Impossible compounds

Synthesizing states’ views of how to address the nuclear threat requires an advanced degree in diplomatic alchemyChemical_reactions.svg

By Magnus Løvold

Several states and observers participating at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly last autumn noted that the international nuclear disarmament debate is becoming increasingly polarized. In the corridors of the UN Headquarters in New York, states and observers had different opinions about this changing political dynamic, and characterizations ranged from clarifying (and therefore good) to divisive (and therefore bad). But few seemed to dispute the initial claim that the states involved in discussions about how to bring nuclear disarmament forward are increasingly divided into two opposing camps.

Nuclear disarmament open-ended working group (3)

This blog contain comments made by ILPI (Dr. juris Gro Nystuen) during the Open-ended Working Group meeting in Geneva on 22 February 2016.


I would like to thank the Chair, Ambassador Thani, for inviting me to participate in this panel. I am grateful for this opportunity to address the Open-Ended Working Group.
As the title suggests: my approach to this is that of international law – in 2014, we at ILPI produced a book entitled Nuclear Weapons under International Law, which maps existing international law relevant to nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament open-ended working group (2)

This blog and an earlier one contain comments made by UNIDIR (Tim Caughley) on UNIDIR paper OEWG Brief No. 2 during the Open-ended Working Group meeting in Geneva on 22 February 2016.


After noting some confusion and overlap in the nuclear disarmament debate, the remaining comments were about possible approaches to nuclear disarmament (in the context of the guiding questions posed by the Chair in A/AC.286/WP.3).

Nuclear disarmament open-ended working group (1)

This blog and the following one contain comments made by UNIDIR (Tim Caughley) on introducing UNIDIR paper OEWG Brief No. 2 during the Open-ended Working Group meeting in Geneva on 22 February 2016.


I am not going to try to outline the features of OEWG Brief No. 2. Instead, and consistent with the Chair’s wish that the OEWG be as interactive as possible I will a try to identify [see next blog] what seem to me to be some pressure points deserving discussion in this forum. Before doing so, I have four general comments.

The year ahead

As a new year gets underway, this ‘state of play’ report comments briefly on multilateral nuclear disarmament developments in 2015 and sets the scene for discussions in 2016.  It also reflects on possible trends and outcomes. 

By Tim Caughley

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT): The five-yearly Review Conference in May 2015 ended after four weeks without any agreed result. The rate of progress on nuclear disarmament remains a hot issue in the NPT. A new five-year review cycle has begun, but its first meeting will not place until 2017. For the NPT, 2016 is thus a ‘gap’ year, leaving space for other forums such as the Open-ended Working Group (discussed below). Incidentally, the 2020 NPT Review Conference will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Treaty’s entry into force.

Structural violence and nuclear deterrence

Arguably, the bureaucratic procedures of the nuclear weapons control regime serve to cloak the possibility of structural nuclear violence that threatens catastrophic humanitarian consequences for the whole world.

By John Borrie

I’ve just read David Graeber’s book, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (Melville House, 2015). With a title like that, and in the hinterland of United Nations bureaucracy in the Palais des Nations bookstore, who was I to resist the book?