Where are we on effective measures, and where are we going?

One positive outcome of the NPT Review Conference was the strengthened support for the humanitarian pledge. But what will this now lead to in terms of effective nuclear disarmament measures?

By John Borrie, Tim Caughley, Magnus Løvold and Torbjørn Graff Hugo

A month after the NPT Review Conference’s collapse, and on the cusp of the summer break in the Northern hemisphere, we consider the state of efforts on achieving further effective measures on nuclear disarmament.

Why pursue effective measures?

Emphasizing past nuclear disarmament accomplishments misses the point when the real issue is the persistent risk of nuclear weapon use, whether deliberately or inadvertently caused.

By John Borrie

Last month, the latest five-yearly Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) failed to achieve any result—except perhaps to exasperate multilateral diplomats, and further underline how serious the current lack of progress on achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world has become. Ostensibly, Middle East-related issues derailed consensus on the final outcome document, although widely perceived lack of nuclear disarmament progress was a major bone of contention. At the Review Conference, the New Agenda Coalition countries and other states as varied as Austria and Thailand tried to focus discussion on possible further ‘effective measures’ on nuclear disarmament. The line the five NPT nuclear-weapon states took is that they are doing enough on nuclear disarmament and that, despite their vaunted step-by-step approach being stalled, it remains the only viable option. In light of the unpropitious disarmament environment right now—as underlined by the Review Conference’s failure—it raises the question: why pursue effective measures at all?

Nuclear realities: Worlds apart

The party politics of British nuclear electioneering and the diplomatic stratagems of global nuclear order seem to operate in entirely different worlds.

By Nick Ritchie

May 2015 saw the election of a Conservative majority government in the United Kingdom for the first time in 17 years and a fractious NPT Review Conference in New York that resulted in stalemate and recrimination over nuclear disarmament, and also on next steps towards a zone free of nuclear weapons and other WMD in the Middle East. The latter issue prevented the Review Conference reaching an outcome. What have these two developments—the Review Conference, and the British election—got to do with one another? Unfortunately, very little.

Another Gap

The parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) were unable to reach any agreement at their month-long 2015 Review Conference ostensibly because of Middle-East politics. The parties were also far apart on how to deal with nuclear disarmament.  In the Humanitarian Pledge, a new dynamic has emerged.

By Tim Caughley

‘The whole plan to have the non-nuclear-weapons powers accept responsibility for preventing the destruction of mankind by renouncing nuclear arms is in disarray’. So said Alva Myrdal (Swedish minister for disarmament during the NPT negotiations and former Nobel Peace Prize winner) in 1976. The recent five-year review of that treaty has done little to dispel that conclusion.

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?

The great NPT pillar fight: Round 2

High Stakes for the 2015 NPT Review Conference: Pillar One v. Pillar Two

By Tim Caughley

This is the second part of a posting on tensions in the NPT review process between pillar one (nuclear disarmament) and pillar two (non-proliferation). The previous posting on this issue concluded by noting that a prominent element in the political mix in next month’s NPT Review Conference will be the growth in profile during the current review cycle of the humanitarian approach to nuclear weapons.