Current state of disarmament treaties, December 1995 (followed by updates)



John Goodwillie

There are so many different sets of negotiations on disarmament that it's difficult to keep up with all of them, and know whether anything has been achieved. So here's a brief rundown of the main agreements and negotiations.

Partial Test-Ban Treaty, 1963.

Treaty of Tlatelolco, 1967: Latin American nuclear-free zone.

Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1968: extended indefinitely in 1995.

Biological Weapons Convention, 1972: bans producing or holding biological weapons. But does not prohibit research and is weak about inspections. Review conference in 1996 will consider strengthening verification procedures.

Inhumane Weapons Convention, 1980: calls for mines to be marked and cleared when the fighting is over. It doesn't happen. Review conference in 1995 did not achieve progress.

Treaty of Rarotonga, 1986: Pacific nuclear-free zone.

Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, 1990: limits conventional weapons in Europe.

INF, START I, START II, 1987-1993: Under these treaties restrictions are placed on the numbers of nuclear weapons. START II is not yet ratified. US and Russian strategic arsenals are to be limited to 3000-3500 by the year 2003.

Chemical Weapons Convention, 1993: bans chemical weapons completely and insists on inspections. Awaiting enough ratifications to come into force.

and to come:
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations: progress was made in 1995 in the Conference on Disarmament, which resumes in 1996. The US, Britain and France are agreed on total prohibition of nuclear explosions; China and Russia are not so clear. All are agreed on a global seismic network as part of the enforcement procedures, with a system of inspections still to be decided on.

4th Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly: probably in 1997.

The main source for this article is Disarmament: the unfinished disarmament agenda. United Nations, 1995.


Updating notes:

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty: The only three significant states which are not parties to it are India, Pakistan, and Israel. At the Review Conference in April/May 2000 the other nuclear weapon states accepted "an unequivocal undertaking ... to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals" and a commitment to a "diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimise the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination." Another Review Conference took place in 2005, but made no progress. An update on the Treaty is provided by the organisation Reaching Critical Will.

Negotiations on an inspection procedure for the Biological Weapons Convention are continuing. For the situation as at November 2002, download the leaflet on the Convention produced by the British American Security Information Council. Further information on the Biological Weapons Convention is provided by the organisation Reaching Critical Will.

The Chemical Weapons Convention has come into force. 384 inspections had been carried out by the end of 1998. Further information on the Chemical Weapons Convention is provided by the organisation Reaching Critical Will.

A Comprehensive Test-ban Treaty was agreed in 1996, but the United States and China have refused to ratify it; and North Korea, India and Pakistan have not even signed. Recent information is provided by the organisation Reaching Critical Will.

Mine Ban Treaty (1997) bans landmines. 139 countries have signed and 107 have ratified (Autumn 2000 figures). Major countries refusing to sign include China, India, Iraq, Iran, Koreas, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia, and United States.

START: Following the American withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which took effect on 13th June 2002, Rusia withdrew from START II on 14th June 2002.

Model Nuclear Weapons Convention: A model convention for banning all nuclear weapons has been drafted and placed on the agenda of the United Nations by Costa Rica. Further details are provided by the organisation Reaching Critical Will.



International treaties are first signed at a conference, and then need to be ratified by the individual countries when the delegates report back. Ratification often needs a vote in their parliament. The treaty is not binding on the country until it has ratified; and many treaties include a provision that they will not be binding for any country ("come into force") until a certain number of countries have ratified.


Further details of the treaties are provided by CND, with an update at October 2000.


Back to Irish CND page on campaigns