Disarmament Insight


Monday, 2 June 2014

Nuclear disarmament: CD informal meeting (3)

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 posting.

Rationales for nuclear disarmament.

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 complete disarmament.

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.

Tim Caughley, Resident Senior Fellow, UNIDIR