Topnews, Statements

05. March 2021


Madam Chairperson

1. I speak on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and my own country, the Republic of South Africa.  We align ourselves with the statement delivered by Mexico on behalf of the Core Group of Countries in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and we wish to make the following additional comments.

2. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an historic and ground-breaking agreement because it establishes a global standard emphatically rejecting nuclear weapons.

3. Since it opened for signature in 2017, 140 UN Member States have signed, ratified or acceded to the Treaty.  In addition to the 54 current Contracting Parties, many other signatories are busy with national procedures to enable ratification/ascension.  As noted in INFCIRC 952, the Treaty entered into force on 22nd January 2021, which is a significant development, directly impacting efforts at achieving international peace and security through strengthening the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture.

4. It took more that seventy years, following the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention the subsequent thousands of nuclear tests, for the United Nations to finally adopt a legally-binding instrument that once and for all outlaws the most lethal and indiscriminate of weapons of mass destruction.  It should be noted that until the entry into force of the TPNW, nuclear weapons were the only Weapons of Mass Destruction not prohibited by international law. The TPNW fills that gap.

5. Furthermore, the Treaty directly contributes to achieving the objective set out in the very first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1946, namely to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

6. The Treaty is based on the acknowledgment that the use of nuclear weapons will have disastrous humanitarian consequences from which we will not be able to recover.  While the Treaty is neither the proverbial silver bullet, nor the final word on nuclear weapons, it establishes an international legal norm, delegitimising and stigmatising the possession of nuclear arms. 

7. The existential threat posed by nuclear weapons remains a major menace to humanity, which is worsened by the modernisation programmes currently underway in various Nuclear Weapon States.  These steps reverse  the very limited progress made in the area of nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT.

8. This also underscores the fact that the Nuclear Weapon States have not fulfilled their NPT obligations.  Therefore, the global community, threatened by the mere existence of these weapons, must take urgent steps to enhance the  disarmament and non-proliferation regime under the NPT and we believe that the TPNW is a major development in this regard.

9. Our two countries reiterate that the TPNW complements and strengthens the NPT, it does not contradict or undermine the NPT in any way.  We must remember, that the NPT itself foresees a world free of nuclear weapons, as it states in the preamble: “Considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war ….. [ speaking of nuclear weapon states] [d]eclaring their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament”

10. Our countries reiterate that prohibiting, and ultimately eliminating, all nuclear weapons is the only guarantee to fully implement the objectives of the NPT and is the only guarantee ensuring that these evil weapons will never be used again. This is objective the central focus of the TPNW.

11. We are reminded of late President Nelson Mandela’s question posed to the UN General Assembly in 1998:



We must ask the question, which might sound naive to those who have elaborated sophisticated arguments to justify their refusal to eliminate these terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction - why do they need them anyway?

In reality, no rational answer can be advanced to explain in a satisfactory manner what, in the end, is the consequence of Cold War inertia and an attachment to the use of the threat of brute force, to assert the primacy of some States over others.



Madam Chairperson,

12. Moreover, the TPNW also complements and strengthens the NPT in two further ways, namely it strengthens the IAEA safeguards system, which is based on the NPT. The TPNW reaffirms the safeguards standard enshrined in NPT Article III, and obliges States, to further raise their level of commitment in terms of safeguards implementation thus supporting non-proliferation.

13. In addition, the TPNW emphasises that nothing in its text shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of its Contracting Parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.  With this in mind and now that it has entered into force, it is inevitable that the TPNW will eventually support our work here in Vienna.

14. Moreover, the TPNW also strengthens the various Treaties establishing Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, such as the Pelindaba Treaty; as well as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).  All of these instruments are mutually enforcing and complementary and work hand-in-hand to eventually achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

15. The TPNW is also fully inclusive and it allows for States possessing or hosting nuclear weapons to eventually join it the Treaty through a time-bound, verifiable and irreversible process of nuclear disarmament – thus foreseeing a role for this organisation as it did in verifying South Africa’s dismantled of its nuclear weapons programme. 

16. In conclusion, South Africa and Nigeria look forward to the convening in Vienna in 2022, of the 1st Meeting of State Parties to the TPNW in January 2022 and we hope that by then even more Member States would join the growing momentum towards the ban of Nuclear Weapons.  

Thank you, Madame Chairperson

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