Nuclear Weapons · United Nations

The Global Wave

“All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others, then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?” – Buddha

As citizens around the world prepare to celebrate this festive occasion, in New York, 180 governments gather for the four-week-long 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which will be held from April 27 to May 22 to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The review of the operation of the Treaty occurs every five years as per the provisions set out in Article VIII, paragraph 3 which were reaffirmed by the State parties at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

After much discussion spanning many years, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. Since its entry into force, the NPT has been the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. With 189 State parties, including the five nuclear-weapon States, namely the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China, this Treaty is the most widely adhered to multilateral disarmament agreement. Sri Lanka signed the Treaty when it opened for signatures in 1968.

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. It represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.

The NPT Review Process

Conferences to review the operation of the Treaty have been held at five-year intervals since the Treaty went into effect in 1970. Each conference has sought to find agreement on a final declaration that would assess the implementation of the Treaty’s provisions and make recommendations on measures to further strengthen it. Consensus on a Final Declaration was reached at the 1975, 1985, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences, but could not be achieved in 1980, 1990, 1995 and 2005. Differences centred in particular on the question of whether or not the nuclear-weapon States had sufficiently fulfilled the requirements of article VI (nuclear disarmament) as well as on issues such as nuclear testing, qualitative nuclear-weapon developments, security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States by nuclear-weapon States, and on co-operation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The last review conference held in the year 2010 managed to agree on an Action Plan covering the three pillars of the Treaty (nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy), as well as on the Middle East. The Conference was only able to take note of the substantive review of the operation of the Treaty produced on the responsibility of the President.

This year, the NPT Review Conference is expected to consider a number of issues, including those discussed at the 2010 Conference i.e. the universality of the Treaty; nuclear disarmament, including specific practical measures; nuclear non-proliferation, including the promoting and strengthening of safeguards; measures to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy, safety and security; regional disarmament and non-proliferation; implementation of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East; measures to address withdrawal from the Treaty; measures to further strengthen the review process; and ways to promote engagement with civil society in strengthening NPT norms and in promoting disarmament education.

Currently there are 16,000 nuclear weapons remaining in the world. Words cannot describe the damage a single nuclear weapon can cause not only in the short-term but also in the long-term. The damage is not limited to the infrastructure, but relates to the economic as well as the psychological well-being of a country.

A 13-point programme of action on disarmament steps related to Article VI of the NPT was agreed upon at the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT. They are as follows;

  1. Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Opened for signature in 1996, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) prohibits all nuclear weapon test explosions. For the treaty to enter into force, 44 countries designated as “nuclear-capable states” must ratify the agreement. Of those 44, three-India, Pakistan, and North Korea-have not signed the treaty and another ten, including the United States and China, have signed, but not ratified, the accord. The 2000 Review Conference of the NPT understood that the signature and ratification without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, is required to achieve the early enforcement of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

  1. Nuclear Test Moratorium

No country has tested a nuclear weapon since India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests in May 1998. A moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending entry into force of that Treaty is crucial for complete disarmament.

  1. Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT)

A 66-member body that works by consensus, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has not started negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would ban production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes. The 2000 Review Conference understood the necessity of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in accordance with the statement of the Special Coordinator in 1995 and the mandate contained therein, taking into consideration both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives.

  1. Nuclear Disarmament Discussions

The current work program proposal under consideration by the CD to negotiate a treaty banning production of fissile material also includes setting up a CD subsidiary body to “exchange information and views” on practical steps toward nuclear disarmament. The 2000 Review Conference sees the necessity of establishing in the Conference on Disarmament an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament. 

  1. Irreversibility of Nuclear Reductions

In its latest proposal on a “legally binding agreement” to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arms to 1,700-2,200 deployed strategic warheads each by 2012, the Bush administration has rejected the principle of irreversibility in favor of flexibility. Therefore member states at the 2000 Review Conference agreed to the principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and other related arms control and reduction measures.

  1. Elimination of Nuclear Arsenals

At the 2000 NPT review conference, the nuclear-weapon states pledged themselves unequivocally to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons.

