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Key Issues Ethics Issues Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World

Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: The Need For A New Agenda

1.  We, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa and Sweden have considered the continued threat to humanity represented by the perspective of the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons by the nuclear-weapon states as well as by those three nuclear-weapons-capable states that have not acceded to the Non-

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Proliferation Treaty, and the attendant possibility of use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.  The seriousness of this predicament has been further underscored by the recent nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan.

2.  We fully share the conclusion expressed by the commissioners of the Canberra Commission in their Statement that "the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used - accidentally or by decision - defies credibility.  The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be produced again".

3.  We recall that the General Assembly of the United Nations  already in January 1946 - in its very first resolution - unanimously called for a commission to make proposals for " the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction."  While we rejoice at the achievement of the international community in concluding total and global prohibitions on chemical and biological weapons by the Conventions of 1972 and 1993, we equally deplore the fact that the countless resolutions and initiatives which have been guided by similar objectives in respect of nuclear weapons in the past half century remain unfulfilled.

4.  We can no longer remain complacent at the reluctance of the nuclear-weapon states and the three nuclear-weapons-capable states to take that fundamental and requisite step, namely a clear commitment to the speedy, final and total elimination of their nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons capability and we urge them to take that step now.

5.  The vast majority of the membership of the United Nations has entered into legally-binding commitments not to receive, manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  These undertakings have been made in the context of the corresponding legally binding commitments by the nuclear-weapon states to the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.  We are deeply concerned at the persistent reluctance of the nuclear-weapon states to approach their Treaty obligations as an urgent commitment to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons.

6.  In this connection we recall the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice in its 1996 Advisory Opinion 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.

7.  The international community must not enter the third millennium with the prospect that the maintenance of these weapons will be considered legitimate for the indefinite future, when the present juncture provides a unique opportunity to eradicate and prohibit them for all time. We therefore call on the governments of each of the nuclear-weapon states and the three nuclear-weapons-capable states to commit themselves unequivocally to the elimination of their respective nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons capability and to agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations required for its achievement.

8.  We agree that the measures resulting from such undertakings leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons will begin with those states that have the largest arsenals.  But we also stress the importance that they be joined in a seamless process by those with lesser arsenals at the appropriate juncture.  The nuclear-weapon states should immediately begin to consider steps to be taken to this effect.

9.  In this connection we welcome both the achievements to date and the future promise of the START process as an appropriate bilateral, and subsequently plurilateral mechanism including all the nuclear-weapon states, for the practical dismantlement  and destruction of nuclear armaments undertaken in pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons.

10.  The actual elimination of nuclear arsenals, and the development of requisite verification regimes, will of necessity require time.  But there are a number of practical steps that the nuclear weapon states can, and should, take immediately.  We call on them to abandon present hair-trigger postures by proceeding to de-alerting and de-activating their weapons. They should also remove non-strategic nuclear weapons from deployed sites.  Such measures will create beneficial conditions for continued disarmament efforts and help prevent inadvertent, accidental or unauthorised launches.

11.  In order for the nuclear disarmament process to proceed, the three nuclear-weapons-capable states must clearly and urgently reverse the pursuit of their respective nuclear weapons development or deployment and refrain from any actions which could undermine the efforts of the international community towards nuclear disarmament.  We call upon them, and all other states that have not yet done so, to adhere to the Non-Proliferation treaty and take the necessary measures which flow from adherence to this instrument.  We likewise call upon them to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay and without conditions.

12.  An international ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices ( Cut-off) would further underpin the process towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  As agreed in 1995 by the States Parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, negotiations on such a convention should commence immediately.

13.  Disarmament measures alone will not bring about a world free from nuclear weapons. Effective international cooperation  to prevent  the proliferation of these weapons is vital and must be enhanced through, inter alia, the extension of controls over all fissile material and other relevant components of nuclear weapons.  The emergence of any new nuclear-weapon state, as well as any non-state entity in a position to produce or otherwise acquire such weapons, seriously jeopardises the process of eliminating nuclear weapons.

14.  Other measures must also be taken pending the total elimination of nuclear arsenals. Legally binding instruments should be developed with respect to a joint no-first use undertaking between the nuclear-weapon states and as regards non-use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states, so called negative security assurances.

15.  The conclusion of the Treaties of Tlatelolco, Rarotonga, Bangkok and Pelindaba, establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones as well as the Antarctic Treaty have steadily excluded nuclear weapons from entire regions of the world.  The further pursuit, extension and establishment of such zones, especially in regions of tension, such as the Middle East and South Asia, represents a significant contribution to the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

16.  These measures all constitute essential elements which can and should be pursued in parallel: by the nuclear-weapon states among themselves; and by the nuclear -weapon states together with the non-nuclear weapon states, thus providing a road map towards a nuclear weapon-free world.

17.  The maintenance of a world free of nuclear weapons will require the underpinning of a universal and multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument or a framework encompassing a mutually reinforcing set of instruments.

18.  We, on our part, will spare no efforts to pursue the objectives outlined above.  We are jointly resolved to achieve the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons.  We firmly hold that the determined and rapid preparation for the post-nuclear era must start now.

9 June 1998

The Need for a New Agenda


The numbering of the paragraphs in this Glossary corresponds to the relevant paragraphs in the Declaration.

1. The nuclear weapon states also known as the P5 are Britain, China, France, the Russian Federation and the US. Nuclear weapons-capable states are: India, Pakistan and Israel. They are not declared nuclear weapon states.

2. The Canberra Commission was an initiative of the Australian government and reported in 1996. The conclusions of the Report are considered a moderate and authoritative presentation of the case for nuclear disarmament in the post Cold War era. There are many parallels between its approach and that of the present Declaration.

