Eliminating Nuclear Threats

A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers



GARETH EVANS and YORIKO KAWAGUCHI CO-CHAIRS                    Commission Members

20. Mobilizing and Sustaining Political Will

The Elements of Political Will: Leadership, Knowledge, Strategy and Process

20.1     In the scale of international political ambition, moving to a world in which there are no nuclear weapons at all from one in which eight major nuclear-armed states possess between them 23,000 nuclear warheads – with a number of them reluctant to even reduce their arsenals, let alone give them up entirely – will be matched in difficulty in the decades ahead only by the task of reducing to zero, in an ever more energy-hungry planet, the global increase in carbon emissions. These are both formidably daunting challenges, but the sheer scale of the problems being confronted in each case demand that they be tackled.

20.2     We will not get to a nuclear weapon free world, or even very far down the long road towards it, or achieve all the other goals spelt out in this report in relation to non-proliferation, nuclear security, and the continuing development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, simply by making lists of manifestly desirable outcomes. This is certainly the case for generalized calls to embrace the ideal (e.g. “universalize NPT membership”), but it is also true even for the sharply-focused, prioritized and pragmatic short, medium and longer term action agendas that we have tried to spell out, and which are at the heart of this report. It will be a matter of mobilizing, and sustaining over many years, the necessary political will on the part of all relevant decision-makers, and in this final section we suggest how this might best be done.


Recommendations on Action Agendas: Short, Medium and Longer Term

66. The Short Term Action Agenda, for the period between now and 2012 – and including the 2010 NPT Review Conference – should focus on the issues we identify in Box 17-1.

67. Consideration should be given to the possibility of the United Nations General Assembly holding a Special Session on Disarmament late in 2012, as a way of benchmarking the achievements of the short term and defining the way forward. Any decision should be deferred until mid-2010, to allow for reflection on the outcome of the 2010 Review Conference, and whether enough momentum is building to justify the resources and effort involved. [17.2–3]

68. The Medium Term Action Agenda, for the period between 2012 and 2025, should focus on the issues we identify in Box 18-1.

69. The Longer Term Action Agenda, for the period beyond 2025, should focus on establishing the conditions we identify in Box 19-1.

70. Given that questions of cost-burden sharing are likely to arise as disarmament momentum builds over the longer term, it may be helpful for interested states to commission a detailed study on the calculation of disarmament and non-proliferation costs and possible ways of funding them. [18.26–27]


20.3     The absence of political will is never a good excuse for something not happening. In almost any policy context, domestic or international, the will to do something difficult, sensitive or expensive will rarely be a given. It usually has to be painfully and laboriously constructed, case by case, context by context, with multiple actors needing to be involved, reflecting the four main elements that usually have to come together in that construction process. First there is leadership, without which – however many of the other boxes are ticked – inertia will almost invariably prevail. Second there is knowledge – without information about the problem, and an accompanying concern to address it, nothing can begin to happen, and this means effective education and advocacy at all levels. A third element is strategy – having a confident sense that there is a way forward that will actually make a difference. And the fourth element is process – having the institutional and organizational means at hand to advance the relevant strategy in practice.

20.4     Leadership. Without real commitment from the top – the player or players that really matter – hostility, indecisiveness or sheer inertia are likely to prevail, and progress will be stumbling and halting at best. On the nuclear issue, thinking is beginning to change at senior political levels, but not yet fast enough. The initial Kissinger-Shultz-Nunn-Perry Wall Street Journal article in 2007, followed up by similar statements over the next two years from equivalently distinguished groups in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Norway, Australia and elsewhere, had a major impact. So did, even more, the election of President Barack Obama, with his very clearly articulated vision – now rewarded by the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize – of a cooperative rather than confrontational approach to solving the world’s security problems generally, and his very specific commitment to place nuclear disarmament high on his policy agenda. The support of Russian President Medvedev for early movement on U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reduction was crucial in consolidating this early momentum. And UK Prime Minister Brown, and the Australian and Japanese prime ministers who initiated and have supported this Commission, are among other leaders who have made clear their seriousness about tackling the issue anew.

20.5     But there is still a very long way to go before the need for a fundamental change in direction is really internalized in global political leadership thinking. The prevailing psychological mindset among policymakers in the nuclear-armed states (and a few others who shelter behind them or would like to emulate them), shared by a significant proportion of their publics, seems to be that nuclear weapons – while maybe dangerous, and on balance a regrettable invention – are nonetheless significant contributors to national security.

