Weapons Convention: Statement of Purpose and Summary of the MNWC
Table of Contents
I. U.N. General Assembly Resolution 51/45 M, Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, 1996
II. U.N. General Assembly Resolution 50/70 P, Nuclear Disarmament, 1995
III. Dispositif of the Advisory Opinion of the
International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons,
In February 1996 the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy established a committee of lawyers, academics, scientists, disarmament experts and diplomats to begin the drafting of a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), which would prohibit the development, production, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons and provide for their elimination.
The aim of the Model NWC is to demonstrate the feasibility of the elimination of nuclear weapons through such an international agreement. It is intended to stimulate negotiations by States on the elimination of nuclear weapons, and to provide guidance and focus for such negotiations. In addition, establishing a framework for the elimination of nuclear weapons, will assist in achieving steps towards that goal.
A large number of citizens' organizations are supportive of, or participating in this effort, including the Abolition 2000 Network, comprised of over 600 organizations worldwide, which calls for the negotiation and conclusion of a Nuclear Weapons Convention by the year 2000.
This document discusses the rationale for nuclear
abolition, the desirability of a comprehensive approach, alternative processes for
negotiation of a NWC and the necessity of developing political will for such negotiations.
It includes a draft Preamble and an Outline of the draft Model NWC.
The threat posed by the existence of nuclear weapons has been recognized internationally ever since they were first used in 1945. The very first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Res. 1 (I), called "for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction".
Nevertheless, the number of nuclear weapons in the world's arsenals grew to over 60,000 in the mid 1980s, and remains at over 30,000 today, with the equivalent explosive force of 200,000 Hiroshima sized bombs.
The nuclear weapon States continue to resist taking any significant steps towards abandoning their nuclear deterrence policies. Although the US and Russia have withdrawn a large number of weapons from deployment, remaining weapons are kept on alert and many of the withdrawn warheads are kept in storage rather than destroyed. Nuclear weapon states continue with research to improve their nuclear weapons systems and even expand their role. U.S. policy now requires the capability to target "...third world nations that threaten the interests of the United States and its allies." French and U.K. doctrines now call for "subategic" use of nuclear weapons which could be employed "as soon as a country's vital interests were threatened."
The nuclear weapon States maintain that nuclear weapons are necessary for their security. Sir Nicholas Lyell, Attorney General for the U.K., for example, stated recently that the U.K. requires nuclear weapons in order to prevent "...subjection to conquest which may be of the most brutal and enslaving in character."
Joseph Rotblat, 1995 Nobel Peace Laureate, has called this a "recipe for proliferation - a policy for disaster. If the militarily most powerful - and least threatened - states need nuclear weapons for their security, how can one deny such security to countries that are truly insecure?"
The increasing availability of fissile material and nuclear weapons technology makes the proliferation of nuclear weapons, to both additional States and to terrorist organizations, more likely unless the international community establishes effective control of such weapons, the fissile material to create them, and their means of production. Such control requires the reduction and elimination of these weapons by all declared and undeclared nuclear weapon states.
The Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which included former French Prime Minster Michel Rocard, former US Chief of Strategic Command General Lee Butler, and former UK Chief of Defence Staff Field Marshall Lord Carver, concluded that "nuclear weapons diminish the security of all states. Indeed states which possess them become themselves targets of nuclear weapons."
So long as nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of States, there is clearly a risk they will be used. There have already been at least sixteen instances when the US alone has seriously considered using nuclear weapons. There also remains a serious risk of use by accident or miscalculation. The Canberra Commission concluded that "In some respects the risk of use by accident or miscalculation has increased," and that "The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never be used - accidentally or by decision - defies credibility."
Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defense, argues that we must "put the genie back in the bottle. If we do not there is a substantial risk that the twenty-first century will witness a nuclear tragedy."
General Lee Butler and 60 other retired Generals and Admirals released a statement on December 5, 1996 which said; "We who have devoted our lives to the national security of our countries are convinced that the continuing existence of nuclear weapons in the armories of the nuclear powers, and the ever present threat of their acquisition by others, is a peril to global peace and to the safety and survival of the people we are dedicated to protect."
The Canberra Commission concluded that the elimination of
nuclear weapons is practical, verifiable and enforceable, and that "the opportunity
now exists, perhaps without precedent or recurrence, to make a new and clear choice to
enable the world to conduct its affairs without nuclear weapons, and in accordance with
the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."
