American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He gave this speech (abridged here) at the Carnegie International Non-proliferation Conference in June 2004.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) remains the global anchor for nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Despite flaws in the system, implementation of the NPT continues to provide important security benefits -- by providing assurance that, in the great majority of non-nuclear-weapon states, nuclear energy is not being misused for weapon purposes. Although the NPT is sometimes perceived as a Western project, its benefits extend across any North-South or East-West geopolitical divide.
During the Cold War, security and non-proliferation were linked through two broad alliances (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Treaty Organization) in a nuclear standoff -- a balance of terror, if you will -- based on the rather morbid doctrine of mutually assured destruction, aptly referred to as MAD. As alliance leaders, both the Soviet Union and the United States protected and managed their respective spheres of influence and were able to minimize the number of states acquiring or trying to acquire nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, Israel, and South Africa, for a variety of geopolitical reasons, were exceptions.
In the past decade and a half, the international security landscape has changed. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Cold War rivalry disappeared. But the failure to establish the once much vaunted "new world order" -- by effectively addressing security concerns that persisted after the disappearance of the bipolar world or emerged in its aftermath -- has resulted instead in a sort of "new world instability." Many ethnic and religious tensions, held in check during the Cold War, have erupted -- and in many cases have turned into civil wars, further complicated by multiple protagonists from the outside.
Longstanding conflicts have also continued to fester, most notably on the Korean Peninsula, in the Middle East, and in South Asia, with escalating tensions and in some cases increasing hostilities. Violence by sub-state actors has also risen to appalling new levels, as we have witnessed recently in Chechnya, Spain, and elsewhere, and has resulted in the emergence of new types of conflicts that cannot easily be deterred by traditional means. An increasing polarization between the Western and Muslim cultures has emerged in the wake of September 2001. And while more than 30 states continue to be party to NATO or other alliances that contribute to their security and explicitly depend upon nuclear weapons, many other countries continue to face a sense of insecurity because of these and other new security threats.
Rather than trying to understand these changes in the international security landscape and adapting to the new threats and challenges -- and harnessing the opportunities afforded by an increasingly globalized world to build an equally global security system -- the trend has been towards inaction or late action on the part of the international community, selective invocation of norms and treaties, and unilateral and "self-help" solutions on the part of individual states or groups of states. Against this backdrop of insecurity and instability, it should not come as a surprise to witness a continued interest, particularly in regions of tension, in the acquisition of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Four undeclared nuclear programs have come to the fore since the early 1990s.
Lessons from recent experience
Before I discuss specific proposals for moving forward, I would like to focus briefly on some of the lessons we at the International Atomic Energy Agency have learned from our recent experience in verifying these undeclared nuclear programs -- in Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea.
Perhaps the most important lesson is the confirmation that verification and diplomacy, used in conjunction, can be effective. When inspections are given adequate authority, aided by all available information, backed by a credible compliance mechanism, and supported by international consensus, the system works. The Iraq experience demonstrated that inspections -- while requiring time and patience -- can be effective even when the country under inspection is providing less than active cooperation. Inspections in Iran over the past year have also been key in uncovering a nuclear program that had remained hidden since the 1980s, and in enabling the international community to have a far more comprehensive picture of Iran's nuclear program than at any time before.
But our experience in Iraq before the first Gulf War, and our recent experience in Iran and Libya, have also highlighted the importance to verification of the "additional protocol" -- that is, the supplement to a safeguards agreement with the IAEA that provides the Agency with significant additional authority with regard to both information and physical access. Without the authority provided by the protocol, our ability to draw conclusions is mostly limited to the non-diversion of material already declared, with little authority to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activities.
Perhaps the most disturbing lesson to emerge from our work in Iran and Libya is the existence of an extensive illicit market for the supply of nuclear items. The relative ease with which A.Q. Khan and associates were able to set up and operate a multinational illicit network demonstrates clearly the inadequacy of the present export control system. Nuclear components designed in one country could be manufactured in another, shipped through a third (which may have appeared to be a legitimate user), assembled in a fourth, and designated for eventual turnkey use in a fifth.
The fact that so many companies and individuals could be involved is extremely worrying. And the fact that, in most cases, this could occur apparently without the knowledge of their own governments, clearly points to the inadequacy of national systems of oversight for sensitive equipment and technology.