20.6     In most domestic and even international policy contexts, one does not need to look beyond a small handful of players to identify the leadership that really matters. But the nuclear context is rather different. The problem of achieving a nuclear weapon free world – and ensuring that things don’t get worse before they get better – is so complex, and involves so many different players at different levels, that no one actor’s leadership is likely, by itself, to be decisive. What is really required is leadership at three different levels – from the top down, from like-minded peers, and from the bottom up – as discussed later in this section. The optimal impetus will come from a combination of willingness to move on the part of the major nuclear-armed states; like-minded groups of other state actors pushing out the envelope and creating peer pressure for disarmament; and effective civil society action keeping governments responsive and politically accountable. Each is necessary, and none by itself sufficient.

20.7     Knowledge. It certainly cannot be assumed that there is sufficient knowledge and concern about the nuclear problem – its magnitude, severity and urgency, in all its dimensions as we have spelt them out in this report – at the level of policymakers, those in the media and elsewhere who most influence them, and in the general publics who give political decision-makers their mandates.

20.8     In one sense there is no shortage of relevant professional knowledge on nuclear issues. In militaries, defence ministries, weapons research laboratories and think tanks and research institutes generally there is still a reasonable pool of specialist technical knowledge on nuclear weapons systems and arms control strategies. But it is not clear that enough of these specialists and scholars are finding it possible to make the transition from Cold War thinking to that required in today’s world, where nuclear weapons are far less the solution than the problem. Nor is it clear that the pool is being refreshed at a sufficient rate by new entrants with both the skills and mindset to cope with the huge challenges involved in winding back the whole existing system. And within most of the foreign ministries and intergovernmental institutions and organizations where new strategic thinking is not only going to have to be generated but translated into very complex negotiated treaties, arrangements and understandings, the relevant experience and expertise is becoming very thin indeed.

20.9     At the level of civil society the outlook is a little more promising, as discussed further below, with a number of significant non-governmental organizations beginning to find their mobilizing voice on nuclear issues after a long period of marginalization. But the mainstream media remains largely uninterested, except in the context of the immediate challenges of the kind posed by North Korea and Iraq. And among publics at large, although the younger generation is far more information-technology and social-networking savvy than its elders, it is not clear that nuclear issues are gaining much traction by comparison with other public policy concerns like climate change, environmental degradation generally, resource security, global disease, and financial and employment security.

20.10     Clearly there is a need, which hopefully will be partly met by reports like this, for advocates of change to do a better job of explaining to the media and publics directly why the elimination of nuclear weapons is a good idea. But public engagement is a long-haul enterprise, requiring rather more than a few well-placed op-eds, and public lectures and seminars in major capitals. Sustained media campaigning is required, and not only through the traditional print and broadcasting formats, but through the blogosphere generally and all the rapidly evolving social networking tools – of which Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are just the best-known current Western examples – which are becoming the primary information channels for an extraordinarily high proportion of the global population. NGOs will necessarily be the major vehicle for conducting these campaigns, and they will need generous support from governments and philanthropic foundations to enable them to do so effectively.

20.11     Beyond and behind this kind of knowledge-and-concern building effort there needs to be a renewed emphasis on formal education and training, in schools and universities. High school curricula should find a place for explaining the history of the nuclear arms race, the huge risks that the world faces if it continues in any form, and the sheer enormity of the horrors that are involved in any actual use of nuclear weapons. Field trips by students around the world to Hiroshima may be the most graphic way of all of driving this message home, and they should continue to be supported (as should the UN Disarmament Fellowship Program, sponsored by Japan, which so far has brought some 700 diplomats to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki since 1983). The living reminders of what these weapons mean in practice – the “hibakusha” victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – gave painful and moving testimony to this Commission, but with the average age of survivors now in the mid-70s there will be all too few opportunities for others to directly share our experience. But their story can and should be told to future generations, using all the classroom resources of modern technology: those who forget, or never learn about, the agonies of the past are all too often condemned to repeating them.

20.12     An associated need is for more specialized courses on nuclear-related issues – from the scientific and technical to the strategic policy and legal – in universities and diplomatic-training and related institutions. On any view of the time it will take to work through all the non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use strategies and agendas detailed in this report, a large number of experts across multiple disciplines are going to be fully occupied for decades to come. As anxious as this Commission is to put the nuclear weapons age behind us, we cannot emphasise too strongly the scale and duration of the resource commitment – and not least that in human resources – that will be needed to achieve this.

20.13     Strategy. If policymakers are actually to be moved to action, their knowledge of a problem and general willingness to address it has to be accompanied by a clear sense that there is a productive way forward. The dilemma for those concerned to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons is that too often in the past the strategies proposed have been either too ambitious to be credible – like having all nuclear-armed states negotiate now to give up all their weapons by a given date – or too modest either to inspire hope that this goal could ever be achieved. Unless there is a very clear vision of what the ultimate objective is, small steps in arms control, however individually worthwhile, are likely to lack direction, purpose and pace, and be almost as much a distraction from the main game as a contribution to it.

