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Nuclear weapons

The Elders publish new policy paper on nuclear weapons

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The Elders today publish a new policy paper on the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons.
Download the paper.

They argue that heightened geopolitical tensions around Russia’s war on Ukraine and Sino-US rivalry, as well as new technological developments such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), make it all the more important that leaders commit to tangible steps towards disarmament and de-escalation.

They warn that no country individually, nor the international system collectively, has the capacity to cope with the humanitarian and environmental consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. For the very survival of humanity, nuclear weapons must never be used again, under any circumstances. The only guarantee of the non-use of nuclear weapons is their complete abolition.

The Elders first articulated a nuclear risk minimisation agenda for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at the Munich Security Conference in 2019. The global context has changed radically since then, including the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) but also the abandonment of US-Russian arms control agreements and the erosion of the taboo against nuclear use – especially in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war on Ukraine.

In today’s fraught geopolitical environment, The Elders reaffirm their support for the TPNW and the ultimate objective of a world without nuclear weapons, while continuing to advocate for the risk minimisation agenda. They believe this remains the best way to make tangible progress amid the deep divide between nuclear powers and their allies, and the much larger number of states who support the TPNW. Such progress would deliver a meaningful reduction in both risks and warheads.

The risk minimisation agenda rests on four elements known as the 4 Ds:

  1. Doctrine: Every nuclear-armed state should make an unequivocal “No First Use” declaration.
  2. De-alerting: The highest priority must be given to taking as many weapons as possible off their current high-alert status.
  3. Deployment: More than one-quarter of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons is currently operationally deployed. This proportion must be dramatically and urgently reduced.
  4. Decreased numbers: The number of nuclear warheads should be reduced from 12,500 to the lowest possible level, with the US and Russia reducing to no more than 500 each, which should serve as an upper ceiling for any nuclear state.

The Elders also call on nuclear states – the Permanent 5 UN Security Council members of the United States of America, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, as well as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea -- and their allies to engage constructively with the TPNW, including through attending states parties meetings as observers, and to build common ground with TPNW states around a shared goal of ultimate nuclear disarmament.

TPNW states should work to help turn the Treaty into a binding and effective reality, including through strengthening the treaty’s verification and enforcement provisions.

All countries should work to strengthen the global non-proliferation architecture, including through:

  • Increasing safeguards to track the flow of materials inside civil reactors;
  • Introducing real penalties for countries that withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT);
  • Strengthening the capacity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
  • Ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and bringing to conclusion the long-proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.


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Read and download the Nuclear Policy Paper by clicking below.

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