Pope denounces deterrence and calls for prohibition of nuclear weapons

In a historic speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Pope Francis called for the “complete prohibition” of nuclear weapons, and condemned the doctrine of deterrence as “an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations”. He encouraged the international community to work to fulfil both the letter and the spirit of the Non Proliferation Treaty, which demands complete disarmament.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) welcomed Pope Francis’ call and believes that the moral and humanitarian arguments underpinning his speech should inspire governments to start negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear weapons are immoral, unethical and unacceptable weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN. “Governments should respond to the call of the Pope and start negotiating a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

In recent years, support for negotiating a new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons has grown. At present, 117 states have joined the so-called Humanitarian Pledge, which commits the signatories to work for the “prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.

At the upcoming UN General Assembly session, these states have an opportunity to start negotiations for a universal prohibition of nuclear weapons, putting them on the same legal footing of other weapons of mass destruction.


Excerpt from speech

“The preamble and the first article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons.

“An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as ‘nations united by fear and distrust’. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

Read the full speech here →