7) Terrorism and nuclear weapons

On 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon constituted a successful direct assault on the financial stability of the US and, by implication, the world. This destroyed the sense of held by the US – the world’s first and pre-eminent nuclear weapons power. Nuclear deterrence, the cornerstone of US security policy, was supposed to deter any power from attacking the USA or its allies: but it failed completely in preventing these attacks.

a) Using nuclear weapons to deter or destroy terrorists

The Pentagon, in an attempt to restore some security value to nuclear weapons, recommended that their use be an option in the ensuing war against terrorism. 55 This was supported by some members of the US Congress. However, any such use would likely be extremely counter-productive. It would inevitably cause unjustifiaable civilian casualties and generate considerable anti-US sentiment, possibly provoking the use of weapons of mass destruction in reprisal against the US and its allies. Besides, use of nuclear weapons would be ineffective against the infrastructure of terrorist organisations, which do not have their personnel or military equipment concentrated in geographical locations that can be destroyed by such indiscriminate explosive devices. Rather they are spread out in cells interspersed in urban and rural locations around the world. Many of the terrorists in the attack against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, for example, were living and operating in cities in the US.

Moreover, terrorists are often prompted by a psychology of “heroic” response to perceived aggression, including the acceptance of personal death in the battle against evil. A threat of nuclear weapons against them would likely increase their perception of the evil of the state they are fighting against, and give them justification for responding in kind.

b) Terrorists acquiring and using nuclear weapons

In putting the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 into perspective Jayantha Dhanapala, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, has warned, "We need to be aware of the fact that this situation could have been much worse than it has been - consider for example if weapons of mass destruction were used by these terrorists."56 Gary Milhollin, head of the Washington-based Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, foresees “a definite risk" of a nuclear attack by terrorists in the next decade - say by Sept. 11, 2011.57 The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) has concluded that “Unless radical steps are taken urgently, it will not be a question of whether terrorists can acquire or build a nuclear device, but when.”58

The acquisition and use of nuclear weapons by a terrorist organisation is indeed becoming more likely, by theft or construction of a nuclear explosive device. Terrorists may steal a nuclear bomb, as the security of such weapons is questionable. In Russia there is particular concern over certain ambiguities regarding suitcase-sized “mini-nukes”, though even larger nuclear weapons, such as those possessed by Pakistan, could be stolen with a large truck.59

Acquiring the necessary fissile material and constructing a nuclear explosive device would be complicated though certainly possible for a sophisticated terrorist group. Plutonium oxide, which can be acquired from plants reprocessing spent nuclear-power fuel elements, or by separating the plutonium oxide out from Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel, could be used as a fissile material for a nuclear weapon of the implosion type used on Nagasaki. Though highly enriched uranium (HEU) is more difficult to acquire than plutonium, the gun-type nuclear explosion device that could be used with HEU, as was used in Hiroshima, is the simplest of such devices to design and construct. Even if such a nuclear explosive device failed to create a significant nuclear explosion the dispersion of radioactive material would act like a radiological weapon.

c) Prevention through abolition

The clandestine nature of non-State actor networks, combined with recent evidence of abuse by States of proliferation control mechanisms, has exposed the limitations of such regimes. A more effective response would be to adopt an abolition approach which implements comprehensive control mechanisms and prohibition norms at societal, national and international levels.

The Security Council, in adopting UN Security Council resolution 1540, expressed concern about “the threat of illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery and related materials” and recognized “the need to enhance coordination of efforts on national, sub-regional, regional and international levels in order to strengthen a global response to this serious challenge and threat to international security.” While an important step towards the prevention of nuclear terrorism, the Security Council, which is primarily an enforcement body, is not designed to develop international control mechanisms which are usually negotiated and adopted through treaties. Thus, concluding the negotiations on the Draft Convention on Nuclear Terrorism could provide a more comprehensive and universally accepted set of mechanisms to prevent nuclear terrorism.