20.14     In this Commission’s judgment, there is no practical alternative to proceeding step by step rather than through one great, comprehensive single leap. But as we have sought to make clear in the action plans that we have formulated, we believe that it is important from the outset to articulate a very clear and sharp ultimate goal, and map the path – or, more accurately, multiple paths – to it in as much detail as it possibly can be, setting a number of target dates and benchmarks along the way. Specific elements like the CTBT, FMCT, and deep bilaterally negotiated cuts in weapons arsenals, are all indispensable, but they have to be accompanied by something more than a vague idea that this will all lead somehow, at some point, to nuclear disarmament. Deadlines have in the past sometimes worked well to speed things up – as with the agreement to conclude CTBT negotiations, made in 1995 as part of the deal to extend the NPT indefinitely. But even talk of setting them has also proved divisive, as with the response in 1988 to Rajiv Gandhi’s “time-bound action plan”.

20.15     We hope that we have steered a course through these perils by making a clear distinction between the minimization and elimination phases of the process. For the latter, while being very clear about the ultimate goal and the conditions that will need to be in place to achieve it, we have acknowledged that it is impossible now to credibly identify a particular date by which it might be achieved. But for the former, we have argued for the feasibility of quite clear and measurable short term (to 2012) and medium term (to 2025) objectives – culminating in a very specific “minimization point” characterized by no more than 2,000 weapons in existence worldwide, with “no first use” doctrine universally agreed, and force deployment arrangements in place that would make this credible. The task now is to get these action plans accepted in principle. Then it will be a matter of ensuring that there are in place the remaining necessary elements of political will, the institutional processes and actors needed to turn blueprint into action.

20.16     Process. There is no shortage of available institutional machinery through which to advance both non-proliferation and disarmament objectives, and a good deal of this report has been occupied with describing it, and recommending its further and better use: existing treaties like the NPT and CTBT, with their associated implementation agencies, the IAEA and the CTBTO; Nuclear Weapon Free Zones and other regional arrangements; treaty-making bodies like the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, which can be used to negotiate new binding agreements like the FMCT; norm-setting forums like the NPT Review Conference and the UN General Assembly; formal enforcement mechanisms like the UN Security Council itself and the monitoring systems put in place pursuant to its resolutions like UNSCR 1540; and less formal enforcement arrangements like the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Proliferation Security Initiative.

20.17     Beyond all these existing mechanisms, however – which might collectively be described as “traditional arms control” – the question arises whether there is not some other way of really concentrating attention and energy on the ultimate, desired central outcome: nuclear disarmament. Isn’t it the case that, for too long and for too many players in the multilateral system, process has mattered just as much, if not more, than the outcome? Can’t we do any better than all the piecemeal steps discussed so far? Don’t we need to find some new, more sharply focused way, of engaging core constituencies on the core disarmament task?

20.18     There is an alternative – or additional – approach which has many supporters, which focuses on nuclear disarmament through the lens not of traditional arms control, but rather international humanitarian law. The argument is that nuclear disarmament is at heart a humanitarian imperative because of the grotesquely inhumane and enormous impact of nuclear weapons; that the single most important thing is to prevent their use and the most certain way of achieving that objective is to eliminate them completely; and that the best way of achieving that in practice – motivating like-minded governments and civil society alike – would be negotiations conducted through a humanitarian and human rights-focused process.

20.19     The models most often cited, which might be described as “campaign treaties”, are the Ottawa process, producing the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention of 1996, and the Oslo process, producing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. The particular vehicle most often advocated in the present context is an all-embracing “Nuclear Weapons Convention”. This and other such options are discussed later in this section.

Identifying the Key Actors

20.20     “Top down” actors. The existing nuclear-armed states, both inside and outside the NPT, are inescapably the lead players, with none more important in the first instance than the U.S. and Russia, simply because of their hugely disproportionate share of the total global arsenal. As has been fully discussed elsewhere in this report, President Obama has led the way not only generally in clearly placing nuclear disarmament back on the international agenda in the Security Council and elsewhere, but more specifically with President Medvedev in committing to the negotiation in 2009 of a START follow-on treaty. It is crucial not only that this treaty be concluded, with a major reduction on each side in deployed strategic weapons, but followed by further intensive strategic dialogue and associated deep cuts in weapons stocks. It is also important that these two countries show the way on doctrine and deployment, contributing actively to reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in strategic thinking.

20.21     The other nuclear-weapon states have made some contributions of their own, with the UK recently deciding to reduce the number of submarines carrying its nuclear arsenal and playing a leading role in developing, with Norway, workable disarmament verification strategies, France leading the way on irreversibility in moth-balling its nuclear weapons tests sites and rendering fissile material production facilities unfit for weapons purposes, and China is remaining at least a constant advocate and leader on negative security assurances and no first use doctrine.

