Forty-five years ago, the world's first nuclear-weapons-free-zone in a populated area was established when Latin American and Caribbean nations approved the text of the Treaty of Tlatelolco in Mexico City and opened the Treaty for signature. All 33 nations in the region have since ratified the Treaty and implemented safeguards agreements with the IAEA to demonstrate their compliance with the Treaty.
Four more nuclear-weapons-free-zones have since been established. They cover two-thirds of the world, 133 countries and almost the entire southern hemisphere.
"This is a significant achievement, and it started here - in Mexico, 45 years ago," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at an anniversary commemoration on 14 February 2012 in Mexico City. "In establishing and implementing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in Latin America and the Caribbean, the countries concerned demonstrated the importance of dialogue and persistence. Their success was such that Tlatelolco provided the inspiration for four similar treaties in Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific."
The commemorative event was held at the Alfonso García Robles Auditorium of the Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco, a site named after the Mexican diplomat who shared the 1982 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in creating the nuclear-weapons-free-zone.
The IAEA hosted a Forum in Vienna, Austria in 2011 to discuss how the experience of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones could be relevant to the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East.
"I have long been convinced that nuclear-weapons-free-zones are a highly relevant and effective means of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament," Director General Amano said. "The IAEA will continue to do everything in its power to assist with the establishment of new nuclear-weapons-free-zones, in the Middle East and elsewhere."
The five countries that are recognized as nuclear-weapon States under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - have also signed and ratified a protocol to the Treaty of Tlatelolco pledging to respect the nuclear-weapons-free-zone in Latin America and the Caribbean and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the countries that are part of the zone.
The Anniversary commemoration also included the High Representative of the United Nations for Disarmament Affairs, Ambassador Sergio Duarte, who delivered remarks by the Secretary General of the United Nations; the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Mr. Tibor Toth; the President Pro Tempore of the Council of OPANAL, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, Dr. Enrique Castillo; the OPANAL Secretary General, Ambassador Gioconda Ubeda; and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Ambassador Patricia Espinosa Cantellano.