As long as states have nuclear weapons as part of their military and political strategy, there will be others who want to follow suit and acquire their own. Although several experts says that disarmament is necessary and the primary way to slow the spread of nuclear weapons.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres launched Securing our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament in 2018 where he calls for “a fresh perspective and a renewed cooperation. Four pillars was identified, the first one says “Disarmament that saves humanity by endeavoring for a world free of nuclear weapons, strengthening norms against other weapons of mass destruction, and preventing the emergence of new domains of strategic competition and conflict.”
Nuclear weapons are regulated in a number of ways through a number of different agreements. In the international system, agreements cannot prevent any state from violating them. However, agreements contribute to and strengthen international norms, and breaking agreements states generally want to avoid.
For the regulation of nuclear weapons, there are bilateral disarmament agreements, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), two test-limit agreements, nuclear-weapon-free zones, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the nuclear weapons states’ own nuclear doctrines.
The international disarmament debate has been transformed by the so-called humanitarian initiative. The initiative means that states focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, instead of on military issues and technicalities. Humanitarian consequences mean effects on health, society and the environment.
The humanitarian initiative led to an agreement banning nuclear weapons being negotiated at the United Nations in 2017. The UN Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021. Legally binding agreements banning specific types of weapons, such as chemical weapons and cluster weapons, increase the norm against using the weapon. When states and the arms industry can no longer trade in a certain type of weapon, the supply decreases significantly.