However, even a Convention on Nuclear Terrorism, combined with UN Security Council action and robust State implementation measures, will remain limited and only minimally effective so long as the prohibitions and controls are restricted to non-proliferation and do not extend to complete nuclear disarmament. As long as NWS maintain nuclear weapons this the temptation and potential for non-State actors to steal or otherwise acquire a nuclear device. So long as NWS maintain fissile material stocks to refurbish their nuclear stockpiles or construct new nuclear warheads, there is the potential for non-State actors to acquire fissile materials with which to make a nuclear weapon.

Jayantha Dhanapala, when serving as UN Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that “We need to eliminate weapons of mass destruction because they could fall into the hands of terrorists…We don't want to give terrorists more tools than they have at the moment." Other authorities agree. IPPNW calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons under a negotiated Nuclear Weapons Convention that would establish stringent international controls on fissile materials to prevent it from getting into the hands of terrorists.60 These controls would go beyond physical protection and State-based policing. An abolition regime would involve the development of a societal norm against nuclear weapons and societal verification including scientific, industrial, academic and NGO communities. Sir Joseph Rotbalt, an initial member of the Manhattan project and founder of Pugwash, believes that such societal verification is the only way to be able to prevent clandestine nuclear weapons activity.

8) How States can advance abolition

Non-NWS are often hesitant to promote nuclear abolition because of the perception that little can be achieved while key NWS are unwilling to abandon nuclear deterrence doctrine and move towards nuclear disarmament. Such a defeatist approach fails to recognise that considerable progress is possible despite the resistance of NWS and some of their allies. In particular, progress can be made in building political will, strengthening legal norms against nuclear weapons, considering the requirements for a nuclear-weapons free world and taking steps to establish and implement some of these requirements.

a) Building political will

As noted earlier, the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons concluded that the achievement of nuclear abolition requires the building of sufficient political will to abandon nuclear deterrence and embrace abolition. The potential for this has been demonstrated by a number of States willingly giving up nuclear weapons programmes (e.g. Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan) or adherence to a nuclear alliance (New Zealand) following the development of political will to do so. In some cases political will was primarily generated domestically (New Zealand), in others it was primarily generated internationally (Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan), while in some it was a mixture of both (South Africa, Brazil, Argentina).

States can assist in building political will through promotion of abolition in international for a and bilateral relations, and through support for international non-governmental organisations advocating abolition.

b) Strengthening legal norms against nuclear weapons

Legal norms are very influential in State behaviour. In most cases, States adhere to international law for a number of reasons including principle,61 practicality, 62 reciprocity,63 national image64 and the possibility of repercussions for violating the law.65
The NWS claim, and demonstrate, adherence to the law. The United States, for example, has incorporated the humanitarian rules of warfare into its military manuals which direct military operations, and there are cases whereby violators of these laws have been held accountable. The US acknowledges that such law applies to nuclear weapons and thus restricts their possible use,66 but argues that the use of nuclear weapons is not categorically prohibited67 and would therefore be legal in certain circumstances.

The 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion was important in strengthening the legal norm against nuclear weapons. However, the NWS have adopted a minimalist and somewhat incorrect interpretation of the Court’s decision,68 thus limiting its impact on their own policies. Non-NWS could further strengthen the legal norm against nuclear weapons through domestic abolition measures and application of the ICJ’s conclusions in regional and international fora (see Section 9 below), thereby increasing the legal pressure on NWS to move towards abolition.

c) Considering the requirements for a nuclear weapons free world

In order to build political will it is helpful to demonstrate that nuclear abolition is possible by exploring the legal, political and technical systems that would establish and maintain a nuclear weapons-free world. Such an approach can help move the debate with the NWS from confrontation over whether they should abandon nuclear deterrence to a collaborative exploration of how it would be feasible to replace nuclear deterrence with abolition and alternative security mechanisms. Useful tools in this exploration process include the draft working paper for the 2005 NPT Review Conference released by Malaysia (see Section 9) and the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (See Section 11).

d) Taking steps to establish and implement some of the requirements for a nuclear weapons free world

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a number of countries including Mexico, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden, began developing the technical capabilities and international communication sharing networks to monitor nuclear tests worldwide. They formed an ad hoc group in Geneva to further develop verification capabilities that would be required for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, even though the NWS were not yet prepared to start negotiations. This advance work helped demonstrate the feasibility of verification and thus overcome one of the blocks to the negotiations. It also meant that the CTBTO was able to establish a global nuclear testing verification regime much more quickly than if it had had to start from scratch.