20.22     But each of the five original weapon states need to do more, not least in committing to active participation in a multilateral disarmament process of the kind that will be necessary to achieve what we have described as the 2025 minimization point target – and in bringing to the table in this respect the three nuclear-armed states outside the NPT. We have suggested that the Conference on Disarmament, for all its desolate lack of productivity in recent years, might be an appropriate forum, potentially acceptable to India and Pakistan and workable for Israel, for beginning such a serious multilateral dialogue.

20.23     “Peer group” actors. Leadership in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation has been a hallmark of a significant number of non-nuclear weapons states, including those that have been members of groupings like the New Agenda Coalition and the Seven Nations Initiative, all the states that have negotiated nuclear weapon free zones and those governments – including the two sponsoring this report – that have had commissions and expert studies move the issue forward. In driving this process further, the role of like-minded core groups in providing peer pressure and demanding high standards will be vital.

20.24     Such groups have played a critical role in advancing disarmament negotiations in the past, not least in the broad-based and successful campaigns of recent years, in which they joined with strong civil society leadership, in producing the Mine Ban and Cluster Munitions Conventions. A like-minded representative core group of states, including not only committed non-nuclear weapons states but key, progressive nuclear armed-states and could begin a parallel track process to negotiate such agreements as reciprocal transparency measures, a way to approach excess fissile material stocks, and a draft no first use treaty or more general Nuclear Weapons Convention of the kind discussed below.

20.25     There are both advantages and disadvantages in the like-minded group approach to formal treaty negotiation. The advantages include a high level of commitment to the process and the outcome, increasing the stakeholder effect; the content of the treaty is usually far tougher – with less lowest-common-denominator, watered-down language – than one where states are reluctant negotiators; and once they get going the negotiations tend to be fast, concluding within a year or eighteen months. The basic disadvantage is that such groups are self-selecting, by definition including those who have already decided to move forward and not including the so-called “problem” states (although it is noteworthy that countries who self-exclude from treaty negotiations not infrequently have a later change of heart, as with France and China eventually joining the NPT in 1992).

20.26     Whatever the utility of peer group solidarity in treaty–making exercises, there do not appear to be any down-side risks in such pressure when it comes to pushing the disarmament agenda in all available forums. One way in which they can help to do so is by working equally hard and constructively on non-proliferation issues. Here, as everywhere else, there is an inexorable connection between the two objectives. Nuclear-armed states perceive that they are being asked to give up a great deal in moving toward nuclear abolition. They cannot be forced to do so, and will insist on significant security and political gains in return for nuclear disarmament – or at least the mitigation of insecurities that might otherwise arise. The most obvious return they would demand in transitioning toward nuclear disarmament is much more robust guarantees that proliferation will not occur, or will be robustly defeated. For nuclear abolition to be realistic and not merely a slogan, important non-nuclear-weapon states must be willing not just to emphasise the nuclear-armed states’ own responsibilities, but to cooperate with them in creating conditions conducive to this process. This includes states that do not possess nuclear weapons but which rely on extended nuclear deterrence.

20.27     There is an additional role to be played here by regional structures and political groupings within international organizations. For example, the Non-Aligned Movement contains two states – India and Pakistan – that possess nuclear weapons and have remained outside the NPT. Serious pressure on those two states (and indeed on North Korea as well) from leading NAM countries would matter a great deal.

20.28     ‘Bottom up” civil society actors. Since the first establishment of the political anti-nuclear weapons movements at the end of World War II, an extraordinarily diverse and international collection of civil society organizations have been working to end the nuclear arms race and recreate a world without such weapons. They have included women’s groups, scientists, engineers, physicians, indigenous organizations, trade unions, city councils, mayors, writers, artists, musicians and actors and so on, and between them have initiated an immense range of actions including mass demonstrations, national and international campaigns, television documentaries, educational promotion, engagement in negotiation processes, model treaty drafting and scientific verification experiments. Among the most significant the current such advocacy groups are Pugwash (the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize winner), the Nuclear Threat Initiative (and its associated Nuclear Security Project), Global Zero, the Middle Powers Initiative and Article VI Forum (organized by the Global Security Institute), the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, and a number of grassroots-focused campaign organizations like ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, initiated by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) and Mayors for Peace (with its advocacy of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol) .

20.29     Add to these activist advocacy groups the specialist think tanks, research institutes and many scholars working individually on these issues – including all the associated research centres and consultants working with this Commission – and it is apparent that there is a formidable body of expertise, experience and enthusiasm available to be harnessed, and indeed to play a leading role in energizing the necessary debate and driving practical outcomes. There is substantial interchange between officials and non-governmental experts around the world through a process of publication, international conferences and participation in official negotiations and treaty reviews; in many countries, governmental officials have either come from civil bodies or will be working in them once they leave office; and there have been very close working relationships developed between some organizations and governments in the context of particular disarmament campaigns, including the major ones of the last decade on land mines and cluster bombs.

