|I am pleased and honoured to be with you this evening as the Lawyers'
Committee on Nuclear Policy commences the third decade of tenacious efforts on behalf of a
more peaceful and just world order. In an otherwise difficult year for international peace
and security, this is a happy occasion indeed.
had its ups and downs, to say the least. If Dr. Johnson were with us tonight, he might
quip that its persistence marks a triumph of hope over experience. Progress in this field
is often slow and incremental. Sometimes it is ambiguous or subject to conflicting
interpretations. Sometimes it is hard to assign credit to individuals or specific policies
when progress is made, or to assign blame when things go wrong.
These complications are not mere abstractions -- they have profound
effects in the real world of practical action. For example, these problems only make it
that much more difficult for non-governmental groups (NGOs) in disarmament to attract
funds from sponsors who increasingly want specific concrete results from their
investments. In our fast-paced world of sound-bites and instant gratification, we become
all too impatient with ventures whose pay-offs are not evident or capable of being
measured for years into the future. Increasingly, leaders in such a climate -- whether in
or out of government -- are asking themselves, "why should I take a bold initiative
when it will be my successor or successor's successor who will reap the gain?"
As President of the historic 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, I
must confess that I had very mixed feelings about the long-term significance of that
event. While I of course welcomed the outcome -- three decisions and a resolution that the
Conference adopted without a vote -- I did not view it as any occasion for smug
complacency. I saw its main significance in the realm of accountability. As I stressed in
my closing statement to the conference, "non-proliferation and disarmament can be
pursued only jointly, not at each other's expense" -- hence the value of a
strengthened review process. I said that the decision on permanent extension signified
"our collective dedication to the permanence of an international legal barrier
against nuclear proliferation so that we can forge ahead in our tasks towards a
nuclear-weapon-free world." The permanent extension, therefore, represented neither
"a permanence of unbalanced obligations" nor "the permanence of nuclear
apartheid between nuclear haves and have-nots." I concluded my statement by paying a
sincere tribute to the work of NGOs on behalf of that treaty -- just as today, I pay a
sincere tribute to the Lawyers' Committee for its twenty years of efforts on behalf of
nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Last year, nuclear disarmament received new support in numerous events
associated with the celebration of the new Millennium -- this includes not only the
Millennium Declaration, but also important statements and declarations from a world summit
of religious leaders, from the heads of the world's parliaments, and from the Millennium
Forum -- a gathering of 1,350 representatives of over 1,000 non-governmental organizations
and other civil society organizations from more than 100 countries.
Last year also marked the successful conclusion of the Sixth NPT Review
Conference, which substantially improved the accountability of the treaty's review process
by reaching agreement on thirteen practical steps for the achievement of global nuclear
disarmament. One of these has already been achieved, namely, an "unequivocal
undertaking" by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of
their nuclear arsenals. The Final Document of that conference also reaffirmed that
"the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against the
use or threat of use of nuclear weapons." The states parties concluded, in short,
that disarmament offered a greater guarantee against the next nuclear nightmare than any
other alternative -- which we must assume includes both deterrence and various technical,
Despite these accomplishments, however, the "rule of law" with
respect to nuclear disarmament - as opposed to non-proliferation -- is still very
much in its infancy, for at least eight reasons.
First, many of the important treaties -- such as START II, the CTBT, and
the Pelindaba Treaty -- have still not entered into force.
Second, the treaties that are in force fall short of universal
membership. This includes most notably the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it also
applies to treaties dealing with other weapons of mass destruction, particularly the
Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention.
Third, some NPT parties have repeatedly alleged -- though typically
without probative evidence - that other parties are not complying with their treaty
obligations. Also, the states making these allegations have neither brought their claims
to the UN Security Council nor have they taken their allegations to other multilateral
fora to resolve such concerns.
Fourth, and this relates closely to the previous point, the NPT lacks
its own institutional infrastructure - including, for example, an executive council or
secretariat -- to provide a permanent or even ad hoc mechanism for resolving disputes that
may arise under the treaty. These institutional questions are very important. Last year,
in his remarks at the opening of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the Secretary-General
warned of the dangers of "rust" in the multilateral machinery of disarmament.
Funding constraints continue to limit the potential contributions from this machinery, as
does the political stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament over contrasting views about
the appropriate linkages between nuclear disarmament, a fissile materials treaty, and
measures to prevent an arms race in outer space.
A fifth reason for the weakness of the rule of law in disarmament
concerns a certain lack of congruency between - on the one hand -- the solemn commitments
by the nuclear-weapon states to global nuclear disarmament and - on the other hand - the
tendency of such states to continue to refer to such weapons as "vital" or
"essential" to their security and, in some cases, the security of their friends
and allies as well. Some of these states maintain doctrines that reserve the rights to be
the first to use nuclear weapons, to use such weapons against states that use other
weapons of mass destruction, and even to use them against non-nuclear-weapon states. The
congruency problem also extends into the gap between the global nuclear disarmament
commitment and domestic laws, regulations, and policies. What is missing is significant
evidence of a systematic effort by the nuclear-weapon states to prepare the way for a
global nuclear weapons convention - there is little evidence, for example, that major
political and financial investments are being made in devising a rigorous system for
verifying or enforcing such a convention.
