The perfect storm

The 71st United Nations General Assembly will provide a test of leadership over the future of a new initiative for nuclear disarmament

By Tim Caughley

‘Sadly, many countries continue to include nuclear deterrence in their security doctrines. But recent developments have shown that nuclear weapons do not ensure peace and security. Rather, their development and possession has become a major source of international tension.’

OEWG Observations

The Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) established late last year by the UNGA for ‘taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations’ recently concluded the second of its three 2016 sessions. Several aspects of its work warrant reflection as the dust settles.

By Tim Caughley

A feature of the most recent session of the OEWG was its refreshing inter-activity—at least, by comparison to the set-piece monologue of other forums in which nuclear disarmament is discussed such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC).

Challenges afoot for the NPT

With the next round of discussions of the open-ended working group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament imminent, it may seem premature to look ahead twelve months to the first preparatory meeting for the new review cycle of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). But a thoughtful article just published by Robert Einhorn, suggesting some improvements to NPT procedures, provides good cause to do so.

By Tim Caughley

Describing the current review process of the NPT as unsatisfactory, Einhorn writes that it ‘produces high drama and intense diplomatic activity, but rarely contributes to the strengthening of the NPT regime. All NPT parties are frustrated with it’. It is time, he believes, to try something new.

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.

By UNIDIR

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.

Back to the Future… again… on an OEWG?

Talk of an Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament in 2016 in the Geneva disarmament community has the ring of a disappointing sequel about it.

By John Borrie

Last weekend the authorities of the village commune I live in erected a large movie screen at its lakeside beach for free nightly showings on consecutive evenings of each of the Back to the Future films. For those unacquainted with these classic 1980s movies, the protagonist—a young man named Marty McFly—finds himself (amazingly, and of course coincidentally) in three situations in which he must travel backwards or forwards in time to take charge of events in order to keep the present the way it is. He receives assistance from a time-travelling DeLorean automobile and his eccentric friend and inventor of the contraption, Dr. Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown. (The DeLorean was, in the movie, powered by plutonium ‘Doc’ Brown stole from Libyan terrorists. Not only did this say quite a lot about the preoccupations of the decade, it may have been a fine example of vigilante counter-proliferation.)