3. Obligation to Eliminate Nuclear
The International Court of Justice concluded unanimously on July 8, 1996 that the obligation is not just to begin but also to "... bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." (See Appendix III.) In delivering the Court's decision, Mohammed Bedjaoui, President of the Court, declared that this obligation has now assumed the force of customary law.
The nuclear States recommitted themselves to the
elimination of nuclear weapons at the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty Review and
Extension Conference in May 1995.
The United Nations General Assembly, for example, overwhelmingly adopted three resolutions in 1996 calling for negotiations leading to the conclusion of a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention. The most specific of these, resolution 51/45 M, called for states to commence "multilateral negotiations in 1997 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination." (See Appendix I for full text).
A comprehensive approach does not preclude step-by-step negotiations occurring simultaneously. In fact, the Convention would include negotiations on coordinated phases as part of the process towards elimination. Agreement on such steps could be reached and implemented before final agreement on the entire Convention.
However, relying only on step-by-step negotiations, with no concurrent comprehensive approach, will likely be slow, with no guarantee of reaching the end goal, or even any of the steps, in the near future. One reason for this is that while the nuclear weapon States continue to maintain their nuclear deterrence policies, they will be unlikely to move quickly towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, or even to take any significant steps in that direction.
Steps agreed on by the nuclear weapon States, by the time they are finally concluded, often have little impact on their nuclear capabilities. The Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), for example, did not halt nuclear testing, as the nuclear weapon States merely developed the ability to test underground. In fact there were more nuclear tests after the PTBT came into force (1460) than before (360). It is only now that most nuclear weapon States have the ability to conduct a range of non-explosive nuclear weapons tests that they have agreed, in the CTBT, to prohibit nuclear explosion tests.
The achievement of minor steps can actually have a detrimental effect on, and delay progress towards, the ultimate goal of elimination. Minor steps might give the appearance of progress, thus reducing the impetus for more significant steps. The conclusion of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, for example, despite its failure to restrain the number of nuclear tests and the development of new nuclear weapons, was generally perceived as a step towards nuclear disarmament. It thus reduced the momentum for a comprehensive test ban. Negotiations on a CTBT did not begin again until many years later.
A comprehensive approach would keep negotiations going even when small steps are achieved along the way. It would be understood by negotiators, policy makers and the public that the goal is not the small step but the complete measure. It would also increase the momentum to complete the process, as governments and citizens felt empowered by initial success towards the final goal and developed greater confidence that it is achievable.
A comprehensive approach is also necessary to overcome the problems of asymmetry in nuclear arsenals. Negotiating Parties will remain resistant to take steps unless there is a framework for the mutual achievement of zero nuclear weapons, out of concerns that the cuts may be imbalanced. A real balance is possible only when no nuclear weapons are possessed by any State, as was recognized with respect to biological and chemical weapons. If disarmament of chemical and biological weapons had followed a step-by-step approach, comprehensive conventions providing for their complete elimination would probably not yet have been concluded.
Several "threshold States" have resisted accepting partial steps without an agreed framework for elimination. India, for example, has stated that it will not join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty while the nuclear weapon States refuse to make a commitment to a timebound framework for elimination. If deliberate speed is not made to take advantage of the present opportunities for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, negotiations on intermediate steps could delay the end goal indefinitely, during which time the use of nuclear weapons could occur, with catastrophic consequences, or the political situation could change, making nuclear weapons abolition even more difficult.
In addition, a comprehensive approach would include threshold States and potential nuclear weapon States, thus eliminating the continuing risk of nuclear proliferation, a key rationale for the nuclear weapon States to hold onto nuclear weapons.
The other major rationale for nuclear weapons i.e., deterrence of nuclear weapons use by others, would also be eliminated by the implementation of a comprehensive convention.
Therefore, a predominant view is that a comprehensive
approach is essential to break the log-jam in current disarmament negotiations, and to
reach the ultimate goal. The time is ripe; it must be seized now.
While universality was not important for certain states to abandon atmospheric testing, it is unlikely that any of the declared or undeclared nuclear states would agree to the elimination of nuclear weapons unless all nuclear states participated. Thus, while bi-lateral or tri-lateral negotiations may be useful for negotiating specific reductions between some States, they would not appear to be a feasible option for negotiating the NWC as a whole.
Five-power or five-plus-one negotiations
It has been suggested that five-power or five-plus-one
negotiations implement the NPT Article VI obligation for nuclear disarmament. While this
could enable the negotiations to proceed more quickly than if a larger number of
participants is involved, it could also lead to non-acceptance of the negotiated treaty by
other states which felt their concerns were not included in the negotiating process. These
could include concerns over verification and compliance. Some non-nuclear states might
perceive this as a "fox in the chicken coop" approach.