States could take additional steps to establish and implement some of the requirements for a nuclear weapons-free world even before the NWS are ready to commence nuclear abolition negotiations. The most obvious area is in the further verification measures required, and here some of the NWS might be willing to participate. The UK, for example, is conducting a study on the requirements for destruction of their nuclear weapons under a nuclear weapons free regime.69

9) Current political opportunities

There are a number of current political opportunities for advancing abolition internationally. These include implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1540, the UN High Level Panel on Threats Challenges and Change, the NPT review process and the Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas Nuclear Weapon Free Zone initiative. Action to promote abolition could be taken concurrently using any or all of these opportunities.

a) Security Council Resolution 1540.

Security Council Resolution 1540 provides States with opportunities to advance the norm of abolition through their own domestic implementation measures and through international advocacy.

i) Domestic measures

In 1987 New Zealand adopted legislation70 which prohibited the production, acquisition, transfer, stationing, testing, threat or use of nuclear weapons within its territory, established criminal responsibility for citizens and officials conducting such activities within New Zealand and extended this to New Zealand officials conducting such acts anywhere in the world (limited extra-territoriality). Such legislation was able to be adopted within New Zealand’s domestic jurisdiction regardless of the status of nuclear weapons under international law. Even so, at the time it was considered a challenge to nuclear deterrence.

Since then, Mongolia, Austria and the Philippines have declared their territories nuclear weapons-free. If a significant number of other countries adopted similar legislation it would help advance the nuclear abolition norm.

In addition, in light of the 1996 ICJ advisory opinion on nuclear weapons and the 2004 adoption of Resolution1540, it is now possible to adopt even more robust legislation encompassing full extra-territoriality (i.e. applicable to both officials - State actors - and citizens - non-State actors - undertaking such prohibited activities anywhere in the world) and universal jurisdiction (i.e. applicable to any person regardless of whether they are a citizen or resident of the State adopting the legislation).

The ICJ confirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was generally contrary to international law. Thus nuclear acts would be illegal whether carried out within the State adopting the legislation or anywhere else in the world. UNSC Resolution 1540 requires States to take action against nuclear proliferators regardless of their citizenship or residency. This affirms that the norm of universal jurisdiction - which is already recognized with respect to crimes against humanity, war crimes, slavery and torture - is applicable to nuclear weapons.

If New Zealand and other States adopted legislation which incorporated complete extra-territorial jurisdiction and universal jurisdiction for any nuclear weapons activities, the global norm for abolition would be significantly strengthened.

Extra-territoriality, and to a lesser extent universal jurisdiction, are already features of domestic legislation in many countries with respect to the prohibition of chemical weapons.

The US Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, for example, makes it an offence for any US national to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, transfer directly or indirectly, receive, stockpile, retain, own, possess, or use, or threaten to use, any chemical weapon regardless of whether that act occurs within the US or outside the US (extra-territoriality). The Act also gives jurisdiction to the US for any such acts committed against US nationals by anyone regardless of nationality or location (a limited form of universal jurisdiction).71

ii) International advocacy

Under the resolution, the Security Council established a Committee of the Security Council72,consisting of all Council members, and called on all States to present reports on steps they had taken or intended to take to implement the resolution, the first report being due by the end of October 2004. This provides an opportunity for States to report on both domestic steps they are taking, and international steps which they believe should be taken collectively to implement the resolution – particularly those steps to achieve abolition.

