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.

Once more unto the breach

States need to reflect carefully on the impacts on the health of the NPT if current levels of dissatisfaction over the implementation of article VI are left to fester.

By Tim Caughley

The NPT Review Conference has moved into its final fortnight after two weeks devoted to set-piece national and group statements uttered largely as expressions of their formal, public position on key issues of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. That phase has given way to one in which flexibility on those matters is being teased out in more intensive, interactive sessions mainly closed to the public. The objectives of the chairs of those meetings are to broker compromise and deliver consensus—i.e., unobjectionable—outcomes.

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?

Bunker-busting myths

The notion of ‘precise’ and ‘containable’ use of nuclear weapons is both misinformed and dangerous.

by Tim Caughley

International scrutiny and awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons have increased markedly in recent years. Considerable new research has been published, and the United Nations and the Red Cross Movement have raised their deepening concerns about the risks to humanity of the detonation of nuclear weapons in populated areas, whether accidentally or by design.

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.

Fill the legal gap—the latest endorsement

Renewing the call for prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons

By Tim Caughley

The build-up to next month’s five-yearly review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) has already produced a number of headlines and statements of intent. From nations that do not possess nuclear weapons there has been a call to NPT state parties to ‘fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons’ (Austrian Pledge, 9 December 2014). The initiator of the call, Austria, has noted that while other categories of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are banned—chemical and biological weapons—nuclear arms are not. For their part, the five state parties to the treaty that still maintain nuclear arsenals (the NPT5) have said that they merely anticipate a ‘consensual, balanced outcome which would do much to enhance [their] continuing efforts to strengthen the NPT’ (NPT5 Joint Statement, 6 February 2015).