The “Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” was adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in July 2017 by 122 votes. It entered into force with 85 signatories and 50 ratifications on January 22, 2021. It is the latest effort to mobilize international law not only to arrest nuclear weapons proliferation but to reverse that process and denuclearize the international political arena. As in many of the other efforts over the years, the nuclear weapons states are notably absent from this initiative.
With the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in living memory, the UN General Assembly in 1954 called for a convention on nuclear disarmament but the initiative failed to gain traction. By the early 1960s, however, the international strategic and political landscape had changed in three fundamental ways:
1. First, the process of decolonization had accelerated and, as a result, many former colonies were independent and gradually coalescing into a majority in the UN General Assembly.