Let me be clear: even a verification system making use of the authority under the additional protocol may not reliably detect low levels of clandestine nuclear activity, such as that conducted in Iran and Libya for many years, unless at the very least supported and supplemented by the sharing of actionable information from an effective system of export controls -- as well as by intelligence information, where applicable.
Our recent experience has also taught us a clear lesson regarding the accessibility of nuclear technology. The technical barriers to mastering the essential steps of uranium enrichment -- and to designing weapons -- have eroded over time, which inevitably leads to the conclusion that the control of technology is not, in and of itself, an adequate barrier against further proliferation.
Some estimates indicate that 40 countries or more now have the know-how to produce nuclear weapons. This means that if they have the required fissile material -- highly enriched uranium or plutonium -- we are relying primarily on the continued good intentions of these countries, intentions which are in turn based on their sense of security or insecurity, and could therefore be subject to rapid change. Clearly, the margin of security this affords is thin, and worrisome.
Finally, the evolution of the North Korean situation over the past 18 months carries an equally disturbing lesson. For 12 years, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been in non-compliance with its NPT obligations. In January 2003, the DPRK capped its non-compliance by declaring its withdrawal from the NPT. But now, more than a year later, the Security Council has not even reacted. This lack of response, this inaction, may be setting the worst precedent of all, if it conveys the message that acquiring a nuclear deterrent, by whatever means, will neutralize any compliance mechanism and guarantee preferred treatment.
On the other hand, I would note that verification and diplomacy have been an important part of the success so far in Iran and Libya, and I can only hope that the continuation of the six-party talks on the DPRK nuclear program will yield results.
Control, commitment and collective security
It should be clear by now that we are well beyond the point where a few quick fixes will adequately address the new and emerging threats. It is true that the international community comes at these issues from a wide range of perspectives, as evidenced by the failure of the Preparatory Committee of the 2005 NPT Review Conference to agree even on an agenda for the conference.
But I find it encouraging that both governments and civil society are beginning to come forward with proposals on how to address these challenges. This could be the beginning of a much needed discussion on non-proliferation and security. We should do all we can to stimulate this dialogue, move it forward, and keep it in public focus.
These proposals fall into three categories: control, commitment, and collective security -- that is, strengthening the controls of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and plugging existing gaps; re-affirming and in some ways expanding the commitments of all parties to this regime; and reforming the existing system of collective security in a manner that addresses the concerns of all.
First, we must tighten controls over the export of sensitive nuclear material and technology. The nuclear export control system should be binding rather than voluntary, and should be made more widely applicable, to include all countries with the capability of manufacturing sensitive nuclear related items. It should strike a balance between ensuring effective control and preserving the rights of states to peaceful nuclear technology. The aim should be easier access to non-sensitive technology and stronger control over the most sensitive parts.
Second, it is time that we revisit the availability and adequacy of controls provided over sensitive portions of the nuclear fuel cycle under the current non-proliferation regime. We should consider limitations on the production of new nuclear material through reprocessing and enrichment,; possibly these operations should be conducted exclusively under multinational controls. This approach should also be extended to the end of the nuclear fuel cycle, by developing multinational approaches to the management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel. More than 50 countries have spent nuclear fuel stored in temporary sites, awaiting disposal or reprocessing.
Third, we should work to help countries stop using weapon-usable material (separated plutonium and high enriched uranium -- HEU) in their civilian nuclear programs. Approximately 100 facilities in 40 countries, primarily research reactors, still use HEU for peaceful purposes -- for example, to produce radioisotopes for medicine. Research reactors and critical assemblies in use worldwide should be converted to use only low-enriched uranium.
Fourth, we should eliminate the weapon-usable nuclear material now in existence. Around the globe, stocks of HEU -- which could be converted for weapons use by state or sub-state actors -- should be eliminated, by "down-blending" these stocks to low enriched uranium for use in civilian reactors to generate electricity -- a "megatons to megawatts" approach that builds on the successful Russia-US model.
Renewed and Expanded Commitment
My second set of proposals involves guaranteeing and strengthening the commitment of all parties -- nuclear-weapon states, non-nuclear-weapon states, and those currently outside the non-proliferation regime -- to the basic tenets of nuclear arms control and disarmament. There are four essential aspects to this commitment.
