PNND to Latin America: Happy 50th nuclear-free birthday

Latin America and the Caribbean celebrate 50 years of their nuclear-weapon-free treaty.

PNND members highlight the anniversary & the treaty as a step to a nuclear-free world.

On Feb 14, 1967 Latin American and Caribbean countries meeting in Tlatelolco (Mexico) adopted a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in their territories.

A nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) had already been established to cover Antarctica (1959). However, the Tlatelolco Treaty established the first NWFZ in a populated area. It also included a novel approach that became part of all subsequent NWFZs in populated areas. This was the addition of protocols to be signed by the nuclear-armed States where-by they agree to respect the zones by not deploying nuclear weapons in the territories and by not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against the states parties to the zone.

Negotiating conference for the Treaty of Tlatelolco, 1967. Photo credit: OPANAL

The Tlatelolco Treaty also established an implementation agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), which not only implements the treaty in the region, but also supports other NWFZs and promotes the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world. As such, the Treaty of Tlatelolco received the 2013 Future Policy Award established by the World Future Council and presented to OPANAL at the United Nations by the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

And today, the participants in the 50th anniversary event in Mexico City adopted a declaration highlighting the importance of the zone, and supporting a number of initiatives for nuclear disarmament including the 2018 UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament and the 2017 UN negotiations on a nuclear ban treaty.

PNND represented at commemoration event

PNND was represented at the official Tlatelolco Treaty commemoration event in Mexico City by Rob van Riet, Coordinator of PNND UK Coordinator and Director of the World Future Council Disarmament Program.

Gioconda Úbeda Rivera, former Secretary-General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean receiving the Future Policy Gold Award on behalf of OPANAL.

In an article published by the William Perry Project, Mr van Riet notes that the treaty was established in response to nuclear threats to the region from the USSR and the USA. ‘As the nuclear stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union came to a head in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis, Latin American governments became compelled to begin a process that would ensure that the region would never become the setting of a nuclear conflict.’

Mr van Riet notes that the Tlatelolco Treaty paved the way for NWFZs covering the entire Southern Hemisphere and some regions in the North.

The Tlatelolco Treaty still serves as an inspiration and model for additional nuclear-weapon-free zones. Recent zone proposals cover regions with complex security environments as well as nuclear doctrines, including the Middle East, Northeast Asia, the Arctic, Europe and South Asia. While each is different in scope and background, advancing these proposals could benefit greatly from lessons of the Tlatelolco experience and the expertise of OPANAL.’

Parliament resolutions recognizing the anniversary

PNND Co-Presidents Laura Angélica Rojas Hernández (Mexico) and Bill Kidd (Scotland) introduced resolutions into their respective parliaments commemorating the 50th anniversary of the treaty.

The resolution introduced by Senator Rojas highlights the example the Tlatelolco Treaty has been to other regions that have then adopted similar treaties, and notes the importance of Mexico and other NWFZ countries coming together at the United Nations this year to negotiate a nuclear prohibition treaty. The treaty would apply to any State wishing to join regardless of whether or not they are already in a NWFZ.

The resolution introduced by Bill Kidd welcomes the Treaty of Tlatelolco and other NWFZ treaties, calls for similar NWFZs to be established to cover the Arctic, Europe, the Middle East, North East Asia and Scotland, and supports the call from outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for the entire world to become a NWFZ.

Tlatelolco anniversary noted at the UN

Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator, highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Tlatelolco Treaty in a speech in the UN Trusteeship Council.

PNND Global Coordinator Alyn Ware highlighted the 50th anniversary of the Tlatelolco Treaty at the United Nations in a speech to 300 parliamentarians participating in the Inter Parliamentary Union hearings on the oceans.

Mr Ware noted that the Latin American and Carribean NWFZ included the territorial waters, and that other NWFZs covered Exclusive Economic Zones and High Seas to some degree. 'However, the threat to oceans by nuclear weapons continues as long as nuclear armed submarines patrol the oceans ready to fire nuclear weapons in a conflict,’ said Mr Ware, ‘especially those of the US and Russia which are on high alert ready to be fired within minutes.'

As such, he proposed that the that issue of nuclear-weapon-free zones and de-nuclearising the oceans  be put on the agenda of the 2018 UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament.

7467 join message of congratulations

World Beyond War and the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy wrote a message to the foreign ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean congratulating them for their leadership in making the entire world a zone free of nuclear weapons. The message, which was endorsed by 7467 individuals, was delivered to the foreign ministers and other government representatives gathered in Mexico City for the 50th anniversary event.