Despite not yet entering into force, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has succeeded in almost eliminating nuclear weapons testing and in establishing a robust international monitoring and verification system. A breakthrough in its ratification by the few hold-out states could have important positive repercussions for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or nuclear disarmament in the Middle East.
The ‘humanitarian dimension’ initiative highlighting the consequences of nuclear weapons has evolved and consolidated itself in the non-proliferation regime since 2010. The five nuclear weapons states (NWS or P5) under the NPT – China, France, Russia, UK and US – boycotted the first two international conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. A third conference will be held in Vienna on 8-9 December 2014. This article gives five reasons why the P5 should consider participating.
The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, highlighted by a wide-ranging, cross-grouping, multi-aim initiative which continues to consolidate itself in the non-proliferation regime, has come to the fore in the 3rd Prepatory Committe for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Frustrated with the lack of progress towards NPT Article VI commitments to complete nuclear disarmament, the initiative has invigorated attention to the urgency of nuclear disarmament and a need for a change in the status quo. NPT member states and civil society continue to engage actively in publicizing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons as an impetus to progress towards nuclear disarmament.
The dramatic decrease in public awareness and engagement in the nuclear weapons debate since the 1980s poses a risk to our future, as younger generations and future policy shapers will be less familiar with the challenges posed by nuclear weapons when they take the helm. But nuclear weapons are too dangerous a threat for an entire generation to disconnect from. BASIC’s Rachel Staley explores the ramifications of not updating the nuclear debate.
Shortly after the lunar New Year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon challenged the Conference on Disarmament to run with the ‘spirit of the blue horse’ towards substantive engagement on multilateral nuclear disarmament in 2014. While the regime may not achieve this speed, there are initiatives underway this year that may well help nuclear disarmament dialogues pick up speed ahead of the 2015 NPT review conference.
Recent events in the Syrian civil war have proved an unparalleled test of the norm against the use of chemical weapons. At its core this was a test of the willingness of countries to uphold the norm, in this case in the face of a flagrant violation, and a response that in the end stumbled upon a satisfactory conclusion—reaffirming the special category of chemical arms—but which in the process said a great deal about current attitudes to the use of military force as a means of humanitarian intervention.
Implementation of the interim deal with Iran, which freezes the country’s nuclear enrichment in exchange for limited sanctions relief, began in January. As a result, we are witnessing a substantial shift in diplomatic relations between Iran and its regional neighbours – some positive, some not. This deal marks a significant step for the international non-proliferation regime, but will it achieve the trust and confidence-building goals intended? As the US and Iran face increasing domestic pushback on the terms of the agreement, questions remain on the interim deal’s impact on relations in the region and abroad, and the effect these relations may have on the prospects of coming to a full comprehensive follow-up agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries.
If Iran and the P5+1 succeed in negotiating a robust agreement on the nuclear issue, then Iran will be less preoccupied with rebalancing its relationship with antagonistic western powers and its role in the Middle East and the wider region has scope for developing in many new directions. This briefing looks ahead to a post-agreement environment and assesses where Iran might chose to concentrate its resources. A key question is whether it will work to build better links with the US and selected European states or whether it will be more interested in the BRIC and other states, not least Turkey. Its choice will be influenced strongly by domestic politics and the urgent need for a more stable region.
The recent walkout by Egyptian negotiators at UN talks have demonstrated that, like a building with rotten foundations, the nuclear non-proliferation regime is far less stable than many believe it to be. Egypt’s actions make clear that anything less than a regime specifically geared towards addressing the reasons why some states seek nuclear weapons is a regime existing on borrowed time.