20.30     The Commission sees the main roles of civil society actors as being to inform wider publics about the issues, maintain pressure upon governments to act upon them, and to offer creative and constructive ideas to policymakers as to how to advance the disarmament agenda. We are realistic about their limitations as well as their strengths: there are some nuclear-armed states (France and Israel) where nuclear disarmament appears never to have been the subject of civil society mobilization, and others (China, Russia, and probably Pakistan – not to mention the outrider, North Korea) which are structurally less susceptible to such political pressure. Probably the most effective general strategy for civil society actors is to make common cause with like-minded governments – including nuclear-armed states where possible – and to try to extract real synergy from the integrated effort, as was very much the case (albeit with much narrower and more manageable briefs) with the Ottawa land mine and Oslo cluster bomb campaigns.

Focusing the Campaign: A Nuclear Weapons Convention?

20.31     As noted above, the question arises whether the cause of nuclear disarmament might be better advanced by a focused effort to advance a particular international-humanitarian-law oriented “campaign treaty”, rather than concentrating only on the many different strategies, all of an essentially traditional-arms-control variety, which we have brought together in the short, medium and longer term action agendas identified in this report. The issue is not whether all the other detailed strategies and recommendations should be abandoned, but rather whether they should be supplemented by a focused campaign effort of this kind, in which the key actors would be a combination of like-minded governments and civil society organizations, on the model of the Ottawa land mines and Oslo cluster bomb campaigns.

20.32     The primary candidate for this role is an all-embracing “Nuclear Weapons Convention”, for which a model draft treaty now exists and which we have already mentioned briefly in Sections 10 and 18. Other possible approaches are a “no use” convention, a “no first use” convention, and a “framework” rather than detailed nuclear weapons convention. These options are discussed in turn in the following paragraphs, after a brief account of some of the humanitarian-law models on which they are all based.

20.33     The Humanitarian Model. Concern about the threat of the use and misuse of weapons is woven through the whole history of international humanitarian law, and a significant body of treaty law has been put in place to control and prohibit a range of both conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Reinforcing this in recent years is the now well-developed concept of human security, which makes human beings rather than the state itself the primary focus of security concern, and emphasises the protection of populations and human rights generally. Two of the landmark global arms control agreements of the last decades – the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions – have their roots in international humanitarian law in the form of the 1925 Geneva Protocol. The most recent examples of a humanitarian-focused approach, successfully integrating efforts by both the technical arms control community and the humanitarian and development communities, are the 1997 Mine Ban Convention and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

20.34     The anti-personnel mines treaty was a long time in the making, and followed an extended period of research by governments, NGOs, think-tanks, universities, militaries and international organizations in order to ascertain the problem and find ways to a solution, with the most influential findings for otherwise reluctant governments being general agreement on their limited military usefulness. It was born of frustration with the lack of will of key member states to apply to this problem the 1981 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, which led a group of governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to meet in Ottawa in October 1996, starting a process with a small core group of energetic committed individuals and officials, and later expanding it to begin negotiation with a wider group of states. NGOs formed an umbrella group, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and worked collectively and effectively.

20.35     The process was tight, with an agreed time-frame. Further meetings were held throughout 1997 in Vienna, Bonn, and Brussels, ending in adoption of the treaty text in Oslo in September 1997, banning anti-personnel landmines completely, and providing both for the destruction of stocks, and their removal from the conflict zones where they had been deployed. The Mine Ban Convention now has 156 parties – still excluding some major states with millions of anti-personnel mines stockpiled between them (the U.S., Russia, China, India and Pakistan), but the production, sale and use of such mines has decreased dramatically, through both formal adherence to it by many former mine-producing states, and widespread acceptance of its provisions by others.

20.36     The Convention on Cluster Munitions was similarly born from frustration with attempts to negotiate a ban on these inhumane weapons through the UN-based process. The government of Norway held a meeting in Oslo February 2007 that marked the beginning of negotiations; further meetings followed in Lima, Vienna, Wellington and Dublin, with a signing Ceremony in Oslo in December 2008. Again research was carried out by governments, NGOs, think-tanks, the military and international organizations to ascertain the problem and devise solutions, and the process involved a humanitarian approach, a core group of states, international organizations and NGOs (who formed an umbrella group, the Cluster Munitions Coalition, to maximise NGO cohesion and impact). The Convention now has 100 signatures and 22 ratifications, but several major producers of cluster munitions, including the U.S., Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Brazil, have not yet signed it.

