Just a quick
reminder to followers of this website that its usual contributors are
currently contributing to another site 'Effective Measures', in joint cooperation with
posting on the UNIDIR/ILPI website comments
on recent efforts to get negotiations underway in the Conference on Disarmament
The posting also
offers a suggestion for an approach that would use the CD's rule requiring a
programme of work in the manner originally intended by the Rules of Procedure (rule 28).
And the posting
explains briefly the shortcomings of the ambitious, multi-mandated approaches
of recent years.
By the way, the
UNIDIR/ILPI website contains a glossary of terms in common usage on matters
relevant to nuclear disarmament and to the 'effective measures' which parties
to the NPT are required by that treaty to negotiate. (Hence the title of
Tim Caughley Resident Senior Fellow UNIDIR (Photograph: poster displayed in a temporary exhibition on nuclear disarmament in the Palais des Nations, Geneva)
While this is the first posting on this
site for several months, readers should be aware of postings on an additional
site.The new site stems from collaboration
between UNIDIR and ILPI, the International Law and Policy Institute of Norway.
The joint UNIDIR/ILPI site - http://unidir.ilpi.org/ - is entitled
‘Effective Measures’.This is a
reference to the legally binding commitment under article VI of the NuclearNon-proliferation Treaty (NPT) that obliges all NPT parties to ‘pursue
negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the
nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament …’.
The new site, thus, concentrates on nuclear
disarmament.Its principal objective is
to offer analysis and thoughts on the development of the humanitarian
initiative on nuclear weapons.
To date there have been 5 postings on the
UNIDIR/ILPI site. They can be accessed as follows:
As mentioned in a previous
posting, UNIDIR has just published its latest study on the humanitarian impact
of nuclear weapons. “An Illusion of
Safety: Challenges of nuclear weapons detonations for United Nations
humanitarian coordination and response” is now available on the Institute's website.
The study’s main findings are
current level of awareness within the humanitarian system is generally low
about the specificities of nuclear weapon detonation events or its ability to
respond to them.
the UN to offer or be called on to coordinate humanitarian
assistance suggests an event is already beyond the capacity of the state or
states affected to respond effectively to assist the victims. Moreover, as a
rule it would depend upon an affected state requesting it, or on the existence of appropriate
international decision-making if the government of that state had been incapacitated by the event.
UN is unlikely to be able to offer much humanitarian assistance in
the immediate aftermath of a nuclear weapon detonation, and it would take time
for the humanitarian system to deploy.
present there are a number of foreseeable challenges to the prompt and effective
use of the humanitarian cluster system in the event of a nuclear weapon
or fear of further nuclear weapon detonation events could vastly complicate
decision-making about the nature and scale of humanitarian coordination and
response, let alone its delivery.
is the best approach to the possibility of nuclear weapon detonation events. Those humanitarian actors in a position to do so,
such as the UN, should plan for the likely challenges of “lower end”
nuclear weapon detonations even if such a response is palliative. Such
planning would, in reality, also reinforce the need for action to reduce the
risk of nuclear detonations happening in the first place.
The study suggests that the
humanitarian system consider the following:
and simulating varied nuclear weapon detonation scenarios with a view to
humanitarian response preparedness;
representative nuclear detonation scenarios in future revisions of humanitarian
procedures for large, complex, sudden-onset disasters; and
current capacities and plans.
For their part, states and the UN Secretary-General could consider:
relevant humanitarian agencies and specialized agencies such as the IAEA, WHO,
and CTBTO to clarify their mandates, policies, roles, and capabilities with a
view to responding to nuclear weapon detonations;
for how inter-state decision-making processes could impinge on timely
activation of humanitarian coordination and response efforts in the event of
nuclear detonation; and
how eliminating the risk of nuclear weapon use can be better pursued through
practical measures. While nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their detonation
does too, whether caused deliberately or inadvertently.
Humanitarianism marks the
broader mission of the United Nations, and since its inception the Organization has taken a
strong stand in favour of nuclear disarmament. The initiation of specific
planning for how to respond to a nuclear weapon detonation would appear to be
logical and consistent with both these aims. The development of necessary
understandings about decision-making and a protocol for planning can be based
on existing humanitarian coordination practices and need not require sizeable resources. The rapid mounting of a well-coordinated response will have an
impact in reducing the level of human suffering, even if it may not assist
those directly affected in the immediate aftermath.