The Conference on Disarmament (CD) was established as the primary multi-lateral negotiating forum for disarmament. The CD and its predecessor, the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee, have been the negotiating fora for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In 1995, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 50/70P, calling on the Conference on Disarmament to establish an ad hoc committee to commence negotiations on a phased program of nuclear disarmament and for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework. The CD thus has both the mandate and the support from the UN General Assembly to conduct such negotiations.
The CD, however, has two drawbacks:
- all its decisions are taken by consensus, so that any state which is a member could prevent the commencement of negotiations or their successful conclusion, and
- the membership is limited to the current 61 members, while some countries which are not members have expressed an interest in participating in such negotiations.
The first drawback would also apply to some degree to
other negotiating fora as it is unlikely that any of the nuclear weapon states will begin
negotiations without the participation of all of the nuclear weapon states. However, once
all five nuclear states agree to begin negotiations, the other members will also agree.
The second drawback may be overcome to some degree by non-members attending CD sessions as
observers and making their views known unofficially.
The establishment of a special negotiating body could
also have the advantage of allowing work on a NWC to proceed while leaving the CD free to
continue its work on other disarmament issues, such as transparency in armaments and
conventional arms control, or even on interim steps towards nuclear disarmament. On the
other hand, the experience of the CD in concluding the Biological Weapons Convention, the
Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty may be vital in
negotiations on the NWC.
An initial step could be for parties to the NPT to begin
preparatory work on particular aspects of the NWC through the NPT Review Preparatory
Committee process. Such work could begin even if one or more nuclear weapon states had not
yet agreed officially to participate in actual negotiations.
Proponents of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty took a dual
path to establishing the negotiations using both the Conference on Disarmament and the
Partial Test Ban Treaty Amendment process. The latter was, however, used more as a
political forum than a negotiating mechanism and eventually fell away once negotiations in
the CD began in earnest. It may be useful to follow a similar dual or multi-path approach
for the NWC.
6. Political Will
The time is ripe; the prospects are auspicious; good will can engender political will. Future generations will not forgive us for letting the opportunity slip by to free the world of what the President of the International Court of Justice has called "the ultimate evil."
I. General Obligations
IV. Phases for Implementation
VI. National Implementation Measures
VII. Rights and Obligations of Persons
IX. Nuclear Material
X. Nuclear Weapons
XI. Nuclear Weapons Delivery Vehicles
XII. Nuclear Facilities
XIII. Activities Not Prohibited Under This Convention
XIV. Cooperation, Compliance and Dispute
XV. Entry Into Force
XVIII. Scope and Application of Convention
XIX. Conclusion of Convention
Optional Protocol Concerning Energy Assistance
[Annex on Confidentiality]
Statement of Purpose, Outline, Draft Preamble and Summary
We the people of the Earth, through the States signatory to this Convention:
Convinced that the existence of nuclear weapons poses a threat to all humanity and that their use would have catastrophic consequences for all the creatures of this Earth;
Noting that the destructive effects of nuclear weapons upon life on earth are uncontrollable whether in time or space;
Aware that amongst weapons of mass destruction, the abolition of which is recognized as being in the collective security interest of all people and States, nuclear weapons are unprecedented and unequalled in destructive potential;
Affirming that the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family include the right to life, liberty, peace and the security of person;
Convinced that all countries have an obligation to make every effort to achieve the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, the terror which they hold for humankind and the threat which they pose to life on Earth;
Recognizing that numerous regions, including Latin America, the South Pacific, Antarctica, Southeast Asia and Africa, have already established nuclear weapon free zones, where possession, production, development, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons are forever prohibited, and desiring to extend this benefit to the entire planet for the good of all life;
Determined to eliminate the risks of environmental pollution by radioactive waste and other radioactive matter derived from nuclear weapons and to ensure that the bounty and beauty of the Earth shall remain the common heritage of all of us and our descendants in perpetuity to be enjoyed by all in peace;
Gravely concerned that the use of nuclear weapons may be brought about not only intentionally by war or terrorism, but also through human or mechanical error or failure, and that the very existence and gravity of these threats of nuclear weapons use generates a climate of suspicion and fear which is antagonistic to the promotion of universal respect for and observance of the human rights and fundamental freedoms set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Convinced of the serious threats posed to the environment by nuclear arsenals, the economic and social costs and waste of intellectual talent occasioned by these arsenals and the efforts required to prevent their use, the dangers inherent in the existence of the materials used to make nuclear weapons and the attendant problems of proliferation, the medically and psychologically catastrophic effects of any use of a nuclear weapon, the potential effects of mutations on the genetic pool and numerous other risks associated with nuclear weapons;