New Zealand, for example, opened its first report by stating that “all weapons of mass destruction should be eliminated and that this elimination should be verified through robust legally binding multilateral disarmament instruments.” New Zealand went on to say that “the most effective non-proliferation moves we could make collectively would be to ensure and enhance compliance with the NPT in all its aspects including nuclear disarmament.” 73

b) UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and the UN Millennium Plus Five Summit

As noted above, the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change established by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan concluded: “Stopping the proliferation of such [nuclear] weapons — and their potential use, by either State or non -State actors — must remain an urgent priority for collective security.” The panel thus calls for “negotiations towards disarmament.” The conclusions and recommendations of the panel can be used to support States which are advocating nuclear abolition.

However, a more significant opportunity will be provided by the UN Millennium Follow-up Summit of Heads of State and Leaders due to take place in September 2005. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has announced that he will present the report of the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change to the 2005 Summit.74 States can use this opportunity to promote abolition both informally and formally at the highest level of government.

c) NPT review process.

As noted above (Section 3) the Non-Proliferation Treaty is built on a basic agreement between the non-NWS not to acquire nuclear weapons and the NWS to achieve the elimination of their arsenals. The strengthened review process provides an opportunity to advance initiatives relating to both nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. There are varying tactics for different proposals: some are introduced with the aim of reaching agreement in the short term, some are introduced in order to set goals for longer term agreement while others are designed to encourage action that does not necessarily require agreement by all States Parties. Varying proposals relating to abolition and fitting each of the categories have been introduced. These include, but are not limited to:

i) practical steps for implementation of Article VI agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference
ii) verification proposals submitted by the United Kingdom 75
iii) proposals on compliance submitted by Germany76
iv) nuclear disarmament recommendations submitted by the New Agenda Coalition77
v) proposals submitted by Costa Rica and Malaysia on implementation of the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons78

In October 2004, Malaysia released a draft working paper entitled Legal, technical and political elements required for the establishment and maintenance of a nuclear weapons-free-world.79 The working paper calls for negotiations which would culminate in the abolition of nuclear weapons through a convention or package of agreements. In addition, the working paper proposes measures to support abolition which could be considered and developed prior to, or concurrent with, negotiations. Agreement by all States Parties is not required to commence work on these measures. The proposals address both non-proliferation and disarmament, and as such provide opportunities for bridging the non-proliferation/disarmament divide.

In addition, the paper provides a non-discriminatory way to engage States not Parties to the NPT in the nuclear abolition process thus offering further possibilities for progress on both non-proliferation and disarmament goals.

States Parties to the NPT can thus use the opportunity provided by the Malaysian draft to advance and advocate for progress on legal, technical and political elements for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

d) Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas Nuclear Weapon Free Zone initiative.

Since 1996, the United Nations General Assembly has annually adopted a resolution, introduced by Brazil and co-sponsored by New Zealand, which calls upon States Parties to the regional Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZs) to explore the possibility of creating a consolidated Nuclear Weapon Free Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas (NWFSH).

The resolution indicates that such a consolidation would not be by negotiation of a new comprehensive treaty, but rather through increasing cooperation between the zones, which would include holding a conference of States Parties in order to consider common action to further nuclear disarmament goals.

In April 2005, Mexico plans to host a conference of States Parties to the NWFZ “for the purpose of strengthening the nuclear-weapon-free-zone regime and to contribute to the disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation processes and in particular to analyze ways of cooperating that can help to achieve the universal goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” 80

This new forum for NWFZ States will provide a politically powerful voice advocating nuclear abolition. The NWFZs cover over half the countries in the world, and the collective voice of the States Parties will derive credibility from the fact that all these countries have demonstrated their commitment to nuclear abolition by joining a NWFZ.

The draft declaration being prepared for the conference “expresses the need to move toward the priority objective of nuclear disarmament and achieve the total elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons. The document also states that reaching the objective of permanently eliminating and prohibiting nuclear weapons requires firm political will from all States particularly those States that possess nuclear weapons.”81 If promoted effectively, this declaration could add considerable weight to the abolition campaign.