UNIDIR has this week published
its latest study on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.“An Illusion of Safety: Challenges of nuclear
weapons detonations for United Nations humanitarian coordination and response”
is now available on the Institute's website.
The new study examines one of
the conclusions of an international conference on the humanitarian impacts of
nuclear weapon detonations held in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013 that it is "unlikely that any state or international body could address the immediate
humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in an adequate
manner and provide sufficient assistance to those affected. Moreover, it might
not be possible to establish such capacities, even if it were attempted.”
UNIDIR’s study was carried out in cooperation with UNDP and
OCHA and includes a foreword by Helen Clark and Valerie Amos, the heads of those two UN agencies respectively. The study describes the
current humanitarian system, and considers challenges for its activation and
operation in the face of a range of plausible, illustrative nuclear weapon
As a scoping exercise the
study identifies specific issues that warrant further policy and operational
attention in order to enhance civilian protection from nuclear weapons. It
suggests steps the humanitarian system could take to better plan for such
eventualities, and it reinforces the importance of preventing nuclear weapons from
ever being used again in populated areas—whether deliberately or accidentally.
Even if the probability of a
nuclear weapon detonation event is viewed as low compared with other
sudden-onset disasters, it remains a real one. There are as many as 17,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of nine states, and growing evidence of accidents, mishaps, and near misses since their invention. The prospect of use of single or
multiple nuclear weapons by a state, whether deliberately or inadvertently, cannot
be excluded. A single nuclear detonation in an urban area by a non-state armed
group is another possibility.
Nuclear weapon detonations could occur in populated or remote areas, with differing implications in
terms of harm to human life, infrastructure, and the environment. The
consequences of even one nuclear weapon detonated in or near a population centre
would be sufficiently disastrous that the United Nations-coordinated
humanitarian system could be called upon to assist the victims.
UNIDIR’s study indicates that
this would pose a number of serious practical and policy challenges for the
humanitarian system. Problems range from the particular characteristics of
nuclear detonations such as prompt radiation and radioactive fallout to large
numbers of injured people with multiple trauma, serious burn injuries, and
radiation-related illness, to widespread fear and disruption, and a low current
level of awareness and planning for response. There are inadequate specific
procedures and systems appropriate to nuclear weapon detonations compared to
preparedness for civil nuclear accidents - from which such detonations differ
in significant ways. Protection of humanitarian personnel is highlighted as a
particular issue of concern.
In drawing attention attention to the immense challenges of preparedness and response to nuclear weapon detonations in populated areas, the study reinforces previous findings, such as those of the WHO in the 1980s, that the only really effective response to the public health effects of the use of nuclear weapons lies in preventing that use.
Fuller details of the main findings of UNIDIR’s study will be listed in a
separate posting on this site.
Last May, a series of events titled “Maputo+15” was held in
Geneva to draw attention to key issues arising at the Maputo Review Conference
(23 to 27 June 2014) of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention 15 years after
the international community had first gathered in Mozambique to begin to
implement that treaty.One of the events
in the Maputo+15 series was a panel discussion on 21 May that addressed the
issue “Is the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (APBMC) sufficiently
The object of universalisation is the acceptance
of legally binding obligations under the Convention by the entire international
community of nation states. The rationale is that the wider the acceptance of
the obligations in the treaty the stronger will be the international law and
norms it establishes.The more
widespread the acceptance of the law created by any treaty, the stronger will be
the international rule of law.
By the time of the first Review Conference in Nairobi, Kenya
in 2004 there were an impressive 143 parties to the APMBC. Between entry into
force in March 1999 and the Nairobi Review Conference five years later, parties
joined on average at the astonishing rate of almost 30 every twelve months. By
the second Review Conference in Cartagena, Colombia in 2009 the number had
risen by 13 to 156 parties. By the time of the third Review Conference in
Maputo this June that number will have increased by a further 5 to 161 parties.
