Non-proliferation treaty

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Non-proliferation treaty is one of the international treaties whose aim is to prevention of spread of nuclear weapons and the technology behind making them with the aim of promoting cooperation and peaceful use of nuclear energy (“Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – UNODA”, n.d.). This aims at achieving the goal of ensuring that there is nuclear disarmament through commitment by different states. In 1968, the treaty was opened for signature and was enforced in 1970 (Bunn, n.d.). It was later extended indefinitely in 1995. The Treaty bans all the State from being of nuclear weapons excluding the UK, France, China, US and Russia. The five states are responsible for enforcing the laws of the Treaty. Currently, the treaty covers 191 states that include the five nuclear weapon states. In order to further its non-proliferation goal and building confidence, the Treaty established a system that is safeguarded under international Atomic energy Agency (“Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – UNODA”, n.d.). The agency ensures compliance by the member states through conducting inspections. The Treaty also aims at promoting cooperation of peaceful nuclear technology through equal access of the technology by all the parties as well as safeguarding and prevention of fissile material division that are meant for weapon use (Bunn, n.d.). The Treaty provides foundation and the norms that are useful in prevention of spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world.


It is quite evident that the future of the Treaty gets uncertain every year. This has led to some States withdrawing from it. North Korea marked history as the first State to withdraw from it. In addition to such withdrawals, some countries that that are outside the NPT are destroying its policies by owning nuclear weapons. For instance, India, Israel and Pakistan are integrating to the community of legitimate nuclear power owners thus damaging the effects of the treaty (“Facing the Failures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Regime”, n.d.).

Even after the legal acceptance of the NPT, the treaty faced a few constraints in some areas. One of the major blows Iraq’s ability to hide its efforts in making the nuclear weapons from IAEA inspectors just before the beginning of Gulf war. After the war, UN Security Council declarations were adopted, the inspectors found out that Iraq had hidden Uranium in order to make nuclear weapons. After the findings, efforts for strengthening IAEA which is the NPT authority for inspection were made through coming up with more protocols. The model was negotiated in 1997, the parties involved did not come to an agreement, and the case for changing the earlier IAEA standard has been ongoing. The parties are now required to negotiate the safeguard agreements and currently, only 81 out of 187 have made negotiations to revise the IAEA safeguard models and only 31 States have given approval  (“Facing the Failures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Regime”, n.d.). The US is among the countries that have not adopted the legislation for implementation of the new safe guards. Some of the non-nuclear States are holding back since they do not see the need for taking more non-proliferation obligations while US which is among the important Nuclear countries has not given its approval.

The treaty has also faced failure due to undermining of security assurances (Kmentt, 2015). The US is seen to encourage the use of its policy on overwhelming force against biological and chemical attacks. The policy was restated during the recent efforts for combating use of mass destruction weapons that was issued in 2002, December. The US makes it clear that it will continue to use the weapons of mass destruction as one of the ways to respond to attacks against the State and it friends abroad. Such policies demoralize the security assurances that were promised by the United States in 1978. Although the US is among the five the countries that have the right for using nuclear weapons to respond to biological and chemical attacks, emphasis on using them after the first strike dishonors the goals of NPT (“Facing the Failures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Regime”, n.d.). This may also lead to other countries to believe that they are also entitled to use of nuclear weapons for protection.


While there have been concerns that the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) may enhance mistrust and tensions between the first five countries to develop and test nuclear technologies, the nuclear weapon states (NWS), thereby inhibiting their cooperation, the NPT has indeed enhanced the ties between these states as demonstrated during the NPT Review Conference in 2015. According to Sauer (2015), the NWS identify and consider themselves as members of a special club in spite of their unique strategic dissimilarities. This identity extends to the non-proliferation treaty, whereby the NWS consider themselves as the primary stakeholders in the stewardship of the treaty. Accordingly, irrespective of their lack of ability to realize the milestones of the 2010 Action Plan that maps the road towards nuclear disarmament, the nuclear states have made progress towards drafting an initial nuclear weapons glossary that would help to enhance the NPT (Bolton & Minor, 2016).

Another of the most apparent successes of the NPT has been its restricting effect on the continued spread of nuclear weapons to other states (van der Kwast, 2015). Over and above its moral and normative force, the NPT has helped in enforcing non-proliferation compliance, which has included military intervention in certain instances. Some of the nuclear weapons states, including the United States, United Kingdom, and France, have developed string interests in upholding the priorities of the treaty. The treaty has helped in controlling the acquisition of nuclear technology through tight safeguards that prevents the technology’s use for hostile purposes. According to Kmentt (2015), the rate of proliferation has declined as fewer countries seek to acquire nuclear weapons. Further over 75% of the NWS have chosen to surrender their nuclear arsenal, partly due to the connotation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Being one of the parties that enforce the NPT, the IAEA monitors countries’ compliance with the pact. Clempson (2011) notes that the NPT has allowed countries to surrender their nuclear weapons, including South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, which gave up their nuclear weapons partly due to their desire to gain the favor of the new, global, hegemonic authority, the United States.

In conclusion, the Non-proliferation Treaty is one of the international treaties that were signed with the aim of preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons and the technology behind making them with the aim of promoting cooperation and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The treaty has achieved success and failures over the years as discussed above. The most important thing is to strengthen it to ensure that the existing weaknesses are fixed. This will ensure that today’s challenges in dealing with nuclear weaponry are addressed effectively.

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  1. Bolton, M., & Minor, E. (2016). The humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons: an introduction to global policy’s special section. Global Policy7(3), 380-384.
  2. Bunn, G. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: History and Current Problems | Arms Control Association.
  3. Clempson, R. (2011). How successful has the NPT regime been in curbing nuclear proliferation? E-International Relations.
  4. Facing the Failures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Regime. Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
  5. Kmentt, A. (2015). The development of the international initiative on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and its effect on the nuclear weapons debate. International Review of the Red Cross97(899), 681-709.
  6. Minor, E. (2015). Changing the discourse on nuclear weapons: The humanitarian initiative. International Review of the Red Cross97(899), 711-730.
  7. Sauer, T. (2015). The NPT and the humanitarian initiative: Towards and beyond the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Hamburg.
  8. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – UNODA.
  9. Van der Kwast, H. C. (2015). The NPT: Looking back and looking ahead. Arms Control Today45(6), 11-14.
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