The UN General Assembly voted in Dec 2016 to begin negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban. The talks due to begin in March can be no more than symbolic because the nine known nuclear weapons states do not support the ban.
The nine are the United States, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. The first five on the list make up the permanent veto-wielding UN Security Council.
All UN member states, along with international organizations and members of civil society, will be invited to participate. Follow-up talks will be held Jun 13 to Jul 7, and could continue beyond those dates.
The plan is to negotiate a "legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination." The treaty will fill the legal gap by which the most destructive of all weapons - nuclear weapons - are the only weapon of mass destruction not outlawed by international treaty," according to the resolution supporters.
According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, critics of the negotiations say that the ban cannot succeed without the participation of the states that actually possess nuclear weapons. Proponents argue that the ban will create moral suasion - in the vein of the cluster and landmine conventions - for nuclear weapons states to disarm. It would establish an international norm prohibiting nuclear weapons' development, possession and use, they say.
In the vote in the UN disarmament and international security committee in Oct 2016, 123 nations were in favour of the resolution, 38 opposed and 16 abstained.
Date written/update: 2017-02-11