If results-based accountancy rules were applied to those
outcomes, clearly we are experiencing the law of diminishing returns.But it is significant nonetheless that the
APMBC’s 161 parties constitute 84% of the international community of nation
states. By comparison, there are 193 member states of the United Nations. In
the arms control and disarmament field, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty
and the Chemical Weapons Convention each have 190 parties, the Biological and Toxin
Weapons Convention 168, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty 162, the Convention
on Inhumane Weapons 117 and the Cluster Munitions Convention 84 parties to date.
Of the 50 states that once produced anti-personnel mines,
all but 16 are now party to the APMBC.It
is also significant that, conscious of the stigma now attached to the use of
anti-personnel mines, some states not yet party to the treaty have reduced
their reliance on these weapons or modified their approach to them. For example, the US has not produced anti-personnel mines since 1997 and has contributed
hundreds of millions of dollars to the assistance of victims of those weapons.
In terms of the objective of universalisation, some of the
questions that can be expected to arise at the Maputo Review Conference are:
- how content should the international community be that 4
in every 5 states are party to the APMBC? Should parties express their satisfaction and devote their energies instead to universalising other treaties such as the Cluster Munitions Convention and the Arms Trade Treaty?
- how far have we come in terms of the promise by the parties
to mine victims to end the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel
mines, for all people for all time?
- in view of the diminishing returns mentioned earlier, should
we approach norm-setting in a different way, e.g., through securing political
commitments from those states that are reluctant to enter into the legally binding
commitments of the APMBC?
For the panel in the Maputo+15 event, the answer to the
question with which it had been tasked - whether the APMBC was “sufficiently universalised” - was ‘no’. The humanitarian imperative – the rationale of
the APMBC – demands that strenuous efforts should continue to be made to sign
up additional states. The focus should remain on the humanitarian
impact of anti-personnel mines, not their perceived military utility.
Representations to each non-party should be pitched as
having a practical purpose with an emphasis on enhancing the standing of that
state in the international community as a measure of respect for international
humanitarian law. It is important to demonstrate that the international
significance of becoming party to the APMBC warrants the effort necessary at
the domestic level to implement the obligations of the Convention.
Stressing that the rationale behind the proposed treaty
action is in the national interest and will also promote regional solidarity
are key ingredients in the campaign for universalisation. There should be a determination
to reach the highest levels of Government, so that Ministers of parties use
opportunities, for example at regional meetings, to lobby their non-party
counterparts to join the treaty.
These are important questions and messages on the issue of universalisation for the
representatives of the 161 parties to the APMBC to weigh when they gather in Maputo on
23 June 2014.
The work plan
developed by Ambassador Dr Walid M Abdelnasser of Egypt, the Coordinator of the Conference on Disarmament's informal meetings on nuclear disarmament, raised for discussion some legal elements and
approaches for achieving nuclear disarmament. On 22 May 2014, UNIDIR was asked
to present a paper to the CD on that topic.The paper was not a complete survey, but merely a sample of relevant
initiatives, proposals and papers. The first and second parts of the paper
appear in earlier postings on this site. The third and final part of the presentation
- a brief mention of several rationales for nuclear disarmament together with a
summary of the paper as a whole, is the subject of this third and final
Under this heading, it should be mentioned (even though its
context here is related more to the NPT than the CD) that the rationales of the
NPT are threefold: to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons
technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and
to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament as part of general and
Finally, a rationale for nuclear disarmament that appeared
in the agreed principles and objectives in the 2010 NPT action plan included,
amongst others, deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of
any use of nuclear weapons.Presumably,
agreed principles and objectives such as this one are seen as offering a
rationale for all the legal vehicles outlined in the first of the three postings in this series.
To summarise the paper as a whole:
- There is a reasonably clear list of legal obligations that
will be required to secure nuclear disarmament on a multilateral basis.
- There is also a range of legal vehicles through which
those obligations can be expressed.
- In the meantime, in order to get down to the task of
actually negotiating those vehicles, various approaches or frameworks are
possible and warrant consideration, whether they are of a legally or
politically binding nature.
- In exploring the way forward – as in these informal
meetings of the CD, a number of rationales for and approaches to nuclear disarmament are
also in play.
