The initial years of the new millennium have seen little substantive progress in nuclear arms control and indeed many setbacks. Recent challenges for nuclear non-proliferation include: the non-entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); the 1998 India and Pakistan nuclear weapon tests; the withdrawal of North Korea from the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT); the ambiguous status of Iran's nuclear energy development programme; and past Iraqi NPT violations under Saddam Hussein. These have all served to raise the spectre of a potential rollback, or even collapse, of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. Further, there is also the risk of NPT holdout states assisting other countries to go nuclear, as, for example, evinced by the recent disclosures and admissions that the head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons establishment covertly provided nuclear weapons assistance to Libya, North Korea and Iran.

Despite these discouraging developments, however, there is still considerable need, and potential, for progress to be made in nuclear arms control at a regional level, namely through of the consolidation and expansion of nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs). The strategy of establishing regional NWFZs is generally seen as both a non-proliferation and security-enhancing measure for the regions themselves, and as a partial step towards the eventual global elimination of nuclear weapons. NWFZ treaties, normally include denuclearization provisions binding on the regional states, verification and compliance mechanisms, and additional protocols binding nuclear-weapon states to give negative security guarantees not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against zone members. NWFZs have made gradual but substantive progress since 1967 when the Latin American Tlatelolco Treaty established the first zone in a populated region. Currently some 107 countries and the larger part of the globe are part of regional NWFZs while NWFZs for such conflict-prone areas such as the Middle East, South Asia, Northeast Asia and Central and Eastern Europe are in various stages of consideration.

Citation: Michael Hamel-Green (2005). "Regional Initiatives on Nuclear and WMD-Free Zones: Cooperative Approaches to Arms Control and Non-Proliferation", UNIDIR, Geneva.