Half a century ago, nuclear technologies were spreading and doomsday predictions abounded as countries raced to develop nuclear weapons.

In response, the international community developed a framework for cooperation that averted disaster. Now in its 46th year, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a vital element of global security.

“It is often said that the NPT is an essential foundation for efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons,” Ambassador Adam Scheinman, the president’s special representative for nonproliferation, said. “This is more than a slogan; it’s the basis for our shared security.”

The NPT rests on three interrelated pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Articles I, II and III of the treaty specifically address nonproliferation. They seek to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons.

They require states without nuclear weapons to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards to verify that nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes.

The NPT also paves the way for groups of countries to conclude treaties banning nuclear arms on their territories. Agreements establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones now exist in Latin America, Africa, the South Pacific and Central Asia.

“No one nation can realize this vision alone. It must be the work of the world.” — President Obama

Seven years ago in Prague, President Obama committed the U.S. to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and to seeking a world without them. “As the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, the United States has a moral obligation to continue to lead the way in eliminating them,” he wrote recently in the Washington Post.

On March 31 and April 1, he welcomed world leaders to the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington to discuss ways to advance shared nonproliferation goals and combat nuclear trafficking.