1st Edition

The Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons How it was Achieved and Why it Matters

By Alexander Kmentt Copyright 2021
    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book chronicles the genesis of the negotiations that led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which challenged the established nuclear order.

    The work provides readers with an authoritative account of the complex evolution of the ‘Humanitarian Initiative’ (HI) and the negotiation history of the TPNW. It includes a close analysis of internal strategy documents and communications in the author’s possession which trace the tactical and political decisions of a small group of state actors. By demonstrating the unacceptable humanitarian consequences and uncontrollable risks that these weapons pose to everyone’s security, the HI convinced many states to ban nuclear weapons and reject the policy of nuclear deterrence as unsustainable and illegitimate. As such, this book is a case-study of multilateral diplomacy and cooperation between state and civil society actors. It also contains a full discussion of both sides of the nuclear argument and assesses the extent to which the HI and the TPNW have moved the dial and present opportunities for transformational change.

    This book will be of much interest to students of nuclear disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, diplomacy, global governance, and International Relations in general.


    Part I: The Humanitarian Initiative 2010-2017: Building Momentum

    1. The origins of the Humanitarian Initiative

    2. The Game needs to change

    3. 2015: The Momentum Gathers

    Part II:The Ban Treaty is Coming

    4. 2016: Achieving a negotiation mandate

    5. 2017: Negotiating the TPNW

    Part III: The Contest of Arguments

    6. Human Security, empowerment and challenging the nuclear status quo

    7. Countering the Humanitarian Initiative and the Ban

    Part IV: PNW Impact and Outlook

    8. What does the TPNW represent and what is its impact

    Post Scriptum: Some final thoughts on constructive engagement and bridge building

    Annex I. Austrian Pledge

    Annex II. Text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons


    Alexander Kmentt is Director for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. From 2016-19 he served as Austria’s Permanent Representative to the Political and Security Committee of the European Union. He is one of the architects of the Humanitarian Initiative that lead to the TPNW.

    ‘This is an authoritative record of the negotiations and diplomacy behind the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty which aims to prohibit the deadliest weapons invented by humankind. Ambassador Alexander Kmentt was at the forefront of the efforts, started over ten years go, to raise awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of these weapons. He provides an insightful account of how a small group of countries, supported by civil society, overcame the opposition by major nuclear weapon states to the Ban Treaty and eventually triumphed in establishing what should become a jus cogens rule creating an erga omnes obligation for all States. With the danger of nuclear weapons higher today than any time since the Cuban missile crisis, this book is an essential read for the younger generation – the future leaders – as to how we can, equipped with moral conviction, reset the existing global status quo and work towards a safer and more humane world. The book is also a must read for policy makers and diplomats as we seek to sheath the nuclear sword of Damocles.’-- Mohamed ElBaradei, Former Vice-President of Egypt, 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

    The ultimate insider account of the development of the Humanitarian Initiative and the 2017 negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, meticulously researched and footnoted. Of particular value is the detailed discussion of the arguments for and against the Treaty.  An indispensable guide for diplomatic practitioners and students alike.’-- Angela Kane, former United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

    ‘For about a decade, Alexander Kmentt has gained a global reputation as a champion and exponent of the art of dialogue as diplomacy. In this excellent book, he invites the reader to join him on a personal journey of learning how best to deploy the realisation that the humanitarian consequences and risks associated with nuclear weapons, which are far more serious than previously assumed, compel the argument for a world without nuclear weapons. His chronical of this period in nuclear arms policy and the lesson of how best to deploy that learning merits attention and it should give policy-makers food for thought as they set about building back better in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The manifestation of one high-impact, low-probability risk, should compel them to do everything they can to avoid another manifestation, this time from the consequences of the use, whether by design or by accident, of nuclear weapons.’--Desmond Browne, Rt. Honorable Lord Browne of Ladyton, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom

    'Ambassador Alexander Kmentt’s invaluable book offers a first-hand account of the courageous work of governments and civil society that resulted in the 2017 Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons. The world has lived under the threat of nuclear oblivion for too long, but now the Treaty offers us a way forward.  Kmentt’s book offers insight and analysis of how change is possible. Based on his years working on humanitarian disarmament, he provides a convincing rationale for the transformative potential of the Treaty and the human security arguments on which it is based.'-- Jody Williams, Founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1997

    As the most significant leap in nuclear disarmament in fifty years and a rare case-study of successful state-civil society partnership in multilateral diplomacy, the Nuclear Ban Treaty challenged the established NPT-centric nuclear order. Written by one of the architects of the transformational normative reframing, this book is an authoritative insider account of the genesis and negotiation history of the Treaty and the Humanitarian Initiative behind it.'-- Ramesh Thakur, Australian National University and member of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network Board of Directors. Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General

    ‘Alexander Kmentt has produced an eloquent account of the origins and implications of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It combines an unusual familiarity with nuclear diplomacy based on the author’s first-hand experience and a deep appreciation of the relevant scholarly literature. In addition to providing a thoroughly documented analysis of the genesis of the treaty and its impact on the nonproliferation regime, Kmentt offers keen insights about what must be done to foster a more productive discussion between the defenders of nuclear deterrence and the proponents of nuclear disarmament.’ -- William C. Potter, Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA

    ‘Alex Kmentt’s first-hand, practitioner’s account of the years-long campaign that produced the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the grave threats posed by nuclear weapons and how the "Nuclear Ban Treaty" has reframed to global debate about how to mitigate and, ultimately, eliminate the nuclear threat. In The Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons, Kmentt dispels some common myths about the origins and purpose behind the "humanitarian initiative" and he expertly details the rationale behind the effort by Austria and other key players to challenge the dangerous assumptions behind nuclear weapon states’ nuclear deterrence doctrine.’-- Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

    '..as one of the leaders of the core group of states that shaped the initiative and eventually coordinated the treaty negotiations, [Kmentt's] clear-eyed perspective on how states themselves gradually came together around a process to transform the international discourse about nuclear weapons and to establish a new pathway towards nuclear disarmament is indispensable.'--John Loretz, Medicine, Conflict and Survival 

    'Kmentt ... repeatedly returns to the concept of human security, a people-centric form of security in which individual needs are met and communities remain secure. The chapter in which Kmentt provides detailed refutations of common criticisms of the TPNW should not be missed.'--Rebecca Davis Gibbons, Arms Control Today