Nuclear Disarmament Initiatives in the Run-Up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is scheduled to hold its next Review Conference May 3-28, 2010, in New York. For many governments and NGOs, this will be a major focus for their work during the coming year.

The key themes likely to be addressed were outlined during the review process and include: making the treaty universal -189 states are members, but not Israel, India, Pakistan or North Korea; nuclear disarmament, with an emphasis on updating and reaffirming the 13 steps agreed upon by the 2000 Review Conference; persuading more non-nuclear countries to adhere to the Additional Protocol to strengthen safeguards and prevent proliferation; promoting nuclear energy for non-military purposes; safety and security for nuclear materials and programs; regional non-proliferation and disarmament, particularly the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East; measures to deter countries from emulating North Korea and withdrawing from the NPT to use their civilian nuclear programs to make nuclear weapons; and institutional measures to implement decisions and strengthen the regime. There are also mentions of civil society, mostly in the context of supporting disarmament and nonproliferation education.

The NPT has long been regarded as the cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime, but despite being extended and strengthened by the 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences, it is still geared towards controlling and managing nuclear arsenals and proliferation rather than facilitating the total elimination of these inhumane weapons of mass destruction.

As we look towards 2010 and beyond, there are deep-seated concerns that the NPT's structure and powers cannot be updated and strengthened sufficiently to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and materials to proliferationdetermined
governments and terrorists.

Civil society is increasingly responding to these challenges by arguing for this inadequate, discriminatory non-proliferation regime to be transformed into a nuclear weapons abolition regime, with comprehensive obligations on all. This paper gives a brief overview of recent disarmament initiatives, from the January 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed article by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn, which set off an avalanche of editorials and letters from eminent military and political figures from all over the world, to grassroots efforts to put a nuclear weapons convention (NWC) onto the negotiating agenda.

Former Nuclear Policy Makers Promote Nuclear Disarmament

With its acknowledgment that nuclear deterrence is "becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective,"1 the first Wall Street Journal editorial from Shultz, Kissinger, Perry and Nunn reverberated around the world. This was not so much because of what the article said - nuclear security and disarmament advocates had been making these arguments for years. The significance of the editorial was in the timing and the political and diplomatic eminence of the writers, senior members of recent U.S. administrations, Republican as well as Democrat.

The article turned out to be a game changer, bringing advocacy of nuclear disarmament from the activist margins into mainstream discourse. Twenty years on from the Reykjavik Summit, the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons shared by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 was put back on the table with "a series of agreed and urgent steps that would lay the groundwork for a world free of the nuclear threat."

The eight steps in the article included: reducing reliance on nuclear weapons, including dealerting operational weapons systems; further deep cuts by all the nuclear weapon possessors; eliminating short-range, forward-deployed nuclear weapons; bipartisan action in the U.S. to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and an international strategy to bring the remaining states on board so the treaty can enter into force; raising standards for nuclear safety and security; dealing with proliferation-sensitive aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, particularly uranium enrichment; halting the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons and phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in civilian programs; and, finally, addressing the regional and political conflicts that proliferation feeds on.2

Some of these steps reflected "the 13 steps" negotiated and adopted by states parties to the NPT as part of the consensus final document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference. Some reflected the post-9/11 heightened awareness of terrorism, notably the security as well as proliferation risks inherent in nuclear activities. The game changer was in how these incremental steps were bound into the comprehensive objective of a world free of nuclear weapons - not just the management of nuclear arms, but their abolition. The urgency and the moral and security imperatives for the world's "future generations" were emphasized in the final paragraph, which noted: "Without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent. Without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible."3