20.37     In relation to nuclear weapons, the main product of humanitarian action to date has been the 1996 International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, requested by the UN General Assembly on the initiative of the Assembly of the World Health Organization. The fourteen judges examined current treaty law, customary rules and state practice with regard to nuclear weapons, and agreed that the threat or use of military weapons should “be compatible with …the principles and rules of international law”. Their opinion also strongly reinforced Article VI of the NPT in finding unanimously that there exists an international obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament “in all its aspects”. But on the core issue of actual breach of international humanitarian law, it was only on the casting vote of the President of the Court that it was determined that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law” – and this paragraph went on to state that the Court could not definitively conclude that this would be so in every situation, including in situations of self defence where the very survival of a state was at stake. To this extent, the opinion has been cited by both opponents and proponents of nuclear weapons as supporting their case.

20.38     Nuclear Weapons Convention. Originally prepared in 1997, in response to the ICJ Advisory Opinion, and updated in 2007 by an international consortium of lawyers, scientists and physicians, with inputs from many disarmament experts, a very comprehensive draft model convention has been given wide circulation – including in the UN General Assembly on the initiative of Costa Rica and Malaysia – and enjoys considerable support from civil society groups around the world and a number of non-nuclear weapon states.

20.39     The model Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. States possessing nuclear weapons would be required to eliminate them in a series of phases over an (optimal) fifteen year period, involving taking nuclear weapons off alert, removing them from deployment, dismantling them and placing all fissile material under international control. The Convention would also prohibit the production of weapons-useable fissile material and require delivery vehicles to be destroyed or converted to make them non-nuclear capable. An International Monitoring System would be established to gather information, with mechanisms for information sharing and confidentiality. Verification would include, inter alia, declarations and reports from states, routine and challenge inspections, on-site and remote sensors, satellite imagery; environmental sampling, and information sharing. The model Convention is structured traditionally with a preamble, and includes articles on obligations; definitions of nuclear materials, devices and prohibited activities; elaborately described phases for implementation and deadlines; and a structure for implementation including a secretariat and states parties decision-making procedures.

20.40     The model NWC is a professionally crafted and thoughtful document, well described by its UN sponsors as “a useful tool in the exploration, development, negotiation and achievement of such an instrument or instruments”. A comprehensive legal regime of this kind will be necessary, as we have noted in Section 18, to accompany the final move to elimination, and it is important that support be progressively built for it. Moreover, it is not too early to start now on further refining and developing the concepts in the model NWC, making its provisions as workable and realistic as possible, and building support for them, with the object of having a fully-worked through draft available to inform and guide the multilateral disarmament negotiations we see as gaining real momentum during our medium term time-frame, from 2012 to 2025. We recommend, accordingly, that interested governments support with appropriate resources the further development of the NWC.

20.41     The Commission doubts, however, whether an NWC can be of much immediate utility as a “campaign treaty” on the model of the Ottawa and Oslo processes. The primary difficulty is that the issues it addresses are simply too complicated and too controversial – certainly for all the existing nuclear-armed states, but for many others as well – to be able to command the immediate broad-based support from governments that has been characteristic of the other vehicles mentioned and made them so practically useful. To take just one example of the many drafting problems that will have to be worked through, the document embeds the distinction between NPT nuclear-weapon states and nuclear-armed states outside the NPT (described in the text as “nuclear capable states”) by allowing the former up to fifteen years to destroy all their nuclear weapons, but requiring the latter to eliminate theirs within five years of the treaty entering into force, not a solution likely to attract much support from those nuclear-armed now outside the NPT process who must become committed to disarmament. .

20.42     “Framework” Convention. Another approach, essentially a refinement of that just discussed, would be to negotiate a draft convention which is not itself comprehensive in scope, but in which there is a legally-binding commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons, and where there is provision for the detail to be subsequently spelt out through regular negotiating meetings at which benchmarks are established and the next steps are negotiated as protocols or adjuncts to the basic “framework”. The advantage of this approach is that there is actually a visible framework, such that next steps are not left just to good will and favourable climates: there would be a commitment to negotiate and a mechanism for new elements to be incorporated over time. The disadvantage is that not all states in the framework convention will join all the protocols at the same time, but they are part of the negotiations and thus can slow or water things down.

20.43     At the 2005 NPT Review Conference, a number of states circulated a working paper which called for the commencement of negotiations leading either to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention or a framework of instruments for the complete abolition and elimination of nuclear weapons. It provided a negotiating model which combined the positive aspects of both the step-by-step approach favoured by some of the NPT nuclear weapon states and their allies, and the more comprehensive approach favoured by the Non-Aligned Movement. Malaysia called this a “comprehensive-incremental approach”, as it included the achievement of disarmament steps within a comprehensive disarmament framework. Pursuant to such an approach the completion of disarmament steps in areas where agreement can be reached within a short to medium timeframe would be facilitated. More difficult issues requiring more complex arrangements would be resolved through continuing negotiations and achieved in subsequent steps.

