Salvador is also known as the Land of Volcanoes as it suffers from frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.
Fiji is an island country in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean made up of around 330 islands. Fiji’s ratification of the TPNW in July 2020 came after over half a century of anti-nuclear activism. Anti-Nuclear activists in Fiji have been resisting what Father Walter Lini, later Vanuatu’s first prime minister, described as ‘nuclearism’ (a combination of ‘nuclear’ and ‘colonialism’), whereby the United States, France and Britain carried out permanently damaging nuclear weapons testing on the Pacific island territories until as recently at 1996.
The Gambia is a country in West Africa and is the smallest country on the African content. The Gambia was the first African country to ratify the TPNW and its army, the Gambia Armed Forces have been active in UN and African Union peacekeeping missions since the 1980s.
Guyana is a country in the Northern part of South America often considered as part of the Caribbean community, owing to its cultural and political closeness to other Caribbean nations. Guyana hosts the headquarters of CARICOM, a regional organisation for Caribbean states aiming to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members.
The Holy See is the term for the Bishop of Rome’s central offices that serve the Roman Catholic church. The Holy See isn’t technically a country but is located in the Vatican City – both of which are led by Pope Frances. The Pope made a historic visit to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which had nuclear weapons dropped on them by the United States at the end of the Second World War. On the visit in 2019, the Pope condemned the use and possession of nuclear weapons as ‘immoral’ and urged support for ‘the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’.
The Republic of Ireland covers 80% of the island of Ireland and shares a border with the United Kingdom, which has 200 nuclear weapons. Ireland is also known as the Emerald Isle because of its famously lush, green countryside. Internationally, Ireland has been an important state for disarmament. The ‘Irish resolutions’, put forward at the United Nations (UN) in 1958, lead to the adoption of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which stops countries gaining more nuclear weapons. More recently, Ireland was one the countries that first proposed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). They ratified the TPNW on Hiroshima Day, 6th August 2020, saying: ‘There can be no right hands for the wrong weapons’.
Kazakhstan is a country which stretches from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and is the largest landlocked country in the world. The date that Kazakhstan ratified the treaty, August 29th, 2019, coincided with the UN International Day against Nuclear tests, and marks 70 years since the first Soviet nuclear test was conducted at the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan. Between 1949 and 1989, an estimated 456 nuclear tests were carried out in Kazakhstan. These have devastating long-term consequences for human health and the environment. Upon the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan inherited approximately 1,400 Soviet nuclear warheads, which it gave up in the interests of disarmament.
Kiribati is a country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Kiribati’s opposition to nuclear weapons can be traced back to its use as a nuclear testing site at the beginning of the cold war. Between 1957 and 1962, the United Kingdom and the United States tested 33 nuclear weapons at Malden and Kiritimati islands in Kiribati. This severely disrupted the lives of those living on the island and has resulted in devastating long term environmental and health impacts.
Laos is a South-East Asian country and the only landlocked country in the region. It is a very sparsely populated country, with a population of around 7m people in a country which is 236,800 sq km large, meaning there are around 30 people per square kilometre.
Lesotho is a country entirely within the border of South Africa, making it one of only three states which is entirely surrounded by another state (along with Vatican City and San Marino). Despite Lesotho’s proximity to South Africa, it is an entirely separate state with a separate official language of ‘Sesotho’. Over 99.7% of inhabitants originate from the Basotho ethnic group of which the majority live in South Africa.
The Maldives are a collection of ‘atolls’ (a chain of islands) which make up a small island nation in South Asia. The Maldives consists of 26 natural atolls which includes over 1,200 islands. However, only 200 of these are inhabited with many of the islands lying very close to sea level and face being submerged due to climate change.
Mexico is a North American country bordering the United States. Mexico is distinct in that it is one of the few countries which has the technical capability to produce nuclear weapons but in 1968 it abandoned their development and pledged to use the technology for peaceful purposes. Since then Mexico has been a driving force in the campaign for global disarmament, making up one of a small group of states that played a leading role in bringing the TPNW negotiations about and ensuring their ultimate success.
Namibia is a country in Southern Africa, it contains the large and mostly uninhabited Namib Desert meaning it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Namibia was one of the first countries in the world to enshrine protection of the environment in the government constitution.
New Zealand is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It has long been one of the strongest advocates for a nuclear free world in the United Nations which it describes as the country’s ‘signature foreign policy’. This can be traced back to the decision of, then Labour prime minister, Norman Kirk in 1973, to send a warship with a minister on board to protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll. New Zealand’s reputation as an anti-nuclear state was further enhanced when 1984, Prime Minister David Lange banned nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Anti-Nuclear policy is a key part of New Zealand’s political identity.
Nicaragua is a Central American country and the largest country within the Central American region. Nicaragua is one of only of three countries, alongside the United States and Syria, not to sign up to the Paris climate accords. Unlike the other two states however, this is due to its criticism of the agreement for not going far enough, arguing that much more ambitious targets are required.
