Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZs) prohibit the testing, stationing, development, and use of nuclear weapons inside the designated territory. These zones can range from single states to geographical regions or international areas. Within these zones, countries may only use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Their establishment is recognized by Article VII of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the UN General Assembly outlined the criteria for NWFZs in 1975:

A nuclear-weapon-free zone shall, as a general rule, be deemed to be any zone, recognized as such by the United Nations General Assembly, which any groups of states, in the free exercise of their sovereignty, have established by virtue of a treaty or convention whereby:a. The statute of a total absence of nuclear weapons to which the zone shall be subject, including the procedure for the delimitation of the zone is defined;b. An international system of verification and control is established to guarantee compliance with obligations derived from that statute.

With NWFZs, countries can establish preventative disarmament measures without the cooperation of the nuclear weapon states and can thus establish a common security system. Discussions are currently ongoing for creating NWFZs in the Middle East, South Asia, Northeast Asia, and Central Europe. These regions are unique in that they include or are next to de facto or declared nuclear weapon states, a move that signals a switch from passive to active disarmament. The existence and success of the NWFZs is widely considered to be a positive step towards the goal of a nuclear-free world.

Nuclear weapon free zones in the world

Single State

  1. Mongolia (2000): Mongolia prohibited the manufacturing, storage, transport, dumping, and testing of nuclear weapons within its territory. The government is trying to achieve international recognition for this declaration and secure negative assurances.
  2. Austria (1999): Austria forbids manufacturing, transport, storage, and testing of nuclear weapons.
  3. New Zealand: Goes beyond the South East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone requirements by refusing to allow foreign nuclear powered ships or those carrying nuclear weapons from docking. It also does not allow any foreign aircraft carrying nuclear weapons to land on its land.
  4. Philippines: On top of joining the South East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, the Philippines changed its Constitution to declare it free of nuclear weapons.


  1. Treaty of Tlatelolco—Latin American and the Caribbean: This treaty prohibits the testing, use, production, receipt, storage, installation, and deployment of nuclear weapons. 
    Opened for signatures: February 14, 1967
    Entered into force: April 25, 1969 
    States parties: Barbados, the Bahamas, Peru, Bolivia, the Republic of Dominica, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Venezuela, Uruguay, Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Guyana, Dominic, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Surinam, Cuba
  2. Treaty of Rarotonga—South Pacific: This treaty forbids providing provisions towards making a nuclear weapon, storing a nuclear weapon, allowing nuclear testing on its territory, and dumping radioactive waste into the sea. 
    Opened for Signatures: August 6, 1985
    Entered into force: December 11, 1986
    States parties: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu
  3. Treaty of Bangkok—South East Asia: This treaty forbids state-parties from manufacturing, processing, developing, and having control of nuclear weapons. It also prohibits the transportation of nuclear weapons through the Economic Exclusion Zones of treaty parties. 
    Opened for Signatures: December 15, 1995
    Entered into force: March 27 1997
    States parties: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
  4. Treaty of Pelindaba—Africa: The creation of this treaty was prompted by the nuclear tests France conducted in Algeria. The treaty states that states parties cannot conduct research on, develop, manufacture, control, stockpile, or posses any nuclear weapons. States parties may only conduct peaceful nuclear related experiments. Critics of the treaty claim that it is obsolete due to the fact that the only African country to develop nuclear weapons, South Africa, dismantled its program long before the treaty become open for signatures. Ratification for the treaty has stalled due to lack of political will and enthusiasm.
    Open for Signatures: April 11, 1996
    Entered into force: treaty has not entered into force, needs 28 countries to ratify the treaty to go into force
    States parties: none until treaty goes into force. , as of March 2008 26 countries have ratified the treaty: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, Democratic Rep. Of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sao Tome & Principe, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  5. Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty: States parties are forbidden from manufacturing, possessing, testing, and acquiring nuclear weapons. This treaty is opposed by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. The United States claimed the treaty would hurt existing UN security measures in the area. Also, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom are concerned that the treaty would prevent the transit of nuclear weapons through the region. 
    Open for Signatures: September 8, 2006 
    Entered into force: Not entered into force, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan still needs to ratify
    States parties: None, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have both ratified the treaty

International Space

    1. Antarctic Treaty: This treaty restricts the use of Antarctica to only peaceful purposes, prohibits “any nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste,” and reserves Antarctica for scientific study.
      Open for Signatures: December 1, 1959
      Entered into force: June 23, 1961
      States parties: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, the United States of America
    2. Outer Space Treaty: This treaty allows only peaceful scientific exploration that benefits all people and prohibits the building of military bases, testing of any kind of weapons, and conducting military maneuvers in outer space.
      Open for Signature: Jaunuary 27, 1967
      Entered into force: October 10, 1967
      States parties: 98 have signed and ratified, 27 have signed but have not ratified.
    3. Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor an in the Subsoil Thereof: This treaty prohibits placing nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction or structures for launching or storage on the seabed or ocean floor.
      Opened for signatures: February 11, 1971
      Entered into force: May 18, 1972
      State-parties: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Democratic Yemen, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany Democratic Republic, Germany Federal Republic, Ghana, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Luxembourg, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Zambia