First, a concrete road map for verified, irreversible nuclear disarmament, complete with a timetable, should be put in place. Thirty years after the enactment of the NPT, with the Cold War ended and more than 30,000 nuclear weapons still available for use, it should be understandable that many non-nuclear-weapon states are no longer willing to accept as credible the commitment of nuclear-weapon states to their NPT disarmament obligations.
In July 1996, the International Court of Justice declared unanimously that the obligation of nuclear-weapon states, under Article VI of the NPT, includes the obligation "to bring to a conclusion" these negotiations. "The obligation involved here is an obligation to achieve a precise result -- nuclear disarmament in all its aspects."
By contrast, a report recently presented to the US Congress by the US Departments of State, Defense, and Energy advocated research on the development of advanced nuclear weapons, declaring that such a move was needed to increase the "credibility" of nuclear deterrence for the US and its allies.
Clearly, the development of a security system that does not depend on nuclear deterrence or nuclear weapons will be a prerequisite to a road map for effective disarmament. Until the international community fully engages on the development of such a system, achieving complete nuclear disarmament will remain in the realm of rhetoric. The difficulty of achieving this ultimate goal -- the elimination of all nuclear weapons -- should not be used, however, as a pretext for failing to achieve the intermediate step of drastic reductions in existing nuclear arsenals.
Second, any new adjustment to the regime must include India, Pakistan, and Israel at the negotiating table. Without their commitment to this broad non-proliferation and security reform, our efforts will fail. None of the three states has joined the NPT, and their development of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapon capability has been outside of the current nuclear non-proliferation regime. Yet their status as known or presumed holders of nuclear weapons has clearly contributed to tensions in their respective regions.
Third, the integrity of the NPT should be ensured. The Treaty now allows any member to withdraw with three months' notice. Any nation invoking this escape clause is almost certainly signaling its intent to develop nuclear weapons, which inevitably has serious implications for international peace and security. This provision of the Treaty should be curtailed.
Fourth, the IAEA's additional protocol should be made the verification standard. Much effort was recently expended, and rightly so, to persuade Iran and Libya to give the IAEA broader rights of inspection, by accepting the authority provided to the Agency by the additional protocol. But the Agency should have the right to conduct these broader inspections in all countries. Currently, only 56 states out of the 184 non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT have accepted the protocol.
My third set of proposals relates to reforming the system for international security. It has four aspects.
First, we can only hope to make meaningful progress if we continue to keep our eyes focused on the security picture -- seeking a comprehensive solution that addresses the security concerns of all. As a starting point, we must recognize that the current crisis of international insecurity will not be resolved by anything short of a functional system of collective security, as clearly hoped for in the United Nations Charter.
Second, once these non-proliferation and security measures are in place, we should aim for our legal regime related to nuclear weapons to emerge into a "peremptory norm" of international law -- a norm that is part of our collective conscience -- not dependent on any particular treaty. In short, as with the bans on slavery and genocide, the renunciation of such weapons should be universal and permanent.
Third, we must work collectively to address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of insecurity and instability, including the widening divide between rich and poor, the chronic lack of good governance and respect for human rights, and the increasing schisms between cultures and civilizations.
Consider the current imbalance: as a global community, we spend $900 billion every year on armaments, $300 billion on subsidies to farmers in wealthy nations, and only $60 billion on development assistance to the developing world. Improving our performance in this "global distributive justice" will go a long way towards pre-empting many of the security threats -- let alone the social ills -- that affect our planet.
Finally, our work to achieve consensus on these proposals should proceed with the initiation of an expanded public dialogue. We should work to further stimulate public discourse on these ideas, at all levels of civil society, to make the global community understand that our survival is at stake -- but that we can, in fact, solve the international security dilemma, including the nuclear dilemma, within our own time.
Moving forward in 2005
In my view, the proposals I have outlined today -- as well as those that have been developed by others -- should be the focus of a summit on non-proliferation and global security, possibly in connection with the NPT Review Conference next year. The outcome of such a summit would be an agreed package of 'non-proliferation and security measures' that would build on existing arms control and security regimes but adapt them to present-day realities.
It is time to abandon the unworkable notion
that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue
nuclear weapons, but morally acceptable for others to rely on
them. Our aim must be clear: a security structure that is based
on our shared humanity and not on the ability of some to destroy