- Understanding and clarifying what is contemplated by the
various approaches outlined here will be an important precursor to progress
towards setting a legal course to the elimination of nuclear weapons.
- This forum – the Conference on Disarmament, which includes
all nuclear weapons-possessing states, is an obvious starting point for
clarifying objectives, mechanisms and vehicles, although the Open Ended Working
Group and at least theoretically the NPT have potential in affording wider
representation of states and the presence of civil society. Progress on nuclear
disarmament – the oldest issue on the CD’s agenda – may be the touchstone of
this body’s future.
The work plan
developed by Ambassador Dr Walid M Abdelnasser of Egypt, the Coordinator of the Conference on Disarmament’s informal meetings on nuclear disarmament, raised for discussion some legal elements and
approaches for achieving nuclear disarmament. On 22 May 2014, UNIDIR was asked
to present a paper to the CD on that topic.The paper was not a complete survey, but merely a sample of relevant
initiatives, proposals and papers. The first part of the paper appears in an
earlier posting on this site. The second and penultimate part of the presentation included these
Approaches on how to
achieve nuclear disarmament
These can be
categorised as follows:
vehicle or vehicles or means of achieving nuclear disarmament;
b)a mixture -
that is, a legally binding process describing agreed stages by which nuclear
disarmament would be achieved and prescribing the legal form of them; and
of possible processes for making progress in the interim towards the initiation
of legally binding processes for achieving nuclear disarmament.
vehicle or vehicles or means of achieving nuclear disarmament
Under this heading, the most commonly mentioned treaty-based
comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention, an example of which is the model
Nuclear Weapons Convention tabled in the UNGA by Costa Rica and Malaysia
(A/C.1/52/7), discussed in the CD, Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) and in the
NPT.The Convention would prescribe
prohibitions and general obligations for effecting a time-bound, irreversible
and verifiable nuclear disarmament treaty, complementing the Biological and
Toxin Weapons and Chemical Weapons Conventions. This approach more or less
seeks to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons in a single, legally
binding step, although it would supplement existing treaties such as the NPT
and CTBT (when in force).And while it
would encapsulate nuclear disarmament in a single treaty it nonetheless entails
a staged approach for elimination over five, time bound phases. Negotiating a
comprehensive nuclear disarmament regime in one instrument would clearly be
ambitious and complex, and its critics prefer to tackle the phases in separate
Prohibiting the Use of Nuclear Weapons. In 1961, the UN General Assembly
adopted Resolution 1653 declaring the use of nuclear weapons “a crime against
mankind and civilization”. A Convention on the Prohibition of Use of Nuclear
Weapons was proposed by India originally in 1978 and in a UNGA resolution in
1982 and in the CD (CD/1816) in 2007.India argued that reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in strategic
and security doctrines and policies was essential for realizing the goal of
complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Alignment of nuclear doctrines to a
posture of ‘no-first-use’ and non-use against non-nuclear-weapon states by all
nuclear weapon states would, in India’s view, be an important step towards
achieving that objective.Critics of an
approach that would only prohibit use argue that, on its own, it would still
leave nuclear weapons in the hands of existing possessors unless it was coupled
with binding commitments leading to time bound elimination. There is also the
question, raised by the ICJ in its 1996 Advisory Opinion, as to whether use in self-defence
would be outlawed by a prohibition on use.
(iii)No First Use
Convention. This approach envisages a binding legal commitment by nuclear-armed
states that they would never, under any circumstances, be the first to use
nuclear weapons. The International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and
Disarmament said that it was clear from the soundings they had taken that
international civil society organizations were unlikely to be enthusiastic
about a treaty “which (even if ‘no first use’ is acknowledged as a useful
station on the way to zero) is not itself premised on the elimination of
nuclear weapons” (www.icnnd.org).
