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Tlatelolco Treaty A Trailblazer for Non-Proliferation

Ana Maria Cetto

Ms. Ana Maria Cetto is in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City to mark the anniversary. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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Four decades ago today, Latin America and Caribbean nations drafted a treaty to keep their region free of nuclear weapons. Known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco it opened for signature on 14 February 1967 and has been signed and ratified by all 33 nations in the region. It was the first time such a ban was imposed in a densely populated area.

In a statement to mark the occasion, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said: "The Treaty set an important precedent in devaluing the role of nuclear weapons in its zone of application - thereby contributing to regional peace and security by ensuring that Latin America and the Caribbean remained free from nuclear weapons."

The Treaty was drafted five years after the Cuban missiles crisis. It was widely seen as a trailblazer for nuclear non-proliferation, with the global Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) opening for signature a year later, in 1968. Four more nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) followed, with the Pelindaba Treaty in Africa, the Rarotonga Treaty in the South Pacific, the Bangkok Treaty in Southeast Asia and the Treaty of Semipalatinsk in Central Asia in 2006.

"Today these five NWFZ cover between them nearly two-thirds of the countries of the world and virtually the entirety of the southern hemisphere. In effect, NWFZ constitute important first steps to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world," Dr. ElBaradei said.

Under the Tlatelolco Treaty, the State Parties agree to prohibit and prevent the "testing, use, manufacture, production or acquisition by any means whatsoever of any nuclear weapons" and the "receipt, storage, installation, deployment and any form of possession of any nuclear weapons."

Compliance with the Treaty obligations is overseen by the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), based in Mexico City. Each Party must also conclude safeguards agreements with the IAEA.

"As the first such Treaty making full-scope IAEA safeguards a requirement for all its Parties, the Treaty of Tlatelolco has played an important role in the evolution and strengthening of the IAEA´s safeguards system," the Director General said.

IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of Technical Cooperation, Ms. Ana Maria Cetto, is in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City. She will tell a commemorative ceremony that the IAEA´s work in the region is helping "to foster the role of nuclear science and technology in support of sustainable development." Through the Agency´s technical cooperation arm, it was helping Latin American and Caribbean countries to tackle pressing challenges such as hunger, disease, the management of natural resources, pollution, the production of energy and climate change.

The world´s NPT nuclear weapons States -- the USA, UK, France, China and Russia -- have also signed and ratified a protocol to the Treaty to refrain from undermining in any way the nuclear-free status of the region.