On January 22, a victory for humanity was achieved when the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons came into force. This treaty, which was approved by the Senate and entered into force on October 10, 1963, prohibits nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. The treaty was a result of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and other conferences that included the participation of a large majority of states, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and hundreds of representatives of non-governmental organizations. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is the first legally binding international agreement that comprehensively bans nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of eliminating them completely.
This initiative was created to raise awareness and understanding of the humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons. The TPNW requires verification of elimination by an unspecified competent international authority and a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide credible assurance that no nuclear material has been diverted or undeclared nuclear material or activities exist. It also obliges states parties to provide adequate assistance to persons affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons and take necessary and appropriate environmental sanitation measures in areas contaminated as a result of activities related to nuclear weapons. For the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to enter into force, it must be ratified by all nuclear powers and 44 members of the Conference on Disarmament who own nuclear reactors.
Negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of their nuclear weapons program are required for nuclear-weapon states joining the treaty. South Africa has long supported nuclear disarmament, being the first country in the world to voluntarily dissolve its nuclear weapons program in the early 1990s. This strong support for nuclear disarmament by South Africa will be even more crucial as the Treaty enters into force and becomes binding international law. In 1977, negotiations began on a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which would extend the ban to underground tests. The previous year, the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union had agreed on a treaty banning peaceful nuclear explosions for civil engineering projects.