June 26 marks 75 years since the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. The first objective set out in the Charter is to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.
Since that time the United Nations has encouraged the limiting and abolition of nuclear weapons. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968 and came into force two years later. The NPT banned other states from developing a nuclear weapons programme in exchange for the five nuclear-armed states entering into meaningful negotiations on disarmament. Sadly 50 years on there are now nine nuclear-armed states, but the NPT is still an important plank of arms control. The next round of talks under the auspices of the Treaty will take place early in 2021.
The United Nations has also brought forward the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, agreed in 2017 by 122 member states. The Treaty will ban nuclear weapons in the same way as chemical and biological weapons have previously been banned, primarliy on the grounds of the humanitarian consequences of their use. The Treaty will enter into force once 50 states have joined, with 38 having done so already.
There is clearly much more to do. In a special video address to mark the occasion Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres described nuclear proliferation as one of the “fundamental fragilities” which still needs to be addressed 75 years on. However we thank God for the work of the United Nations and all those who have been involved it the institution over the past 75 years working for peace.