3.(a) The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force in 1993. It represents a model for nuclear disarmament. The CWC is a total ban on development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of CW and includes a comprehensive verification mechanism to oversee its implementation by States Parties.

(b) The Biological Weapons Convention (BTWC) which was concluded in 1972 mans biological weapons but lacks a verification mechanism. Currently negotiations are taking place in Geneva to develop this Treaty in depth. Ireland is an original State Party to both the CWC and the BTWC.

4. The nuclear weapon states interpret their obligations under Article VI of the NPT as requiring nuclear disarmament in the context of general and complete disarmament. The non-nuclear states reject this. The language of the Treaty supports this interpretation. However, in view of the nuclear weapon states' interpretation, there is required - in addition to what is contained in the Treaty but without amending the Treaty - a statement of political commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons, as such a political commitment would require a novel approach to nuclear force reductions - each step being premised on elimination.

5. The adherence to the NPT and the halt of nuclear weapons development by the vast majority of states represented a restraint which was premised on rapid nuclear disarmament. The nuclear weapon states are clearly in default in the performance of their obligations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

6. The ICJ agreed that the nuclear weapon states were obliged to pursue negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. This obligation is not couched in terms of general and complete disarmament as the nuclear weapons states have attempted to interpret Article VI of the NPT, and it is therfore a landmark statement.

7. Nuclear weapons like other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons will have to be prohibited in due course. The ICJ Opinion has undermined the arguments for the retention of nuclear weapons. The possibility of the use of nuclear weapons consistent with humanitarian law, the laws of neutrality etc, are presented in the Opinion as unreal and implausible. However, to adopt an approach that foresees the rapid abolition of these weapons will require a political decision, on the basis of which a legal framework giving effect to that inevitable conclusion can be begun.

8. The United States and the Russian Federation have by far the largest arsenals and they must therefore begin the process of force reductions premised on their rapid elimination. However, Britain, France and China will have to be integrated into this process at the appropriate time as once the US and RF reduce their nuclear forces to a certain point, the security of all the nuclear weapon states becomes interlinked in a more fundamental way. The most unstable period in nuclear disarmament will occur when nuclear arsenals are a minimum. It is therefore necessary to integrate the smaller nuclear states and the nuclear capable states into that process from the start. Appropriate arrangements relating to India, Pakistan and Israel will also have to be included in this process.

9. The Declaration does not follow recent approaches to nuclear disarmament which call for a programme with fixed time-frames for the complete dismantlement of existing nuclear weapons negotiated multilaterally. Instead, the Declaration proposes the use of existing bilateral machinery and its development to take account of the need to incorporate the other nuclear weapon states at an appropriate stage in the process.

10. The nuclear weapon states themselves have been considering what measures should be taken to stabilize existing nuclear weapon deployments. The most urgently needed of such measures are called for in the Declaration.

11. This paragraph is addressed expressly at the nuclear weapons-capable states, India, Pakistan and Israel to secure their renunciation of nuclear weapons. It includes a call to join the NPT - clearly with non-nuclear weapon status - as South Africa and the Ukraine have done in the wake of democratization and to take the necessary measures, such as submitting to full-scope safeguards and dismantling their nuclear weapons capability. They are also called upon to sign and ratify the CTBT without conditions. Israel has signed but not ratifed the CTBT.

12. The control of fissile material has always been central to the process of nuclear disarmament. In a nuclear weapons-free world, all fissile material will be controlled by the IAEA as is now the case with the fissile material in Ireland and other non-nuclear weapons states. The negotiation of a cut-off of the production of fissile material is an obvious first step.

13. This paragraph develops paragraph 12 and emphasizes that the verification regime which will be required to secure the world free from nuclear weapons will require controls on all fissile material and controls over all other relevant components of nuclear weapons and weapons systems. The emergence of any new nuclear weapons-capable states (or the acquisition of a nuclear device by terrorists) during this process clearly jeopardizes the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, leaving as it does a state or entity with a capacity to threaten at the same time as that capacity is being relinquished by the existing nuclear weapon states.

14. Negative security assurances or guarantees by the nuclear weapon states that they will not attack any non-nuclear weapon state, are considered important as interim measures which should be in place during the process of nuclear disarmament. There are currently different approaches by the nuclear weapon states in this regard and indications from some that they are moving away from earlier more comprehensive assurances in this regard.

15. The conclusion of nuclear weapon-free zones is considered to be an important contributory step in preventing proliferation at regional level. The two areas of tension where there are no such zones are the Middle East and South Asia. Nuclear weapon-free zones are an incremental means of preventing nuclear armaments' development and deployment.

16. The multilateral negotiating structures required to elaborate the treaty or treaties that will make up the regime to prohibit and destroy nuclear weapons for all time, is not outlined here in detail. However, there is clearly a role for multilateral diplomacy in nuclear disarmament. The final abolition and prohibition of nuclear weapons will require a non-discriminatory Convention prohibiting these weapons, and this will have to be negotiated by sovereign states in equality and in a multilateral environment.

17. While the Declaration does not define the types of treaty or conventions required, it is clear that there will be a legal instrument or set of instruments to prohibit these weapons. Many proposals have been put forward, including the possibility of amending the NPT or adding protocols, or even the elaboration of a single nuclear weapons convention.

18. This Declaration represents a call for the launching of a reinvigorated process. It acknowledges the efforts that have been made but it also recognizes that these have been inadequate and that the international community needs to proceed with a novel commitment to nuclear disarmament. This initiative will be followed up at the General Assembly of the United Nations later this year.