- Armament and disarmament
- Conflict, peace and security
- Peace and development
Making nuclear weapons requires access to materials—highly enriched uranium or plutonium—that do not exist in nature in a weapons-usable form. To constitute a threat, natural uranium needs to go through a challenging and time-consuming process of transformation as it moves through the nuclear fuel cycle.
North Korea’s recent nuclear test has led to demands for a new round of United Nations sanctions against the country, but the title of a recent Foreign Policy blog post, ‘Is there anything in North Korea left to sanction?’ neatly summarizes the problem facing UN diplomats—and in the process points out one of the key weaknesses in the current sanctions regime.
The Brazilian-proposed concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’ (RWP) has polarized opinion on how the international community should respond when civilian populations are targeted. RWP’s supporters claim it would make civilian protection interventions, especially military ones, more accountable and proportionate and rein in perceived misuse of the internationally accepted ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). Some of RWP’s opponents see it as a deliberate ploy by states aligned with China and Russia to impede intervention. In reality, this debate is a distraction from less comfortable truths about R2P.
Toothpaste is a harmless consumer product, but it contains fluoride compounds—industrial chemicals that are needed to manufacture the deadly nerve agent sarin—making it a so-called dual-use item.
The internatioal community's plan for a military intervention in Mali is arguably only needed because too much priority has been given to security, at the expense of development efforts to the political, economical and social complexity of the situation in northern Mali.
As the Communist Party of China prepares for a once-in-a-decade change of leadership at the 18th Party Congress in November, the country’s foreign relations are in worse shape than they were 10 years ago, especially in East Asia but also in terms of heightened strategic rivalry with the United States. How the incoming leadership chooses to manage further the expansion of Chinese economic and security interests has huge implications for the rest of the world. If the incoming Party leadership fails to prevent widening political rifts in China’s political system (including the People’s Liberation Army, PLA), foreign policy could take on an even more assertive tone, complicating international cooperation with China on issues of international security.
This month, the United Nations General Assembly opens its annual meeting in New York. The General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament is one of the few venues in which both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon state representatives have the opportunity to discuss options to strengthen the worldwide nuclear non- proliferation regime. The ‘action team’ that operated in Iraq in the 1990s provides a model for a more effective non-proliferation body.
Nearly all destabilizing arms transfers to conflict zones and areas targeted by UN or EU sanctions are clandestine in nature, making monitoring difficult and prevention harder still. However, instead of attempting to create new instruments to tackle these problems, more efficient use can and should be made of existing mechanisms to enforce EU and UN arms embargoes. A recent incident involving a Russian-owned flag of convenience ship that attempted to deliver helicopter gunships to Syria demonstrated the potential effectiveness of such mechanisms.
Between July and September this year, the international community will be faced with the daunting prospect of concluding negotiations on an international arms trade treaty and a review of the implementation of the United Nations programme of action on small arms and light weapons.