Palau is an island country found in the West of the Pacific Ocean, it’s made up of around 340 islands with Koros being the one that most people live on. Palau is in a ‘free association’ with the United States, which provides the country with defence and aid. It was the first country in the Pacific to sign the treaty.
Palestine is a country in the Western part of Asia, also known as the Middle East. It shares a contested border with Israel (a country widely acknowledged to be in possession of nuclear weapons). In its official statement to the TPNW negotiating conference, Palestine observed ‘We are the first species to ever develop the instruments of its own extinction. But doomsday is not inevitable and the power of collective will should never be underestimated’
Panama is a country which is located within both the borders of South America and Central America. Panama is home to the famous Panama Canal which connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and was constructed by both France, who abandoned the project due to the high mortality rate, and the United States who finished it in 1914.
Saint Lucia is an island country found in the West Indies in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. Originally named Lyonola and Hewanorra by native islanders, rule of the island changed so much between the British and the French, ruled seven times by each from 1660-1840, that Saint Lucia was also known as the “Helen of the West Indies” after the Greek mythological character, Helen of Troy.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island country made up of several islands in the West Indies. Due to its former colonisation by the British, English is the main language of the country and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.
Samoa is an island country made up of two islands, Savai’i and Upolo. Despite having only a population of 200,000 people, Samoa is known for having a highly successful Rugby team, competing at every Rugby world cup since 1991 and often beating teams from countries with upwards of ten times its own population. Samoa, together with Fiji, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, submitted a working paper to a UN working group in Geneva in 2016 in which they argued that ‘the debate should no longer be about whether a global ban on nuclear weapons is necessary, but rather how we can achieve it and what provisions it should contain’. This stems from these countries lived experience of nuclear weapons testing within the pacific.
San Marino is a ‘microstate’ found in Southern Europe and is entirely surrounded by Italy. The official language of the country is Italian but it enjoys total political independence from Italy and its strong finance, services and tourism industry allow it to be financially independent and strong.
South Africa is found at the bottom of the African continent and is one of the largest in Africa based on its population and economy. South Africa is highly unique in that during the 1990s it abandoned and dismantled its nuclear weapons programme which it had pursued for thirty years previously. South Africa is so far the first state in the world to voluntarily give up nuclear weapons it developed itself.
Thailand is a Southeast Asian country in the heart of the Indochinese peninsula. Thailand has encouraged its surrounding countries to sign the TPNW, hosting a regional workshop in Bangkok in 2018 to encourage members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to become parties to the treaty.
Trinidad and Tobago is an island country made up of the two most southern islands in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago. The two largest ethnic groups on the islands are those from African and South Asian backgrounds meaning there is a large amount of cultural and religious diversity with large celebrations for Diwali, Carnival and Hosay celebrations.
Uruguay is a South American country in the South Eastern part of the continent, located just under Brazil. Uruguay has the longest national anthem in the world, all in all it takes around 6 minutes to perform. It is one of the most successful countries in term of diversification from fossil fuels, with around 95% of its energy coming from renewable energy sources.
Vanuatu is a Pacific island country in the South of the Pacific Ocean made up of over 80 islands. Nearly all of the islands are inhabited even though some have active volcanoes. Alongside other pacific nations Vanuatu has a strong opposition to nuclear weapons although no nuclear tests were carried out directly on the islands.
Venezuela is a South American country on the northern coast of the continent and since 1999 has been officially known as Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Venezuela is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and currently has the world’s largest oil reserves. This has often contributed to economic and political instability in the country.
Vietnam, also known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a country in Southeast Asia located at the eastern edge of the Indochinese peninsula. Vietnam fought a war for independence from both the French and then the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. During that time a top American military commander, William Westmoreland, prepared to transfer nuclear weapons to South Vietnam to use against North Vietnam troops. Thankfully, this was prevented by then US President, Lyndon B Johnson, but many people around the world remain unaware of how close the conflict came to turning nuclear. US President Nixon was also in favour of using nuclear weapons against Vietnam, but was deterred by advisors.
Toward a nuclear-free future
The diverse collection of countries which have come together to oppose nuclear weapons can be considered a feat of peace-making and diplomacy. Around the world there are ‘Nuclear-free zones’ established by treaties signed by many of the countries above, such as the Treaties of Tlatelolco, the Treaty of Bangkok, the Treaty of Pelindaba, the Rarotonga treaty and Treaty of Semipalatinsk which establish Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Africa, the South Pacific and Central Asia as nuclear-free zones respectively.
Similar agreements have established Nuclear-Weapon Free Areas in the Antarctic, on the Sea-Bed and in Outer Space. Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones are highly successful forms of collective security across large parts of the world, including almost the entire southern hemisphere.
While the nations of the global south have led the way on this front, this has even inspired change in nuclear-armed states themselves where local councils have voted for their cities to become ‘nuclear ban communities’, the first one in the UK being designated by Manchester City Council in the 1980s, with many more existing today. Be sure to check online to see whether you live in a ‘nuclear ban community’ and if not, maybe you can encourage your council to become one: https://cnduk.org/nuclear-ban-communities/, https://cities.icanw.org/
For more information on the TPNW, visit: https://www.icanw.org/the_treaty