On July 1, 1968 the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was opened for signature, codifying for the first time a legally binding obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament. This year marks the 40th anniversary of this historic arms control treaty, to which every state in the United Nations except three has been a party (India, Pakistan, and Israel have never been signatories – North Korea withdrew from the Treaty in 2003).
Much has been written about whether the NPT regime is failing, in need of revision, or simply outdated. The NPT regime faces many challenges: nuclear weapons now enjoy a prominent place in the security policies of nuclear weapon states and new plans have been designed for their use including preemptive and preventive actions; materials and technology obtained from the civilian nuclear cooperation promoted by the Treaty could be used to manufacture nuclear bombs; a black market in nuclear technology and materials has been discovered; and the global rise in energy demand has put nuclear energy into the mix of solutions to this emerging crisis, despite the proliferation risks associated with advanced fuel cycle technology. Some voices counter that, with very few exceptions, the principles of the Treaty have prevented the widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons envisaged in the 1960’s by President Kennedy. One thing is clear: renewed commitment from the highest levels of government will be necessary to achieve the goals of the NPT and enable the processes and norms associated with the Treaty to peacefully navigate through the challenges it is facing and maintain its relevance for the future. Continue Reading →