Welcoming the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, as indications of a progression toward the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction;
Recognizing that all life is sacred and that there is a moral imperative to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction;
Believing that the threat and use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with civilized norms, standards of morality and humanitarian law which prohibit the use of inhumane weapons and those with indiscriminate effects;
Recalling Resolution 1(I), adopted unanimously on January 24, 1946 at the First Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the many subsequent resolutions of the United Nations which call for the elimination of atomic weapons;
Recalling also the Final Document of the United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament, which calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons;
Mindful of the solemn obligations of States made in Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to end the nuclear arms race at an early date and achieve nuclear disarmament, and in the "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament" adopted pursuant to that Treaty, furthering their commitment to eliminate all nuclear weapons;
Convinced that the elimination of nuclear weapons is an important step towards the goal of general and complete disarmament;
Welcoming the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of July 8, 1996, which concluded "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 concluded unanimously that "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control";
Recalling United Nations General Assembly resolution 51/45 M, of December 10, 1996, which underlines the nuclear disarmament obligation affirmed by the International Court of Justice and "calls upon all States to fulfill that obligation immediately by commencing multilateral negotiations in 1997 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination";
Recalling United Nations General Assembly resolutions 51/45 O and 51/46 D, of December 10, 1996, which also call for the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention;
Convinced that a convention prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat to use nuclear weapons and providing for their destruction, is required to abolish these weapons from the Earth;
Have agreed as follows:
1. General Obligations
The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention ("NWC" or "Convention") would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of nuclear weapons. States possessing nuclear weapons will be required to destroy their arsenals according to a series of coordinated phases.
The Convention would also prohibit the production of nuclear weapons usable material and require the destruction or modification of delivery vehicles to make them non-nuclear capable. Nuclear facilities essential for the development, production, and testing of nuclear weapons would also be destroyed or converted to purposes not prohibited under the NWC.
In addition, States Parties would undertake to
participate in good faith in activities aimed at the promotion of transparency with
respect to nuclear weapons and related technologies and the promotion of education for the
purposes of detecting and preventing activities prohibited under the Convention.
The NWC calls for the establishment of an agency to ensure implementation of the Convention, oversee verification and compliance, and provide a forum for consultation, cooperation and dispute resolution between States Parties.
The Agency would have the following structure:
4. National Implementation Measures
The NWC includes provisions for consultation, cooperation and fact-finding to clarify and resolve questions of interpretation with respect to compliance and other matters. These procedures would be time-crucial to ensure essential evidence is not lost or destroyed, while providing adequate screening to prevent abusive or improper inspections.
Compliance and enforcement provisions are linked to transparency and confidence-building measures among States Parties. Dispute settlement provisions include negotiation, mediation and referral to regional agencies or to the International Court of Justice.
The Executive Council or Conference would also have the
authority to refer unresolved disputes to the International Court of Justice for an
advisory opinion and to the General Assembly or Security Council.
The Convention would confirm the illegality and
criminality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under existing international
law and its application to natural persons (i.e., individuals) and legal persons (e.g.,
corporations). The Convention makes it a crime to engage or attempt to engage in any of
the acts prohibited under the General Obligations or to aid, abet, permit, or otherwise
assist anyone to engage in any activity prohibited under the Convention. Persons
committing such crimes would be liable to prosecution subject to strict due process
The Convention would enter into force after it has been
ratified by all (or a fixed number) of Nuclear Weapons States, all Nuclear Capable States
(or, alternatively, all those not party to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, since
the NPT member states have already committed themselves not to acquire nuclear weapons),
and a fixed number of other States. There is also a provision of State waiver of the entry
into force requirements, which would allow the Convention to enter into force for
individual States before its general entry into force.
The following is one proposed scenario for phased
elimination of nuclear weapons:
The NWC does not prohibit peaceful uses of nuclear
energy, but it does provide an optional protocol on energy assistance for States that
choose not to develop or use nuclear energy.
Each Nuclear Weapon State Party would meet the costs of destruction of weapons, special nuclear material and nuclear facilities under its authority. Each Nuclear Weapon State would meet the costs of verification of nuclear facilities under its authority, except in instances of challenge inspections. A voluntary fund would also be established to assist States Parties in situations where compliance poses undue financial burdens.