Sixth, the nuclear-weapon states continue to make qualitative
improvements in their weapons - some by means of sub-critical tests - even during the
current, informal moratorium on nuclear tests. Following the nuclear tests in South Asia
in 1998, it seems likely that this phenomenon of ongoing qualitative improvements -
frequently called, "vertical proliferation" - is now well underway even outside
Seventh, there remains today - over three decades after the NPT entered
into force - very little transparency over existing nuclear stockpiles. Though new details
often do appear at the treaty's five-year review conferences, the world still does not
have a precise quantitative "base-line" for measuring the incremental process of
disarmament. Lacking transparency, it is quite difficult indeed to verify compliance with
disarmament obligations and to ensure real accountability. A related problem concerns the
treaty's failure to define its primary object, the term "nuclear explosive
device." Lacking such an agreed definition, countries seem to have different ways of
calibrating the pace of global nuclear disarmament, and this gives rise to several
difficult questions. Is a weapon stored in separate parts considered a weapon? Is a weapon
held on reserve status counted as a weapon? And prior to the CTBT's entry into force, is
every explosive device that releases nuclear energy necessarily a weapon?
An eighth indicator of the under-development of the rule of law nuclear
disarmament concerns the issue of irreversibility. Here the rule of law -- expressed in
binding obligations, precise definitions, and an independent means of control and
accounting -- could help enormously in ensuring that weapons reduced during the process of
disarmament will not be re-used in the manufacture of new weapons. Thanks to existing
safeguards agreements and complementary controls at the national and regional levels, the
rule of law has undoubtedly strengthened non-proliferation efforts, by reinforcing the
irreversibility of relevant commitments.
The negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention would be a logical way
to advance the rule of law in disarmament, and thereby to firm up this norm of
irreversibility. Yet despite the best efforts of the Lawyers' Committee over many years,
there is still no such treaty. With respect to the Committee's persistent and ultimately
successful efforts to obtain an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice
(ICJ) in 1996 on the legality of threat or use of use of nuclear weapons, the
international community remains divided over the optimal legal approach to achieve nuclear
disarmament. During the vote in the First Committee on this year's ICJ resolution, for
example, forty-seven states voted either against or to abstain on a text that called for
"multilateral negotiations in 2002 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear
None of these weaknesses in the global nuclear regime constitutes
grounds to abandon efforts on behalf of nuclear disarmament. Quite the contrary, they are
a call to action. I wish I could -- in my brief remarks tonight -- unveil the solution to
all these problems, but there are unfortunately no easy answers. While the way to cut the
Gordian knot of disarmament has yet to be discovered, it is possible to identify some
critical steps that the world must take to achieve this goal.
The key challenges ahead are twofold: to strengthen the political will
to achieve disarmament goals, and to strengthen the rule of law to consolidate incremental
gains. This approach has worked reasonably well in the field of non-proliferation --
although here too progress is possible -- and it is now time to intensify this two-track
approach in the field of disarmament. I believe that a political consensus must come
first, for such a consensus provides the only solid foundation upon which the rule of law
On other occasions, I have approached this political question largely by
stressing the need to pursue what I call "sustainable disarmament." For
disarmament to succeed, it needs a broad-based constituency - one that is at once dynamic
and institutionalized so that it can have some continuity over time. Future prospects for
nuclear disarmament will wax and wane with the level of political support it enjoys at the
top leadership levels of government as well as the grass roots -- who together must view
disarmament as serving the national interest and the broader interest of international
peace and security.
The network of support from organized groups for disarmament must also
be wide and deep - it should include both business and labour, groups that support the
rights of women and children, groups that seek a cleaner environment, religious groups,
and groups from the professional sector (law and medicine have their own unique
contributions to make). This network should include groups and individuals everywhere who
sincerely believe they have a stake in the success of disarmament.
Forging support for such a broad-based coalition must necessarily
involve both the media and the educational system, for the message of disarmament must
reach a wide audience indeed, one that is diverse both geographically and that is capable
of finding new adherents among grandparents and grandchildren alike. At the request of the
General Assembly, the Secretary-General -- with the assistance of a group of governmental
experts -- is currently undertaking a study of this problem of disarmament education that
will be completed next year. As slow and frustrating as the cause of nuclear disarmament
can be, nothing would advance this goal more than the gradual consolidation and
strengthening of a solid political foundation for the development of a new rule of law in
this challenging field.
I therefore encourage the Lawyers' Committee to keep up its efforts to
achieve global nuclear disarmament, to strengthen the foundation of political support for
this goal, and never to give up until the goal is finally achieved. With your legal
backgrounds, you are exceptionally well placed to champion the cause of extending the rule
of law into the field of disarmament.
Let us redouble our efforts to ensure that the occasion of the thirtieth
anniversary of the Lawyers' Committee will be a time not to pursue a global ban on
nuclear weapons -- but to implement such a ban. You have my very best wishes for
all the important work you have ahead.