Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

Efforts by the international community to prevent the wider dissemination of nuclear weapons

“The NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] is an essential pillar of international peace and security, and the heart of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Its unique status is based on its near universal membership, legally-binding obligations on disarmament, verifiable non-proliferation safeguards regime, and commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.” (António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General)

Besides chemical, biological and radiological weapons, nuclear weapons constitute one of the categories of weapons of mass destruction. They are the most destructive and dangerous weapons on earth. Because of the threat posed by not only the use but also the very existence of such weapons, a broad range of initiatives, multilateral treaties and other normative instruments have been established to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and prevent their proliferation with the ultimate goal of leading to their total elimination. Some of these include the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), various agreements establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, and most recently the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Despite such international efforts, as of 2023, it is estimated that the number of nuclear weapons held in stockpiles around the world remains at around 13,000.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which  opened for signature on 1 July 1968 and entered into force on 5 March 1970, embodies the international community’s efforts to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, and to cooperate in achieving a world free of these weapons. It also facilitates States’ pursuit of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), established an extensive verification regime to ensure that non-nuclear-weapon States are in compliance with their obligations not to develop or obtain nuclear weapons. A landmark treaty of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, the NPT currently counts 191 States Parties and 93 signatory States, making it one of the world’s most widely adhered-to treaties.

According to the provisions of the Treaty, a review of its operation should be conducted every five years, as concluded at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. The next Review Conference in 2026 will be preceded by three planned sessions convened by the Preparatory Committee. The first of these sessions is scheduled from 31 July to 11 August 2023 in Vienna, in which States Parties to the Treaty will address substantive and procedural issues related to the Treaty and the forthcoming Review Conference.

This short course provides an introduction to the disarmament machinery and provides an overview of the purpose, provisions and status of the NPT. It also presents the work of two international organizations with a key role in the Treaty’s implementation: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with its safeguards mechanism and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) that undertakes secretariat support to the NPT review process.


Course level: Introductory
Methodology: Online Self-paced Course
Registration: Public Self-enrolment

Objectives and Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

• Understand the significance of the international non-proliferation regime and its efforts to strictly control and contain the spread of nuclear weapons with a particular focus on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT);
• Explain the scope and objectives of the NPT, the purpose of the review process and past conferences, and its overall status including perennial and new challenges;
• Describe the role of the United Nations and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in the area of nuclear non-proliferation, herein its collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
• Comprehend the significant verification and safeguard mechanisms conducted by the IAEA on a technical and legal basis and put it into perspective of the NPT’s aim at preserving and enhancing the international non-proliferation agenda.

List of themes covered:
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

All participants successfully completing the training course will receive an official Certificate of Completion

Target Audience:

The course is available in English and is held in the Disarmament Education Dashboard, thus participants need a computer or mobile device, with audio and reliable internet connection. No special software is required.



Expected time commitment

Course schedule: July 31, 2023
Length of a session: 2 – 4 Hours
Number of sessions: 1
Number of modules: 5