20.44     Framework conventions have been embraced in other contexts, with mixed success. The Climate Change and Inhumane Weapons Conventions are other examples of negotiated frameworks in which there is a commitment to addressing the problem, regular negotiating meetings are agreed at which benchmarks are progressively established, and the next steps are negotiated as protocols or adjuncts to the basic treaty. The Commission believes that it would be appropriate for this approach to be carefully considered in the context of the further development, which we have indicated we support, of a model Nuclear Weapons Convention.

20.45     “No Use” Convention. A much shorter and simpler approach would be to craft a draft treaty which would, in its operative paragraphs, just ban outright the use or threat of nuclear weapons by anyone against anyone. The idea of such a treaty is not new, first arising in 1961 when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 1653 declaring the use of nuclear weapons “a crime against mankind and civilization” and being repeated in various forms since, most recently by India’s National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan at the Munich Security Conference in February 2009, noting that his proposal should be seen against the framework of the Action Plan proposed by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. Another way of advancing the “no use” objective might be to define use or threat of use of nuclear weapons as an indictable crime under the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.

20.46     One issue which divided the ICJ in its 1996 advisory opinion, is often avoided in discussions of a robust no use treaty, and on which it would be difficult to reach ready agreement in any “campaign treaty” drafting process, is whether nuclear weapons nonetheless could or should be used in self-defence, in response to an actual or perhaps imminent attack (bearing in mind that humanitarian law considerations relating to indiscriminate destruction, the targeting of civilians and aggravated and unnecessary suffering would certainly remain applicable). A more immediately practical consideration, from this Commission’s perspective, is while we can see the possible utility of such a draft treaty as a rallying point for global civil society organizations, we do not see it as likely to be taken seriously enough by enough governments to accelerate in any way the actual move toward disarmament we advocate in our own phased action agendas.

20.47     “No First Use” Convention. Another approach again would be to craft a draft treaty which sought a binding legal commitment by nuclear-armed states that they would never, under any circumstances, be the first to use nuclear weapons. The objective of having credible such pledges from all relevant states is one this Commission strongly supports, we have supported this as a medium term objective in our discussion of the issue in Section 17, and there may well be a case for seeking to embody this in treaty form. But is not clear that anything much is to be gained in advancing this agenda now, by seeking to make no first use a “campaign treaty” exercise, given the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved, not least in identifying any kind of workable enforcement mechanism, and the current resistance to making any such commitment by nearly all the nuclear-armed states. Moreover, it is clear from the soundings we have taken that international civil society organizations are not likely to be very enthusiastic about embracing as a major campaign vehicle a treaty which (even if no first use is acknowledged as a useful station on the say to zero) is not itself premised on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Sustaining the Momentum: An Ongoing Monitoring Mechanism

20.48     The lesson of history is that even when momentum is generated around a major international policy issue – as was the case for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in the early 1990s – it is very difficult to sustain. As a Commission, we hope that our many recommendations – and in particular the short, medium and longer term action agendas within which we frame them – will have their own logic, and their own trajectory. To maximise exposure and understanding of them, we certainly intend to engage in a substantial program of international advocacy on our report and recommendations during the Commission’s remaining life until mid-2010, and may accompany that with a further report assessing the state of play, looking forward, after the May 2010 Review Conference.

20.49     But the question arises whether there is any more formal, or informal, institutional process that could be put in place to help ensure, over a longer time frame, that the key actors keep playing their assigned or necessary roles, and help minimize the risk of issues dropping off the agenda through want of attention and encouragement. Given the centrality of the most of the issues addressed in this report to states’ perception of their own and others’ vital national security interests, it would be unrealistic to make too many claims for what could be achieved by any independent oversight, benchmark-monitoring and policy-creativity encouraging mechanism, but we are inclined to believe that, on balance, something of this kind would add value to what is at present a very ad hoc and unfocused scrutiny process.

20.50     We are certainly attracted by the idea, as one by-product of such an oversight enterprise, of some kind of regular “report card” in which a distinguished international panel would evaluate the performance of both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-armed states against the action agendas we have identified. Such a report would be akin to the very useful “Space Security Index” that is produced annually by a non-governmental expert consortium led by the Canadian NGO Project Ploughshares and supported by the Canadian government. It may not be very plausible to contemplate any such robust reporting being carried out, in this highly politically and security-sensitive area, by a formal intergovernmental body, but other options are available: the likely impact of any such report card would depend on the quality and credibility of the panel itself, and that of the research and analysis on which it based its findings, and probably benefit from being seen as wholly independent of government.

