On Friday 22nd January 2021, the world’s first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons entered into force. Beatrice Fihn, a Swedish lawyer and the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW) said it was “a really big day for international law, for the United Nations and for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

The treaty, called the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) – also the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty – was adopted in July 2017 and opened for signatures in September of that year. For its signatories, the TPNW prohibits several things, including the development, testing, stockpiling, and production of nuclear weapons. The ultimate aim of the TPNW is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

However, a major stumbling block to the achievement of this objective is the attitude of those countries who are currently known to possess nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel – who oppose the treaty. It is also a fact that Japan – the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, in 1945 – does not support the TPNW, either. Unsurprisingly, the United States is heavily opposed to the treaty. However, to date, 61 countries have ratified the TPNW.

Ms Fihn, of the ICANW, however, said that the entry into force of the treaty was “really, really significant”, arguing that it will be a key legal instrument, together with the Geneva Conventions, on conduct towards civilians and soldiers during war.


Choose the best meaning, from the two options given, (a) or (b)

1. What does ‘to ban’ mean?

(a) to reduce something

(b) to officially forbid something

2. What does ‘stockpiling’ mean?

(a) to have a large amount of something for future use

(b) to have something delivered

3. What is a ‘stumbling block’?

(a) something that prevents agreement on something

(b) something which makes agreement more possible

4. What does ‘ratified’ mean?

(a) approved, confirmed, and made official

(b) opposed or disagreed with

5. What does ‘instrument’ mean, in the context of the text?

(a) a proposal

(b) a formal and official document


1. (b)

2. (a)

3. (a)

4. (a)

5. (b)

© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2021

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