A year later, having provoked intense discussion around the world about the feasibility of nuclear abolition, the Hoover quartet published a second op-ed, titled "Toward a Nuclear-Free World." This acknowledged some of the international responses sparked by the first article, including from Gorbachev and the United Kingdom's then-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, in her speech to the Washington Non-Proliferation Conference of the Carnegie Endowment in June 2007. The second article was more pragmatic and U.S.-oriented, proposing eight steps that included entry into force of the CTBT but which represented a nuclear limitation agenda rather than nuclear abolition - for example, U.S.-Russian negotiations to extend the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, increasing the warning and decision times for launching nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, discarding Cold War operational plans, cooperative multilateral ballistic-missile defense and early warning systems, increasing security arrangements for nuclear weapons and materials to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb, opening dialogue between NATO and Russia on tactical nuclear weapons, and strengthening monitoring and controls to counter the global spread of advanced technologies. 4

The "Gang of Four" editorials have made it respectable - even attractive - to talk in terms of nuclear disarmament and eliminating nuclear dangers rather than the Cold War categories of arms control and managing risk. In so doing, they opened a floodgate for similar articles from other eminent statespersons and senior retired military officers from several different countries, including Australia, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, the UK and even France. Some of these,
like Nobel laureate Gorbachev, published individual articles, while others formed their own gangs of four (sometimes three or five, usually representing more than one party) to endorse and echo the Shultz et al initiative.

Governments gained courage from the popularity of the "Gang of Four" initiatives. The most influential of these was the speech given by President Barack Obama in Prague on April 5, 2009. Raising concerns about the horrors of nuclear weapons and the need to avoid their use, Obama pledged that "the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons." Demonstrating his intent to address the complexities of realistic security, he stated: "To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same."5

At the same time, in an apparent attempt to reassure conservative politicians in the U.S. and some of America's allies, Obama felt the need to reassert the nuclear-armed states' standard view of nuclear weapons as an effective means of defense and deterrence: "As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies."6

Though the main body of the speech suggested that Obama understands that nonproliferation
and disarmament become sustainable only when nuclear weapons lose their military, political and security value, the proof of whether this analysis will be translated into policy will be in the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, the publication of which has been delayed from 2009. The much-heralded special session of the UN Security Council that Obama chaired on Sept. 24, 2009, disappointed many non-nuclear states because there were no significantly new or concrete disarmament commitments in Resolution 1887, which focused mainly on securing nuclear technologies and materials to prevent proliferation and terrorist acquisition.
Many fear that instead of heralding transformative policies to make nuclear abolition possible, Obama's Prague speech will remain in the realm of presidential rhetoric, while U.S. policies continue in the familiar tramlines of nuclear dependence, with incremental reductions, risk management and efforts to persuade others to take on further nuclear controls.

During 2007-08, before Obama became president, statements referring to nuclear disarmament were led by the UK7 and Norway.8 French President Nicolas Sarkozy made his nuclear policy speech in Cherbourg on the occasion of the launch of France's latest nuclear-armed submarine, Le Terrible.9 Australia and Japan contributed by convening the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, which was published on Dec. 15, 2009.10 While some of these offered concrete suggestions for specific approaches and measures towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, others diluted their impact by referring more distantly to visions of a nuclear weapon-free world.

The "Gang of Four" editorials made it feel safer for mainstream arms control and non-proliferation organizations to discuss nuclear disarmament without fearing that they would become marginalized as disarmament NGOs have been marginalized for so long. In the U.S., for example, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) formed a Nuclear Security Project headed by the Hoover Quartet to take the legacy of Reykjavik forward, identifying the links between the vision and the steps, including measures to reach the "base camp" implied in the mountain analogy of the January 2008 op-ed, and relating the disarmament agenda to NTI's core work on cooperative threat reduction and reducing the risks from nuclear weapons and materials.

Another American initiative that hatched from the op-eds' urgent moral and security imperative is Global Zero, launched in Paris on Dec. 8, 2008 by a hundred luminaries from politics, science and the arts. In addition, various think tanks and academic institutions in several countries have received funding to analyze ways to get to zero.

Campaigns for a Nuclear Weapons Convention

The increasing credibility of discussions about
nuclear abolition provided coat-tails for long time nuclear abolition initiatives to see more of their ideas taken seriously. The most notable example is the network of organizations and movements aimed at getting a nuclear weapon convention onto the international community's negotiating agenda, including ICAN (International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons), the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Abolition 2000, Mayors for Peace and various national and trans-national parliamentary networks and groups.

During the 1990s, a group of NGOs, doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists decided to think through the kinds of technical, legal, political, institutional and verification steps and measures that the abolition of nuclear weapons would require, and to write their analysis in the form of a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC).11 This was updated and reissued in 2007 in conjunction with the launch of ICAN, a new civil society network with the specific goal of mobilizing public support for a nuclear abolition treaty.12 As more governments accept the reasons why nuclear weapons need to be prohibited and eliminated, the debate has begun to shift towards how and when nuclear abolition can be advanced and accomplished.

The model NWC, which was made into a UN document at the request of Costa Rica, argues that a credible treaty would entail both negative and positive obligations. Negative obligations would specify the prohibitions on developing, testing, producing, otherwise acquiring, stockpiling, deploying, maintaining, retaining, transferring or using nuclear weapons. Positive obligations would require governments to (among other tasks):

* Dismantle and destroy all nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles;
* Secure fissile and other relevant materials, render them non-usable for
weapons (e.g., through blending down) and ensure their secure storage
or disposal;
* Prevent access to and acquisition of weapons materials, components
or technology by other states or non-state actors (an extension of the
obligations in the NPT and UNSC Resolution 1540 on Weapons of Mass
* Enact tighter fuel cycle controls to prohibit - or at least restrict - uranium
enrichment above the low levels necessary for nuclear power generation
and the separation of plutonium through reprocessing;
* Enact tighter controls (even selective bans) on missiles or other means
for delivering nuclear weapons;
* Convert nuclear research and production facilities and bases for nonweapon
uses. This could be thought of as a worldwide cooperative
threat reduction (CTR) program, converting and utilizing the weapons
infrastructures and personnel skills for peaceful purposes, including
* Close and monitor deployment facilities, such as weapons silos and naval
bases, and, where necessary, keep them available for inspection by agents
of the implementing organization. There are precedents for this in the
1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
While the current non-proliferation regime still needs to be supported
and strengthened until a more comprehensive nuclear security regime is
in place, NPT parties must come to terms with the fact that little can be
accomplished with the present structure.
The NPT regime is perceived by many to be inadequate because it
lacks universality - specifically because Israel, India and Pakistan have
remained outside the treaty and North Korea has been able to leave with
apparent ease. The non-proliferation regime's credibility is also weakened
by its inability to prevent countries like Iran and North Korea from using the
atoms-for-peace invocations of Article IV to develop their own proliferationsensitive
fuel cycle technologies and enrich uranium or separate plutonium
through reprocessing.

Middle East Proliferation Challenges

These nuclear challenges come together in the Middle East in ways that undermine the security of other countries in the region and beyond. The major problems are currently Israel's nuclear weapons and Iran's uranium enrichment and presumed nuclear ambitions. These programs hinge on the perceived value attached to nuclear weapons - whether for deterrence or power projection - as exemplified by the policies and doctrines of the existing nuclear weapon states and, in the Middle East, by the fears, practices and programs of certain states. In this context, status is also attached to national development of the key fuel cycle technologies, so all the well- meaning proposals for multilateral fuel cycle arrangements and international fuel banks will fail to persuade Iran to give up its own uranium enrichment program.
As a consequence, more states in the region are signing up for nuclear energy programs, which in the future could cause significant security, proliferation or safety problems. To address the nuclear component of Middle East insecurity requires the engagement of three kinds of intersecting actors - national governments, national and international civil society and international institutions, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Specific initiatives recently put forward with a view to facilitating progress towards a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East include: the League of Arab States' proposal for the 2010 Review Conference to agree to hold a conference and appoint a special coordinator to work on moving the different sides towards fulfilling the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and working towards a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East; a fuel cycle-free zone in the Middle East, as proposed by the International WMD Commission, with "verified arrangement not to have any enrichment, reprocessing or other sensitive fuel-cycle activities on their territories";13 and also, pending a global declaration stigmatizing the use of nuclear weapons as a crime against humanity, there may be confidence-building mileage in a regional agreement on no-first-use of WMD.

There also needs to be an open and informed debate at the domestic level as well as internationally on how best to address energy needs and options.14 A nuclear weapons convention is not just a disarmament measure.

Done properly, it would give the world much more effective monitoring capabilities, verification and compliance tools and enforcement authority than the NPT regime can lay claim to. The very process of negotiating such a treaty would increase the credibility and tools that the international community needs to prevent nuclear insecurity, proliferation and terrorism. In fact, most significant NPT objectives, including universality, will only become practically achievable in the context of working towards a universal nuclear abolition treaty.

This may be one reason why in October 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on states to consider negotiating a nuclear weapons convention as he put forward a five-point plan to kick-start disarmament. Though he reiterated the need for progress on many of the familiar issues on the traditional disarmament and non-proliferation list - such as CTBT entry into force, security assurances and a fissile material production treaty, the secretary-general underlined the importance of considering: "negotiating a nuclear weapons convention, backed by a strong verification system, as has long been proposed at the UN. I have circulated to all UN members a draft of such a convention, which offers a good point of departure."15

Coercive approaches, Security Council pronouncements and
international criticism have signally failed to persuade either Israel or Iran
to give up their respective nuclear programs. Internationally, the most salient
measure would be to devalue nuclear weapons and make it unthinkable to
use them. A major qualitative step would be for the international community
to start the process towards having the use of nuclear weapons declared a
crime against humanity. This would need to go together with an obligation
on all states and people to render all possible assistance to a state that is
threatened or attacked with nuclear weapons and also to track down and
bring to justice those responsible for the threat or use of nuclear weapons, including those responsible for delivery and decision-making and suppliers or facilitators of the bomb-makers, materials and attacks.

Declaring nuclear weapons use a crime against humanity would greatly reinforce deterrence,
denial and non-proliferation and provide non-discriminatory positive and negative security assurances to all. To build confidence for nuclear abolition and deter adversaries and terrorists from using nuclear weapons, the first - and now necessary - step should be bringing forward the recognition in law of the widely accepted moral understanding that any use of nuclear weapons would be a crime against humanity. As nuclear arsenals are reduced, the real tipping point will come when the nuclear weapon states understand and demonstrate that there is no role for nuclear weapons in their doctrines, policies and security equations. Global security and genuine deterrence would be enhanced if nuclear weapon possessors, proliferators and suppliers understood that there are no circumstances in which the use of nuclear weapons would be morally acceptable or consistent with international humanitarian law. This would also greatly diminish any perceived military gains that might be hoped for, while providing legal mechanisms to hold suppliers and traffickers to account as well as governments and state and non state leaders.16


In the past three years, the nature of the debate on nuclear weapons has changed. Whether he is able to deliver the necessary transformation in U.S. nuclear policy or not, Obama has reinforced the growing understanding that the realizable security goal is not just the reduction and management of nuclear arms, but their abolition. In other words, sustaining even the current non-proliferation regime now requires that nuclear weapons become stigmatized as inhumane and unusable for everyone.

The importance of stigmatizing the use of nuclear weapons - by anyone for any purpose whatsoever - reflects the experience of controlling and prohibiting other major weapons types and addresses concerns about nuclear terrorism as well as nuclear war. A growing number of civil society networks and organizations are now pursuing strategies to put the objective of a nuclear weapons convention onto the negotiating agenda. ICAN, for example, has adopted a near-term strategy to persuade a majority of governments to call for negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention in their statements and working papers for the 2010 NPT Review Conference and get formal recognition of the concept of a NWC into a final NPT document, as a first step towards establishing a forum for multilateral negotiations that would engage Israel, India and Pakistan as well as the NPT states parties.

If leaders say they want peace and security in a nuclear weapons free world, then they have to start laying the foundations for this now, by devaluing the weapons, moving towards outlawing their use, and working out the legal, technical, safety, and verification requirements necessary to ensure the comprehensive prohibition and elimination of existing nuclear weapons and creation of the norms, institutions and controls necessary to build nuclear security and prevent break-out.

At the very least, governments need to be persuaded to engage in discussions of what the negotiated framework for sustainable non proliferation and the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons should entail.


1 George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn and others, "A World Free of
Nuclear Weapons," Wall Street Journal, New York, January 4, 2007. This group is variously called
the Hoover "Gang of Four," the "Quartet," or the "Four Horsemen" (of the non-apocalypse).
2 Shultz et al., Ibid.
3 Shultz et al., Ibid.
4 George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn and others, "Towards a Nuclear-
Free World,", Wall Street Journal, New York, January 15, 2008. Among those that signed on to
the second op-ed were: General John Abizaid, Graham Allison, Sidney Drell, General Vladimir
Dvorkin, Bob Einhorn, Rose Gottemoeller and Siegfried Hecker.
5 Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, Speech at Hradcany Square, Prague,
April 5, 2009.
6 Obama, Ibid.
7 See Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, speech at the Chamber of Commerce, Delhi, January
21, 2008; Des Browne MP, UK secretary of state for defense, statement to the Conference on
Disarmament, "Laying the Foundations for Multilateral Disarmament," Geneva, February 5, 2008;
"Lifting the Nuclear Shadow: Creating the Conditions for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons," Foreign
and Commonwealth Office, February 4, 2009; Gordon Brown, speech on "Nuclear Energy and
Proliferation," Lancaster House, London, March 17, 2009 and Gordon Brown, speech to the UN
General Assembly, September 23, 2009; and speech to the UN Security Council, September 24,
8 Jonas Gahr Støre, statement by the Norwegian foreign secretary to the CD, March 4, 2008 with
recommendations from Oslo Conference, February 27-28, 2008. See text in Disarmament
Diplomacy 87 (Spring 2008).
9 Presentation of "Le Terrible," statement by Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the French Republic,
Cherbourg, March 21, 2008. See text in Disarmament Diplomacy 87 (Spring 2008).
10 See Joint Statement by Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, co-chairs, New York, September
25, 2008. See also the Report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation
and Disarmament, Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,
11 See Security and Survival: The Case for a Nuclear Weapon Convention, published by the International
Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), International Network of Engineers
and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP), and the International Physicians for the Prevention
of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in 1997. The text of the Model Convention on the Prohibition of the
Development, Testing, Production, Stockpiling, Transfer, Use and Threat of Nuclear Weapons
and on their Elimination was submitted by Costa Rica to the UN General Assembly and issued
in the UN languages as A/C.1/52/7.
12 Securing Our Survival (SOS): The Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, edited by Merav
Datan, Felicity Hill, Alyn Ware and Jurgen Scheffran, published by IPPNW, IALANA and
INESAP, 2007.
13 Recommendation 12, Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical
Arms, Report of the WMD Commission, 2006,
14 See Jozef Goldblat, "Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaties: Benefits and Deficiencies" in UNIDIR and
League of Arab States (2004), pp 55-56; Merav Datan, "Building Blocks for a WMD Disarmament
Regime in the Middle East," Disarmament Diplomacy 86 (Autumn 2007); Rebecca Johnson,
"Rethinking Security Interests for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East," Disarmament
Diplomacy 86 (Autumn 2007).
15 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Speech to the East-West Center, New York, October 24,
16 See Rebecca Johnson, "Security Assurances for Everyone: A New Approach to Deterring the Use
of Nuclear Weapons," Disarmament Diplomacy 90 (Spring 2009).