Since 1967, five nuclear-weapon-free zones have been established around the world. … Expanding such zones to more regions will strengthen global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation norms and contribute to building a safer world.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to complicate regional disarmament activities in 2021. Substantial restrictions on travel and in-person interaction persisted in every region, posing a challenge for States and for global, regional and subregional entities seeking to advance their ambitions in support of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. In that context, virtual meeting technologies provided actors in the field of regional disarmament with valuable support in taking forward a range of projects and initiatives, even as those actors conducted their work in hybrid or in-person formats where circumstances allowed. The Office for Disarmament Affairs regularly engaged with such actors throughout the year by conducting policy dialogues, long-term projects and exchanges on subjects such as the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and counter-terrorism.
In the field of weapons of mass destruction, eight States ratified or acceded to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons during the year. In Africa, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau and Seychelles ratified the Treaty. In Asia and the Pacific, Cambodia and the Philippines ratified the Treaty and Mongolia acceded to it. In Latin America, Chile and Peru ratified the Treaty. Separately, Botswana acceded to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Moreover, Comoros ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, while Cuba both signed and ratified it. The Treaty gained no new signatory States during the year.
On conventional weapons, States achieved progress in adherence to the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Firearms Protocol). Comoros acceded to the Firearms Protocol in June, while Germany ratified the Protocol in August.
The General Assembly decided to further postpone the fourth Conference of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia, which had originally been planned for 2020, but States parties and signatories to the relevant treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, including Mongolia, continued to hold informal consultations on organizational and substantive preparations.
The Pacific Islands Forum convened the first Meeting of the Rarotonga Treaty’s Consultative Committee on 15 December. The Meeting was held in response to a call by States parties in 2020 to advance a recent decision by Forum leaders to operationalize the Treaty.
The five nuclear-weapon States reiterated their commitment to the aims and objectives of the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone; however, as at the end of 2021, none had signed the Protocol to commit to respect the nuclear-weapon-free status of the Treaty’s parties and to forswear the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against those States. The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reaffirmed their commitment to engage with the nuclear-weapon States and intensify ongoing efforts to resolve all outstanding issues in accordance with the Treaty’s objectives and principles.
Meanwhile, the second session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction was held from 29 November to 3 December. During the session, the Conference reached consensus to achieve further progress in the process by, inter alia, undertaking substantive deliberations on various key aspects of the future Middle East zone. The participating States adopted a final report and several decisions, including on the adoption of rules of procedure and the establishment of a working committee to continue deliberations during the intersessional period.
The Office for Disarmament Affairs, for its part, continued to engage intensively with numerous partner institutions through its regional centres for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific. Following a series of explosions on 7 March at a military barracks in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, the Centre in Africa developed a joint project proposal in coordination with the United Nations country team in Malabo to support the Government in weapons security and ammunition management. The Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean focused its efforts on assisting Governments in the region to implement international instruments on conventional arms, in particular the Roadmap for Implementing the Caribbean Priority Actions on the Illicit Proliferation of Firearms and Ammunition across the Caribbean in a Sustainable Manner by 2030 (Caribbean Firearms Roadmap), launched in 2019. The Centre for Asia and the Pacific kicked off a new project to support the establishment and maintenance of gun-free zones in that region, including through the development of an online course.