20.51     At the institutional level, the model we have in mind would involve the creation of a new organization – or the adaptation of one or more existing ones – to perform functions at essentially two levels. The professional-foundation level would involve full-time researchers recording and assessing the current state of play on nuclear disarmament, proliferation, security and fuel cycle related activities, in a physical location which could be almost anywhere, but which would need to be thoroughly integrated with the global research community, and preferably be constructed so as to draw directly on the resources of a wide international network of well-established associated research centres. The superstructure level would involve a governing or advisory board, drawn from distinguished and experienced figures worldwide – with backgrounds in government generally, science and industry, defence and arms control, and the humanitarian community – who would be finally responsible for any published evaluations made, reports issued, advocacy campaigns pursued or policy initiatives proposed.

20.52     At the professional-foundation level, there are many existing think tanks and research institutes around the world – including all those supporting this Commission – who have the unquestioned expertise to play the role here envisaged. One possible difficulty, however, is that almost all of them have strong national, rather than global, identities. At the superstructure level, in the nuclear context, there are a number of options that suggest themselves. One would be for this Commission to remain in existence in some such role, but it may be preferable to create a new body, or draw on the resources of some existing one, like the Nuclear Threat Initiative (chaired by Ted Turner and Sam Nunn, and very much U.S.-based, but worldwide in its operations and with a Board of Directors drawn equally from very distinguished U.S. and international figures), or the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe (established in 2007 as a largely Russian initiative, not as visibly active or well resourced as NTI, but again with a very distinguished cast of international experts and statespersons as members of its Supervisory Council and larger Advisory Council).

20.53     The institutional solution we are inclined to favour, and suggest for further consideration, is the establishment of a new “Global Centre on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament”, which could be quite small in terms of the number of professionals directly employed, but would work with researchers and research institutions around the world, and would have a governing board, directing and promoting its work, particularly its annual “report card” findings, drawn in balanced way from knowledgeable and influential figures from around the world. Its role would be essentially to act as a focal point and clearing house for the huge amount of work being done on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues by many different institutions and organizations in many different countries, and to provide research and advocacy support for both like-minded governments on the one hand, and civil society organizations on the other.

20.54     The creation of a new global centre to carry out the combination of research, advocacy, monitoring and advisory roles we suggest will require substantial government or foundation support if it is to be professional and effective. We hope that our sponsoring governments, and others like-minded, will find it possible to contribute to some ongoing process of the kind we suggest. The costs will not be trivial, but they may appear so when weighed against the incalculable costs to humanity if we do not now once and for all act effectively to eliminate the risks and threats with which the world has so uncomfortably and uncertainly lived since the dawn of the nuclear age.


Recommendations on Mobilizing and Sustaining Political Will

71. Sustained campaigning is needed, through both the traditional and new media and direct advocacy, to better inform policy-makers and those who influence them about nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues. Capable non-governmental organizations should be appropriately supported by governments and philanthropic foundations to the extent necessary to enable them to perform this role effectively. [20.7–10]

72. There should be a major renewed emphasis on formal education and training about nuclear disarmament and related issues in schools and universities, focusing on the history of nuclear weapons, the risks and threats involved in their continued deployment and proliferation, and possible ways forward. An associated need is for more specialized courses on nuclear-related issues – from the scientific and technical to the strategic policy and legal – in universities and diplomatic-training and related institutions. [20.11–12]

73. Work should commence now on further refining and developing the concepts in the model Nuclear Weapons Convention now in circulation, making its provisions as workable and realistic as possible, and building support for them, with the object of having a fully-worked through draft available to inform and guide multilateral disarmament negotiations as they gain momentum. Interested governments should support with appropriate resources the further development of the NWC. [20.38–44]

74. To help sustain political will over time, a regular “report card” should be published in which a distinguished international panel, with appropriately professional and broad based research support, would evaluate the performance of both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-armed states against the action agendas identified in this report. [20.49–50]

75. Consideration should be given to the establishment of a new “Global Centre on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament” to act as a focal point and clearing house for the work being done on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues by many different institutions and organizations in many different countries, provide research and advocacy support for both like-minded governments on the one hand, and civil society organizations on the other, and to prepare the “report card” described above. [20.53]

76. Such a centre might be constructed to perform functions at two levels:

(a) a base of full time research and advocacy professionals, drawing directly on the resources of a wide international network of well-established associated research centres; and

(b) a superstructure, in the form of a governing or advisory board drawn from distinguished global figures of wide-ranging experience, giving their imprimatur as appropriate to the centre’s published reports, policy initiatives and campaigns. [20.51–54]

Next: Notes and Sources