Issue No. 13, February - March 1997
30th Anniversary of the Signing of the Tlatelolco Treaty:
'Latin America's Nuclear-Weapon Treaty "pillar" of global regime
says Secretary-General, in Message on Treaty's Anniversary,' United
Nations Press Release, SG/SM/6163, DC/2575, 20 February 1997
Statement by UN Secretary-General
The statement was delivered on behalf of the Secretary-General,
Kofi Annan, by the Director-General of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, Dr. Hans Blix, in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, on 14
"When the Treaty was opened for signature 30 years ago here in
Mexico City, Secretary-General U Thant declared that 'the nations
of Latin America and the Caribbean can, with ample justification,
take pride in what they have wrought by their own initiative and
through their own efforts'. I am honoured to reaffirm my
distinguished predecessor's words, and to add my own praise for
this region's concrete contribution to the fulfilment of one of the
dominant objectives of the nuclear age: a world free of nuclear
Thirty years ago, East and West were locked in the cold war, and
in an arms race involving both nuclear and conventional weapons.
The fears caused by the crisis in the Caribbean in the early 1960s
had not been forgotten. ...
From that terror emerged the resolve to denuclearize vast
regions of the world. As they had earlier loosened their colonial
ties, non-nuclear-weapon States sought and found a way to declare
their independence from the nuclear stand-off. Noting that the
principle of denuclearization had been applied successfully to the
uninhabited areas of Antarctica and outer space, they proposed that
a nuclear-weapon-free zone be created in Latin America and the
The United Nations General Assembly endorsed the idea in 1963.
Four years of intense negotiations ensued, under the determined
stewardship of the eminent Mexican diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate, Alfonso Garcia Robles. These efforts led to the landmark
treaty that prohibits the testing, use, manufacture, production or
acquisition of nuclear weapons over a vast geographic region that
is home to tens of millions of people.
The Treaty has now entered into force for nearly all Contracting
Parties, covering almost all the States of the region. The five
nuclear-weapon States have committed themselves in the Additional
Protocols to respect the non-nuclear-weapon status of the region,
and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the
And with the establishment of the compliance oversight
organization, OPANAL - the Organization for the Prohibition of
Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean - the Treaty
broke new ground, stimulating further cooperation among regional
parties. The Treaty has also created an unprecedented relationship
between a regional control organization, OPANAL, and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which jointly provide
the institutional framework for compliance and verification. The
legal commitment of the parties to IAEA safeguards agreements has
brought additional confidence and assurance that international
standards for the peaceful use of nuclear energy are being
These are all major accomplishments. Just as significantly, the
Treaty has served as a guidepost for the establishment of
nuclear-weapon-free zones in other parts of the world: the Treaty
of Rarotonga in the South Pacific; the Treaty of Bangkok in
South-east Asia; the Treaty of Pelindaba covering all of Africa.
Though each of these zones has its own regional characteristics and
concerns, their creators drew heavily from the experience and
example of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. More
than 110 United Nations Member States are party to these
agreements. With Antarctica included, they form a
nuclear-weapon-free mantle over a vast, densely populated area of
the southern hemisphere.
Efforts are under way to create additional nuclear-weapon-free
zones. Their adoption, if mutually agreed by the States of the
region and other concerned States, would be a boon to regional
security cooperation and would represent a further step in the
direction of a nuclear-free world. ...
As the cold war fades farther away, the nations of the world are
still redefining their security requirements. Deep reductions in
nuclear weapon stockpiles have been made, making the end of the
cold war a tangible reality. The elimination of nuclear weapons, a
goal shared by all humanity, is a feasible long-range objective.
The nuclear non-proliferation regime has been strengthened
considerably with the indefinite extension of the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the adoption and signature
by 140 States of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
I seize this opportunity to urge all the States signatories,
especially the nuclear-weapon States, to observe fully the spirit
of the CTBT's prohibitions during the time between now and the
Treaty's entry into force. ...
Though born of terror and raised with scepticism, the Treaty of
Tlatelolco has matured and become a stabilizing force in
international relations. Efforts to achieve a world liberated from
the threats of nuclear destruction and excessive accumulations of
conventional weapons can draw a lesson from its development and
evolution. I am convinced that through pragmatism, consensus,
confidence-building measures and the dogged perseverance and
long-term commitment which allowed the Treaty of Tlatelolco to come
into existence and flourish, we can take great strides in
fulfilling our obligation to ensure international peace and
security in all its dimensions."
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.
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