Moreover, bringing together the NWFZ States Parties creates a further opportunity to strengthen the norms against nuclear weapons and launch additional abolition initiatives.

There are a number of ways that this could occur:

i) Strengthening existing NWFZs

The four regional NWFZs – Latin America, Pacific, South East Asia and Africa – are similar in some respects but differ in others. For example, all the regional NWFZ treaties prohibit member States from possessing nuclear weapons, but generally allow the transit of nuclear-armed vessels through the zones. The Treaty of Tlatelolco, however, prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons in the territorial waters of member States. The Rarotonga Treaty prohibits the dumping of nuclear waste in the zone. The Treaty of Bangkok prohibits any threat or use of nuclear weapons within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of member States. The Treaty of Pelindaba prohibits attacks on nuclear facilities within the zone.

The legal norm against nuclear weapons could be strengthened if all of the zones adopted the Latin American provision of prohibiting deployment through the territorial waters, and/or the South East Asian provision of prohibiting the threat or use of nuclear weapons within the EEZs. While the NWS might refuse to accept such provisions, individual States could adopt national legislation, like that of New Zealand, which prohibits the transit of nuclear weapons through its waters.82

The norm against nuclear weapons could be strengthened further if the NWS were collectively requested by the NWFZ State Parties to honour their rights and desires to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in the regions covered by the treaties, and thus to refrain from introducing or transiting nuclear weapons into or through these regions. As the regions covered by the treaties include the international waters of the South Pacific and some of the North Pacific and Atlantic, this would effectively be calling on the NWS to cease transit of their nuclear armed vessels through large portions of the oceans.

The US, UK and France, concerned that this is one of the aims of the Southern Hemisphere NWFZ, have refused to support the UNGA resolution, and have argued that any attempt to proscribe transit of nuclear-armed vessels would be in contradiction to the rights, affirmed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, of freedom of navigation through High Seas and innocent passage through territorial waters. However, in light of the 1996 ICJ advisory opinion confirming the general illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, there is some legal opinion that the current ocean deployment of nuclear weapons is illegal and could thus be prohibited. Judge Christopher Weeramantry, a former ICJ Vice-President, for example, argues that:

Assuming that nuclear weapons are deployed on naval vessels on alert status, they constitute a threat of use. The ICJ’s opinion was that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be generally contrary to international law, and in particular the humanitarian laws of warfare. The only situation in which the ICJ was inconclusive on absolute illegality was the extreme circumstance of self-defence when the very survival of a State is at stake. Considering the conclusion of general illegality, the burden of proof that a specific situation of threat or use is not proscribed by this rests on the threatening or using state. There is no proof offered by the deploying states that there is currently a threat to the very survival of a state which would require a threat or use of nuclear weapons.83

In any case, the first step for the NWFZ States Parties would not be to attempt to prohibit transit, but to request the NWS not to transit. If the NWS refuse, then the States Parties could contemplate what further action to take.

ii) Encouraging additional zones

There are proposals for additional NWFZs in North East Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe. The experiences developed in the establishment of the existing zones can help guide negotiations for the new zones and provide ideas for overcoming some of the current barriers. As the regions of the world covered by NWFZs increases, so too does the legal and political norm of abolition. Conceptually, the regions covered by NWFZs could continue to grow until the whole world becomes a NWFZ. While a nuclear weapons-free world will require a different legal framework to that of a regional NWFZ, the concept is useful in helping build political will and the norm of abolition.

iii) Hosting nuclear abolition deliberations and negotiations

The States parties to the NWFZs could offer to host deliberations and negotiations for nuclear weapons abolition measures culminating in a nuclear weapons convention (see "Ottawa-style" process Section 10 below).