  1. The START II, START III, and ABM Treaties

It was agreed that the early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III as soon as possible while preserving and strengthening the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons, in accordance with its provisions is crucial to the implementation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

  1. Securing Excess Nuclear Material

The completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative between the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency, whereby the Trilateral Initiative seeks to develop methods for the IAEA to secure and verify the peaceful status of excess weapons-grade nuclear material in the United States and Russia.

  1. Other Nuclear-Weapon States’ Actions

It was agreed that all the nuclear-weapon States need to take steps leading to nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability based on the principle of undiminished security for all, such as to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally; increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to the nuclear weapons capabilities and the implementation of agreements; further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process etc.


  1. Excess Fissile Material

Arrangements by all nuclear-weapon States to place, as soon as practicable, fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification and arrangements for the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes, to ensure that such material remains permanently outside of military programmes.

  1. General and Complete Disarmament

The 2000 Review Conference reaffirmed that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control.

  1. Regular Reports on Disarmament Progress

It was agreed that regular reports, within the framework of the NPT strengthened the review process, by all States parties on the implementation of Article VI and paragraph 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament,” and recalling the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice of 8 July 1996.

  1. Verification

It was finally agreed upon that the further development of the verification capabilities will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The Global Wave

Global Wave 2015 is a campaign under the slogan ‘Wave Goodbye to Nukes’ that mobilises civil society across the globe calling on governments to abolish nuclear weapons by doing simple actions such as waving goodbye to nuclear weapons, which is then presented to the governments congregating in New York. The Global Wave started at a huge peace rally in New York on April 26 and then went around the world in 24 hours arriving back in New York on April 27 as the government conference begins.

‘The aim of the wave is to engage people from all walks of life in nuclear weapons abolition, without having to incur the expense or carbon footprint of travelling to New York for the conference,’ says Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and initiator of Global Wave 2015. ‘We will present photos and videos of the wave actions to the governments in New York on their behalf, demonstrating global support for nuclear abolition. This support comes from civil society in all types of countries, including from the nuclear-armed countries.’

The campaign also raises concern on the negative effects nuclear power has on the environment, stating 40-50 nukes could destroy the global climate. This discussion stems from the impact the detonation of nuclear weapons could have the on the world at large. The wave passed through over 50 countries including Sri Lanka which contributed towards the work of this global peace movement.

Sri Lanka’s involvement in nuclear non-proliferation

At the Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS), held within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) from 13-17 April 2015 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha stated “the possession of autonomous weapons by some States, combined with their possible asymmetric usages in war, may compel other States to also abandon their policies of restraint or moratorium and ignite an arms race.” It has been noted that “the experience in nuclear weapons provides a useful lesson for all of us to understand the consequences of such an arm race, where even today possession itself has continued to remain a threat to regional as well as global security.”

As a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Sri Lanka played a pivotal role in rallying support for the call for disarmament, during its chairmanship of the movement in 1976. An outcome of this call was the First Session of the UN General Assembly on Disarmament. It was recognized then and continuous to be recognized that nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are interlinked and cannot be pursued in isolation.

Sri Lanka has also maintained that a balanced and non-discriminatory approach needs to be taken to address the three pillars of the NPT, which are to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. Sri Lanka believes the implementation of the 13 practical steps outlined during the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT would help the total elimination of nuclear weapons. The link between nuclear disarmament and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is another effort Sri Lanka feels should be strengthened this year, as the target date for the latter’s realisation dawns.

Sri Lanka has had few prominent personalities from the country advocating for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. One such personality is Sri Lanka’s only representative at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Judge C. G. Weeramantry who is best known for his long impassioned dissent to the Court’s decision in the Case Concerning the Illegality on Nuclear Weapons in 1996. The other is none other than Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), who relentlessly advocates for a world free of nuclear weapons. He was the recipient of the 2014 International Achievement Award for Nuclear Disarmament sponsored by Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency.

At an age where co-existence of people from different countries and religious faiths has become mandatory, it is important to set the tone for such relations. The presence of nuclear weapons is deterrence to the peaceful existence of all of man-kind as there is a threat to peace in knowing the former can be used by those who possess it, against each other or against another who does not possess it. Further, knowing these weapons can fall in to the hands of the wrong people, being terrorist groups and organisations, is yet again deterrent to this peaceful existence. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all States to implement the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, leading to nuclear disarmament without further delay.

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