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International Organizations


International organizations are a cornerstone of the international nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime . In the aftermath of World War II and during the Cold War, multilateral

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initiatives to counter the spread of nuclear weapons and slow down the nuclear arms race increased in significance, despite changing security environments. The United Nations (UN) and its various bodies and agencies are at the forefront of international nonproliferation and security activities. These activities cover a wide range of security issues and decision-making processes.


Established in 1945, the United Nations (UN), with 191 member states, is the largest international organization dealing with a wide range of international security topics.

The principal UN organs that address nonproliferation and disarmament issues are the General Assembly (First Committee), the Security Council, and the Department of Disarmament Affairs (DDA).

Under Article 11 of the UN Charter, the function of the General Assembly is to consider and discuss “the general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security .” The General Assembly can make recommendations to Member States and the Security Council, and it can “call the attention of the Security Council to situations which are likely to endanger international peace and security .”

The Disarmament and International Security Committee (First Committee), a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, recommends resolutions and decisions for adoption by the General Assembly . Issues discussed in the First Committee range from nuclear weapons and testing to nuclear weapon-free zones and confidence building measures regarding disarmament .

The Security Council consists of five permanent members ( China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) and 10 non-permanent members . Article 26 of the UN Charter stipulates the following functions of the Security Council: “In order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources, the Security Council shall be responsible for formulating, with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee referred to in Article 47, plans to be submitted to the Members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments .” The Military Staff Committee advises and assists the Security Council in maintaining international peace and security .

The Department on Disarmament Affairs ( DDA) provides substantive and organizational support to UN Member States for disarmament norm-setting through the work of the General Assembly and the First Committee, and other bodies . The DDA’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch supports multilateral efforts to strengthen the international norm on disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and cooperates with other UN agencies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) .


The Conference on Disarmament (CD), established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, was a result of the first Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly held in 1978 .

The CD has a special relationship with the United Nations but remains an autonomous institution; it adopts its own Rules of Procedure and its own agenda, taking into account the recommendations of the General Assembly .

The terms of reference of the CD include practically all multilateral arms control and disarmament problems . The CD focuses on issues such as the cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war and of an arms race in outer space; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons including radiological weapons .

The CD and its predecessors have negotiated such major multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). In March 1995, the CD adopted a mandate to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. However, negotiations on the Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) have been stalled for years.


The International Atomic Energy Agency, established in 1957, assists in the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes . This work involves establishing and verifying safeguards agreements as required by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Upon completion of a safeguards agreement with a NPT member states, the IAEA is authorized to conduct inspections of the country’s declared nuclear sites and facilities .

The IAEA’s Board of Governors, which is comprised of 35 members, approves safeguards procedures and supervises their implementation . If a state is found in non-compliance with its safeguards agreements, the Board of Governors is to call on the state to provide more information and may refer it to the UN Security Council for further action .

The IAEA conducts its activities in conformity with the principles and policies of the United Nations to provide for peace and security through safeguards .


The Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was established by signatory member states in 1996 . The Preparatory Commission carries out preparations for the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The CTBT was opened for signature in 1996, but has not yet entered into force . The CTBT prohibits any kind of nuclear weapon testing . The Preparatory Commission is responsible for establishing the International Monitoring System, a global verification system that monitors the earth for evidence of nuclear explosions.