10) Other possibilities

Other possible venues for progress include the Conference on Disarmament (CD), a UN General Assembly initiated negotiating conference, an amendment to the NPT, and an independent "Ottawa" style process led by a NWS or a State that has renounced nuclear weapons. States should consider which combination of these venues would be best to utilize in order to generate progress towards abolition. It may be that some venues are better for generating political will or dealing with political issues, while others could be better for conducting in-depth negotiations on technical and legal aspects.

a) Conference on Disarmament process.

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) was established as the primary negotiating body for multilateral disarmament treaties. As such it was instrumental in negotiations for the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The UN General Assembly has for a number of years been requesting the CD to establish an ad hoc committee to deal with the subject of nuclear disarmament. However, it has not proven possible to establish such a body given the reluctance of some key States and the fact that the CD works by consensus on both procedural and substantive matters.

States should continue to push for the CD to work on nuclear disarmament, but should not wait until agreement is reached on starting deliberations, let alone negotiations.

In the meantime, the CD provides a useful forum for informal work on elements required for nuclear abolition – similar to the way CD members established an informal group on verification of nuclear testing prior to the CD being given a negotiating mandate.

b) UN General Assembly initiated negotiating conference.

The UN could establish additional fora, complementary to the CD, to work on nuclear abolition. The UN General Assembly has held three special sessions on disarmament at which nuclear disarmament was a priority, and there have been proposals for a fourth session to be convened. In addition, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his 2000 Millennium Report called for the convening of “a major international conference that would help to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers.”

While such one-off conferences can be useful in advancing political will, in general a more continuous process is required in order to conduct deliberations and negotiations culminating in concrete agreements. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Statute for an International Criminal Court, for example, were negotiated through ongoing negotiation conferences established by the UNGA. There is thus scope for the UN General Assembly to convene an ongoing negotiating conference for specific nuclear abolition goals. Such a conference would differ from the CD in that it would be open to all UN member States (the CD has limited membership) and it would aim for, but not require, absolute consensus from all States on all aspects of the negotiated agreements.

c) NPT amendment conference

In 1991 a conference of States Parties to the Partial Test Ban Treaty was held to consider an amendment to the treaty which would effectively prohibit all nuclear tests turning the PTBT into a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). While the proposed amendment was not adopted, the conference developed considerable political pressure on the NWS to commence negotiations for a CTBT.

Similarly, a conference of States Parties to the NPT could be called to consider an amendment to the treaty which would effectively transform the treaty into one prohibiting the possession of nuclear weapons by any State. The simple amendment would be to remove the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon States in articles I, II and III, thus making the obligations in these articles applicable to all States. Moreover, the conference called to consider an amendment would have the potential to become a negotiating forum with a mandate to abolish nuclear weapons.

The concept is simple and powerful. If an amendment conference were to be held, it would be unlikely to conclude in adoption of the amendment as such adoption requires the consent of all the NWS and board members of the IAEA. However, it would generate considerable political pressure on the NWS to begin nuclear disarmament negotiations, and it would have the added advantage of proposing a revised treaty which is non-discriminatory thus removing the rationale for nuclear-capable States such as India and Pakistan to remain outside the treaty.

d) Ottawa-style process.

In the early 1990s efforts were underway to negotiate an additional protocol to the Inhumane Weapons Convention84 which would restrict or prohibit anti-personnel landmines. When it became clear at the 1996 IWC Review Conference that a prohibition on anti-personnel landmines could not be achieved due to opposition by a few key States, an alternative approach was announced by Canada’s Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy which became known as the Ottawa process. Axworthy invited all interested States to Ottawa to negotiate and adopt a treaty prohibiting anti-personnel landmines. The negotiations concluded with adoption of the treaty in 1997 and it entered into force following the 40th ratification in 1998.

While the Landmines Convention has not been ratified by all States, it has been instrumental in strengthening the global norm against landmines and generating sufficient political will to move some States which previously employed landmines to relinquish them, and others to announce that they intend to do so in due course.85

The situation with nuclear weapons is not the same as with landmines. While both weapons are indiscriminate, inhumane and arguably illegal, their military and political utility differ as does the current situation with regards to constraint regimes. In the case of nuclear weapons, the world already has an Ottawa-style treaty, i.e. one in which those countries prepared to abandon the weapons have joined: it is the NPT. What is required with nuclear weapons is to go beyond an Ottawa-style treaty and develop a process to involve all States including NWS and non-Parties to the NPT.

