The South African Government welcomes the adoption by a UN Conference on 07 July 2017 of a Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons. The adoption of this Treaty through an inclusive multilateral process in the United Nations framework, which involved both States and members of civil society, is the culmination of three international conferences held between 2012 and 2014 that considered the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and their associated risks. We wish to congratulate all participants, the President of the Conference, Ambassador Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica and the other Vice-Presidents, on the conclusion of negotiations as mandated by the UN General Assembly.
The adoption of the Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons is an historic achievement given that the elimination of weapons of mass destruction has been on the multilateral agenda for more than 70 years since the adoption of the very first resolution by the UN General Assembly in 1946. While biological and chemical weapons have been subjected to global prohibitions, international instruments on nuclear weapons have remained limited in both scope and application. South Africa believes that this new Treaty will establish a powerful international norm against nuclear weapons and will complement other relevant instruments such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT), the various nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties, such as the Pelindaba Treaty, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which is yet to enter into force.
While South Africa notes the concerns and reservations expressed by some of the nuclear-armed States as to the potential effectiveness of such a treaty, the status quo and ongoing impasse in negotiations on nuclear weapons are not sustainable. The danger of a nuclear war regrettably remains a lingering threat to human survival and continued inaction by the international community is inexcusable. It is our hope that these States will accelerate the fulfillment of their nuclear disarmament obligations and related commitments, including the unequivocal undertaking under the NPT towards the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. Failure to do so could well undermine the credibility of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Given South Africa's unique history as the first country to have developed and then eliminated its nuclear arsenal, we are honoured to have been able to make a meaningful contribution towards the process leading up to the negotiations, as well as during the actual negotiations during March and June/July this year. We will continue to engage with all States towards the negotiation of other instruments and measures that will be required to secure a nuclear weapons-free world.
Issued by: Department of International Relations and Cooperation