Weapons Ban Convention. Such a treaty would set out the prohibitions required
for the pursuit, achievement and maintenance of a world free of nuclear
weapons. It would prohibit the parties from engaging in any activity related to
the use, development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, deployment,
transfer or financing of nuclear weapons. This approach might explicitly or
tacitly recognise that further legally binding steps would be needed to secure
the elimination of nuclear arsenals. Detractors of this approach argue that it
would be sustainable only if the nuclear weapons possessing states participated
and became party to the resulting treaty. On the other hand, the case against
proliferation of nuclear weapons – supported strongly by all countries
including nuclear weapon states - rests heavily on their prohibition.The recent paper of NGOs Reaching Critical
Will and Article 36 on a legal framework for the prohibition and elimination of
nuclear weapons explores these issues further.
framework - that is, a legally binding process describing agreed stages by
which nuclear disarmament would be achieved.
An interim step, pending the negotiation of an agreement of
the kinds just outlined, would be to negotiate a legally binding framework
under which nuclear disarmament would be achieved on a serial basis through
completing the various stages set out in that framework – that it, a
treaty-based recipe for the route to eventual elimination. Examples are the
Convention on Conventional Weapons with its 5 Protocols and the Geneva
Conventions on the law of armed conflict with their Additional Protocols.
In his 5-point plan for nuclear disarmament, the UN
Secretary-General described that approach as “a framework of separate, mutually
reinforcing instruments”.Recently, this
point was expanded slightly in a paper tabled in the NPT by the New Agenda
Coalition. That paper envisaged a step-by-step or building blocks approach
within “clearly identified elements including a number of free standing
instruments or treaties dealing with specific aspects of nuclear disarmament”.
In these examples, use of the word “instruments” could
conceivably be interpreted flexibly to include non-legally binding frameworks.
If so, it might be a matter for discussion in this Conference as to whether a
framework covering something as complex and necessarily lengthy as the sequence
of agreements leading ultimately to the elimination of nuclear weapons can be
left to a non-binding arrangement.On
the other hand, the development of a framework without determining at the
outset whether it was to be legally binding might be a useful confidence
building measure, offering a new perspective to the CD deadlock over some of
the individual components of a framework such as a Fissile Material Treaty,
Negative Security Assurances and nuclear disarmament in general.
of possible processes for making progress on or achieving nuclear
stages towards elimination.
There is not time or space here to list all the proposals,
processes or means of making progress on nuclear disarmament favoured by states
and groups of states.Some of them are
inherent in legally binding approaches just described.The most commonly voiced involve the idea of
sequential stages towards elimination.These include general descriptions such as building blocks, step-by-step
or phased approaches. In reality, such descriptions do not - on their own -
take us very far.Not only are the next
steps deadlocked or unavailing (e.g., programme of work in the CD, entry into
force of the CTBT), but also it is axiomatic that in something as complex
politically and technically as the verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons a
series of measures is inescapable. A challenge for those advocating a
step-by-step or building blocks or phased approach is to articulate clearly the
actual steps or blocks or phases and their sequence.
specific proposals or possible approaches.
- Timebound: A
Programme of Action was tabled in the CD by the Group of 21 in August 1996
calling for negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament for the eventual
elimination of nuclear weapons with a specified time frame as soon as the CTBT
negotiations were concluded.
- Venue for
negotiations: In 1998 South Africa proposed that the CD establish an ad hoc
committee on nuclear disarmament to deliberate upon practical steps for
systematic and progressive efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons as well as to
identify if and when one or more such steps should be the subject of
negotiations in the Conference.That
same year Canada proposed that the CD establish such a committee with a view to
identifying if and when one or more nuclear disarmament issues might be
measures”: The New Agenda Coalition recently tabled a paper in the NPT with
a number of options for the development of “effective measures” drawing on the
wording of article VI of the NPT. One of those options, as already mentioned,
is a framework arrangement of mutually supporting instruments aimed at
achieving and maintaining a world free of nuclear weapons.
- NWFZs: Another
approach sometimes pondered in the margins might be to develop and expand
nuclear weapon free zones, perhaps through focusing first on similarities
amongst existing zones and then by exploring scope for synergies amongst them.
- And lastly among this small sample of approaches are action plans: In the case of the NPT,
there are the 13 steps of the 2000 Review Conference, reiterated (though
modified) in the more comprehensive 2010 action plan.
A third part of this
paper, a brief mention of several rationales for nuclear disarmament together
with a summary of the paper as a whole, will be the subject of a third and