Despite these differences, there is considerable merit in the concept of an independent deliberating and negotiating conference on nuclear abolition in which all States are invited to join, and which can begin work on nuclear abolition measures even if not all the NWS currently agree. Like the Ottawa process, such an ongoing conference would generate considerable media coverage and political pressure on NWS and non-NPT States to abandon nuclear deterrence and embrace abolition.

The deliberations could provide a useful forum for developing plans and procedures required for the abolition of nuclear weapons, including consideration of such key issues as security assurances, compliance measures, verification, disposition of fissile material, transparency v commercial and State confidentiality, development of individual rights (whistleblower protection) and responsibilities (including scientific responsibilities and criminal law).

The deliberations could also lead to the adoption and implementation of measures which could assist abolition even prior to the beginning of abolition negotiations by the NWS. This could include, for example, establishment of verification systems and adoption of national abolition measures including more robust criminal law and prohibition of transit through territorial waters.

There are a number of possible candidates to initiate or lead an Ottawa-style process including a NWS, a non-Party to the NPT, a State which has relinquished nuclear weapons, a group of States which have abandoned nuclear weapons (such as the NWFZs) or a State or States which have particular political significance in relation to nuclear disarmament (such as Japan or the New Agenda Coalition).

i) Nuclear Weapon State

A process led by a NWS would be very influential on the other NWS. The most obvious candidate from amongst the NWS would be the United Kingdom which has acknowledged that a nuclear weapons convention will be required at some stage in the future, has reduced the operational readiness of its nuclear weapons, and has begun work on verification of its nuclear weapons as would be required once negotiations begin. However, the UK has indicated its unwillingness to take any further disarmament steps until the numbers of weapons held by the US and Russia are down to the hundreds rather than the thousands. China has indicated support for negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, but has been unwilling to take any practical steps that would advance this.

ii)State non-Party to the NPT

The NWS and some of their allies might be dismissive of a process led by a State non-Party to the NPT, as they might see it as an attempt by that State to gain an international platform to criticize the NWS but take no responsibility for its own nuclear policies. Thus, if a non-Party to the NPT led this process, it would need to commit itself to some nuclear disarmament steps from the outset in order to build credibility.

The most likely candidate would be India, which advanced the Rajiv Gandhi plan for nuclear abolition under a previous Congress-led government. The current Congress-led government has indicated an interest in reviving and updating the Rajiv Gandhi plan and on seeking opportunities to make progress.86

iii)State which has relinquished nuclear weapons

Candidates here would include Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Kazakhstan, South Africa and the Ukraine. Each State has nuclear disarmament credibility having willing relinquished nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programmes. Argentina and Brazil possibly have more experience than the others in verification of nuclear disarmament agreements as a result of the measures developed under the Agreement for the Exclusively Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy Argentina and Brazil, 1991. If they worked collectively these States would generate considerable interest and political impetus.

iv)Nuclear Weapon Free Zone States Parties

As noted above, the regional NWFZ States Parties are starting a process of communication and collaboration in order to strengthen the existing NWFZs, encourage establishment of additional zones and contribute to the achievement of a nuclear weapons-free world. A nuclear abolition process led by the NWFZ State Parties would have the political weight of the numbers of States sponsoring the process as well as an already established connection with the NWS (as signatories to the NWFZ protocols).


