Open lecture

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Challenges for International Law and Security

October, 4


Dieter Fleck, Former Director International Agreements & Policy, Federal Ministry of Defence, Germany; Member of the Advisory Board of the Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL); Rapporteur of the ILA Committee on Nuclear Weapons, Non-Proliferation and Contemporary International Law; Honorary President, International Society for Military Law and the Law of War.


The adoption of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons[1] on 7 July 2017 (with a vote of 122-1-1, in which no nuclear-weapon State participated) may be understood on the background of existing failures to implement disarmament obligations existing under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT);[2] the lack of universality of the NPT;[3] and increasing concerns on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons that unfolded over the past years.[4] While it is still too early for a lasting assessment whether the new Treaty may ultimately contribute to reaching the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and whether it has the potential to gain global acceptance over time, a comprehensive evaluation of existing legal controversies, certain textual deficiencies of the new Treaty, and foreseeable effects on international security are necessary and timely. International lawyers have an important contribution to make in this regard.

[1] Text of the Treaty at UN Doc A/CONF.229/2017/8 (7 July 2017), at

[2] Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1 July 1968), 729 UNTS 161. The obligations recognised in Art. VI have three objectives: the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date; nuclear disarmament; and general and complete disarmament. Each of these objectives requires negotiations to be pursued in good faith and implementation measures under strict and effective international control.

[3] The NPT is in force now for 191 States, see The Democratic Republic of Korea has withdrawn from the NPT; India, Israel, and Pakistan did not become Parties.

[4]See conferences and further activities on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons,