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  2. Abstract

As the states parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) plan for the May 2010 review conference, they are faced with recurring political challenges that call into question the long-term sustainability of the presently constituted non-proliferation regime, notwithstanding the important role the NPT and its related institutions have played in slowing the pace of proliferation for four decades. Even if the review conference is deemed a success, its outcome is unlikely to address the regime's core structural weaknesses and normative contradictions. Frustration with the continuing status and benefits accorded to nuclear-armed states outside as well as within the NPT, will continue to diminish confidence in the effectiveness of traditional non-proliferation and deterrence practices. The progressive reframing of security in terms of creating a world without nuclear weapons may be little more than rhetoric for some leaders, but it has widespread public support. A growing number of governments are now expressing interest in new approaches and steps, including consideration of a nuclear weapons convention as a practical objective to work towards. The article discusses the challenges and options for the non-proliferation regime and concludes that efforts to halt future proliferation will increasingly focus on reshaping the norms and rules to pave the way for negotiating a new nuclear security compact, based on a verified process to prohibit and eliminate the possession as well as the use of nuclear weapons.

  • 1

    See e.g. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn et al., ‘A world free of nuclear weapons’, Wall Street Journal, 4 Jan. 2007; George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn et al., ‘Towards a nuclear-free world’, Wall Street Journal, 15 Jan. 2008. Among those who signed the second of these editorials were Gen. John Abizaid, Graham Allison, Sidney Drell, Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, Bob Einhorn, Rose Gottemoeller and Siegfried Hecker.

  • 2

    This argument is made by Max Kampelman, a former presidential adviser and principal architect of the Reykjavik Revisited abolitionism exemplified by Shultz et al. See Max M. Kampelman, ‘Zero nuclear weapons: a goal’, presentation at the Acronym Institute Roundtable on, ‘Time to outlaw the use of nuclear weapons’, United Nations, New York, 14 May 2009.

  • 3

    See Rebecca Johnson, ‘Towards 2010 and beyond: security assurances for everyone’, Disarmament Diplomacy 90, Spring 2009, pp. 3–8.

  • 4

    See Harald Müller, ‘The internationalisation of principles, norms, and rules by governments: the case of security regimes’, in Volker Rittberger, ed., Regime theory and international relations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 361–88; ‘Appendix: the international non-proliferation regime’ in Joseph Cirincione, ed., Repairing the regime (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 283–91.

  • 5

    The UN Secretary General's High-level Panel, for example, warned: ‘We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation’. A more secure world: our shared responsibility, Report of the UN Secretary General's High-level Panel on ‘Threats, challenges and change’, 2 Dec. 2004.

  • 6

    Preambular para. 1, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, 1968. A form of conditional security assurances has been provided by the NWS by means of UNSC Resolutions 255 (1968) and 984 (1995), but these are not universally applicable.

  • 7

    Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, opening statement to the 2005 NPT review conference, 2 May 2005, reproduced in Disarmament Diplomacy 80, Autumn 2005, pp. 27–9.

  • 8

    Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, speech at Hradcany Square, Prague, 5 April 2009.

  • 9

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Address to the East–West Institute, New York, 24 Oct. 2008.

  • 10

    There is a considerable literature on this topic. For recent examples, see: Nick Ritchie, ‘Trident and British identity: letting go of nuclear weapons’, briefing paper, Bradford Disarmament Research Centre, University of Bradford, Sept. 2008; and Carol Cohn, Felicity Hill and Sara Ruddick, ‘The relevance of gender for eliminating weapons of mass destruction’, Disarmament Diplomacy 80, Autumn 2005, pp. 39–48.

  • 11

    Tony Blair, in response to a question from Chris Mullin MP at Prime Minister's Questions: Hansard Official Reports (Commons), 21 Feb. 2007, vol. 457, col. 260. For a fuller discussion see, accessed 21 Feb. 2010.

  • 12

    On how norms develop and influence political behaviour, see Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkinki, ‘International norm dynamics and political change’, International Organization 52: 4, Autumn 1998, pp. 887917.

  • 13

    Article VI and preambular paras 8–12 and para. 15, sub-para. 6, final document of the 2000 review conference of the states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT/CONF.2000/28 (vol. 1, parts I and II), 25 May 2000.

  • 14

    William Walker, ‘Nuclear enlightenment and counter-enlightenment’, International Affairs 83 : 3, May 2007, pp. 431–54.

  • 15

    Walker, ‘Nuclear enlightenment and counter-enlightenment’, pp. 431–3.

  • 16

    Walker, ‘Nuclear enlightenment and counter-enlightenment’, p. 453.