Mayors for Peace has proposed a Hiroshima process, should the 2005 NPT Review Conference fail to make progress towards nuclear abolition. They envisage States being invited to Hiroshima to begin the deliberations and negotiations for nuclear abolition. A problem with this proposal is that without the support of the Japanese government, other States may be reluctant to see this as a State-State negotiating process. On the other hand the initiative is worth considering given the surprisingly strong development of the Mayors for Peace abolition campaign, which in two years has recruited over 600 mayors from cities around the world including the capitals of NWS, and their potential to generate political will.

vi)New Agenda Coalition

The New Agenda Coalition has been very effective in advancing a nuclear disarmament program in such a way as to engage all NPT members including NATO members and the NWS. The success of the 2000 NPT Review Conference is due in large part to the New Agenda Coalition and their skilful diplomatic approach. An independent abolition process led by the NAC would thus hold diplomatic credibility. On the other hand, the NAC does not have any institutional connection to the NWS or States not Parties to the NPT nor any politically significant connection to nuclear abolition that could help generate sufficient political will to move the NWS and non-NPT States to join the process.

11)Legal, technical and political requirements for achieving and maintaining a nuclear weapons free world.

Considerable conceptual work has already begun on the legal, technical and political requirements for achieving and maintaining a nuclear weapons free world. This includes the drafting of a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (Model NWC) by an international consortium of lawyers, scientists and disarmament experts, circulation of this model by the United Nations,87 consideration of the Model NWC in various scientific, diplomatic and academic settings,88 and publication of various discussions on the Model NWC.89

The Model NWC includes detailed proposals for:

a) general obligations of states and individuals under a nuclear weapons abolition regime

b) a phased program for dismantling and destroying existing nuclear stockpiles

c) control mechanisms for nuclear facilities and materials

d) a verification regime

e) criminal liability for violators

f) protection measures for whistleblowers

g) dispute resolution and enforcement procedures

h) measures for dealing with delivery vehicles and dual use materials

i) national implementation measures

j) an agency for overseeing the convention

k) entry into force options

l) relationships to other nuclear related agreements and regimes

m) a protocol concerning nuclear energy

The Model NWC does not answer all the questions involved in the abolition of nuclear weapons – some of these will not be answered until deep into negotiations or with further advances in technical capabilities and international disarmament mechanisms. However, what the Model NWC does do is indicate that such questions can be answered and that nuclear abolition is a practical achievable goal.

The Model NWC, and other work to consider the requirements for a nuclear-weapons free world, will also be valuable as a starting point for any deliberative and negotiating processes for abolition that commence.

In 2000, Malaysia and Costa Rica introduced a working paper to the NPT Review Conference encouraging States to give consideration to the legal, technical and political requirements for achieving and maintaining a nuclear-weapons free world.90 In 2004 Malaysia released a draft follow-up to this paper for the 2005 NPT Review Conference.91 Support for this paper from other States would help move the abolition agenda forward at the 2005 NPT Review Conference.

12) Conclusion:

The 21st Century has opened to new nuclear dangers including increased risks of proliferation to both States and non-State actors, as well as expanded nuclear doctrines from the NWS with new rationalisations for the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

The fundamental accord of the NPT, between the non-NWS who agreed not acquire nuclear weapons and the NWS who agreed to eliminate their arsenals, is being eroded on one side by the increasing proliferation risks and on the other by a lack of action on the part of the NWS to implement their disarmament obligations.

The divide between the non-NWS and the NWS (and some of their allies) is growing as the non-NWS become increasingly frustrated at the continuing (and expanding) nuclear doctrines of the NWS, while the NWS and their allies become more belligerent to prevent proliferation including through the threat and use of force. If not reversed, this trend threatens to further erode the non-proliferation regime and possibly lead to a catastrophic use of nuclear weapons.

Adopting an abolition approach – combining both non-proliferation and disarmament - could help bridge this divide, and help pave the way for progress on both, culminating in the complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The abolition approach has become feasible due to advances in verification technology, compliance procedures, co-operative security mechanisms and changing international political and economic systems. In combination these are capable of replacing the rationalisations for nuclear deterrence.

These developments indicate that now is the time for governments, at the highest level, to start seriously advocating for and advancing a nuclear abolition agenda. Nuclear abolition, once a utopian ideal, has now become a political possibility that must be grasped and implemented.

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