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Publications:  IALANA News March 2005 - Online Edition

The NPT and a Nuclear Weapon Free Regime

On October 29, 2004, the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms organised a roundtable and dinner on The NPT and a Nuclear Weapon Free Regime which was attended by approximately twenty-five government delegations, six parliamentarians and fifteen non-governmental experts.

The roundtable was held to encourage delegations to the 2005 NPT Review Conference to begin a process for considering and mapping the legal, technical and political elements required for complete nuclear disarmament. Such a process could stimulate progress by NWS and non-NWS on a range of unilateral, bilateral, pluri-lateral and multilateral measures for nuclear disarmament.

Malaysia used the opportunity to release a draft working paper to the 2005 NPT Review Conference, exploring the utility of a comprehensive-incremental approach to disarmament and outlining some of the elements required for the establishment and maintenance of a nuclear weapon free world.

Peter Weiss, Vice-President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, and chair for the first session, called on governments to consider the very practical measures presented in the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (Model NWC) to control nuclear weapons and fissile material and thus prevent the occurrence of a nuclear tragedy from the use of nuclear weapons by either a State or terrorist organisation.

H.E. Datuk RASTAM Mohd Isa, Malaysian Ambassador to the UN, noted that a key aim of the working paper released by Malaysia was to assist States parties to the NPT to develop, at the 2005 NPT review Conference, an effective program for action encompassing and extending the practical disarmament steps agreed in 2000.

Hon. Paul Meyer, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, identified some steps in which he believed progress could be made in the short term, including completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative, arrangements by all nuclear weapon States to place all fissile material under IAEA verification, and the further development of verification capabilities. He also called for action to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons.

Rebecca Johnson, nuclear analyst from the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, noted that current non-proliferation initiatives such as the measures called for in United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 and the Proliferation Security Initiative, focused on trying to keep nuclear weapons out of the ‘wrong’ hands. She believes that this approach is not sustainable as it implies a discriminatory norm outside of the parameters of international law. Such should apply equally to everybody. The only way to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to the ‘wrong’ hands is to establish a universal norm against nuclear weapons, as envisaged in the nuclear weapons convention (NWC) approach.

Jürgen Scheffran, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Illinois, noted that the threat of acquisition or use of nuclear weapons arises from both capability and motivation, and that verifying both would enable a much greater degree of confidence.

Dr Scheffran referred to the Model NWC as providing a comprehensive mix of verification technologies and mechanisms for verification of both capability and intent. This included technical verification, preventive controls, organization verification, transparency and confidence building, and societal verification. The latter has been identified by Josef Rotblat as possibly the most important element in the maintenance and verification of a nuclear weapons free world. For this reason it is important to build civil society - including scientists, parliamentarians and NGOs - into the disarmament negotiating process.

George Perkovich, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, introduced a recent report on compliance with non-proliferation and disarmament obligations (Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security) which called on the nuclear weapon States, and especially the United States, to produce white papers indicating the procedures and technologies that would be required in order to verifiably eliminate their nuclear arsenals. He argued that probably the most important considerations in moving towards a nuclear weapons free world would be how to address the security concerns of States like Israel, Iran, India and Pakistan. A nuclear weapons free regime would need to be able to meet their security needs without reliance on nuclear weapons.

Merav Datan, lawyer and a principal drafter of the Model NWC, reemphasised the importance of steps towards both prohibition and elimination. She noted that a key benefit of the Model NWC was that, while it was not perfect, it demonstrated the feasibility of nuclear disarmament. Ms Datan noted that a value in the NWC approach was that it put the question of how to achieve nuclear disarmament before the question of whether, when or why nuclear disarmament should be achieved. Such an approach is both non-confrontational and practically oriented, and thus more likely to be able to engage the NWS in working collectively with non-nuclear weapon States on a common goal.

Ambassador Rastam concluded the roundtable by noting that Malaysia would continue to engage with delegations to expand and improve the working paper and build support for it so that it could become a useful contribution to the 2005 NPT Review Conference.

See www.lcnp.org for a copy of the draft working paper Legal, technical and political elements required for the establishment and maintenance of a nuclear weapons free world.


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