  • 17

    See Michael Rühle, ‘Enlightenment in the second nuclear age’, International Affairs 83 : 3, May 2007, p. 512.

  • 18

    See Arthur Stein, ‘Coordination and collaboration: regimes in an anarchic world’, in Stephen D. Krasner, ed., International regimes (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1983), esp. p. 132.

  • 19

    For a detailed history of the NPT negotiations, see Mohammed Shaker, The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: origin and implementation, 1959–1979 (London and New York: Oceana, 1980).

  • 20

    ENDC/192 (US draft) and ENDC/193 (Soviet draft).

  • 21

    Rühle, ‘Enlightenment in the second nuclear age’, p. 514.

  • 22

    Rühle, ‘Enlightenment in the second nuclear age’, p. 514.

  • 23

    Shaker, The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; Alva Myrdal, The game of disarmament (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977).

  • 24

    Jayantha Dhanapala with Randy Rydell, Multilateral diplomacy and the NPT: an insider's account (Geneva: UN Institute for Disarmament Research/Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2005).

  • 25

    Final document of the 1995 review and extension conference of states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT/CONF.1995/32 (part I).

  • 26

    Though the rules of procedure allowed for the extension decision to be taken by a vote, the major powers wanted to avoid a divisive vote. See Rebecca Johnson, Indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: risks and reckonings, Acronym 7 (London: The Acronym Consortium, Sept. 1995).

  • 27

    The New Agenda Coalition was launched by a joint declaration by the ministers for foreign affairs of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa and Sweden, entitled ‘A nuclear-weapons-free world: the need for a new agenda’, 9 June 1998. Slovenia withdrew, leaving the other seven to carry their strategy forward to the 2000 NPT review conference.

  • 28

    Final document of the 2000 review conference of states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, ‘Review of the operation of the treaty’, taking into account the decisions and the resolution adopted by the 1995 NPT review and extension conference, section on Article VI, para. 15.6.

  • 29

    Final document of the 2000 NPT review conference, section on Article VI, para. 15.11.

  • 30

    Rühle, ‘Enlightenment in the second nuclear age’, p. 514.

  • 31

    See Rebecca Johnson, ‘Laying substantive groundwork for 2010: report of the 2009 NPT PrepCom’, Disarmament Diplomacy 91, Summer 2009, pp. 3–10.

  • 32

    Shultz et al., ‘A world free of nuclear weapons’, ‘Towards a nuclear-free world’.

  • 33

    Obama, speech at Hradcany Square, Prague, 5 April 2009.

  • 34

    UN Security Council Resolution 1887, 24 Sept. 2009.

  • 35

    In his October 2008 statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon referred to the text of an NGO-drafted model convention on the prohibition of the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of nuclear weapons and on their elimination, which was submitted by Costa Rica to the UN General Assembly and issued in the UN languages as A/C.1/52/7. This model draft convention was never intended to be held up as a draft treaty, but the research behind it and the options it discusses have been used as a resource and starting point for consideration of what should be included in multilateral negotiations. In that spirit, it was updated and reissued in 2007 as Securing our survival (SOS): the case for a nuclear weapons convention, edited by Merav Datan, Felicity Hill, Alyn Ware and Jürgen Scheffran, published by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, and the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation.

  • 36

    Epistemic actors use knowledge and expertise to influence policy preferences and changes, operating at domestic government, civil society and transnational levels. See Ethan A. Nadelmann, ‘Global prohibition regimes: the evolution of norms in international society’, International Organization 44: 4, Autumn 1990, pp. 479526; and Emanuel Adler, ‘The emergence of cooperation: national epistemic communities and the international evolution of the idea of nuclear arms control’, in Peter M. Haas, ed., Knowledge, power, and international policy coordination (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1992).

  • 37

    Jeffrey W. Knopf, ‘Beyond two-level games: domestic–international interaction in the intermediate-range nuclear forces negotiation’, International Organization 47: 4, 1993, pp. 599628.

  • 38

    Rebecca Johnson, Unfinished business: the negotiation of the CTBT and the end of nuclear testing (New York and Geneva: United Nations, 2009).

  • 39

    Richard Price, ‘Reversing the gun sights: transnational civil society targets landmines’, International Organization 53 : 3, 1998, pp. 613–44; Maxwell A. Cameron, Robert J. Lawson and Brian W. Tomlin, eds, To walk without fear: the global movement to ban landmines (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998).

  • 40

    John Borrie, Unacceptable harm: a history of how the treaty to ban cluster munitions was won (New York and Geneva: United Nations, 2009).

  • 41

    John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, address before the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York City, 25 Sept. 1961.