Photo: General view of the Security Council meeting on non-proliferation by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 15 December 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias. - Photo: 2018

UN Security Council to Discuss Confidence-building Measures and Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Alyn Ware

Alyn Ware is Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND).

NEW YORK (IDN) – Kairat Umarov, President of the UN Security Council for January, has announced that Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev will chair a special session of the Council on January 18 on the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Confidence Building Measures (CBMs).

The session is being called in order to provide a focus on the resolution of political issues that give rise to States relying on weapons of mass destruction – especially nuclear weapons.

“Today we should pay more attention to the building of trust and confidence among political leaders and among countries,” Kazakh Ambassador Umarov told a press conference at the UN on January 2, announcing the session. “Without this, none of the issues will be solved. This is what today’s world is lacking.”

Kazakhstan has undertaken a number of national and regional disarmament initiatives, including relinquishing all the nuclear weapons that were on their territory, negotiating a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in Central Asia, and moving the United Nations to adopt (by consensus) August 29 as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.

However, their more ambitious proposals, such as the Universal Declaration for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, have not been supported by the countries relying on nuclear weapons for their security, i.e. the nuclear-armed countries and those relying on extended nuclear deterrence. Nor do these countries support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017.

Kazakhstan is one of the nations which formerly relied on nuclear weapons – when they were a part of the Soviet Union. They relinquished this reliance to become not only non-nuclear, but also an advocate for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Kazakhstan’s decision to relinquish nuclear deterrence was stimulated by an understanding of the catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, Kazakhstan had been a victim of over 460 Soviet nuclear tests conducted on their territory.

However, the decision was also guided by a focus on common security and confidence building in the post-Soviet era. This included the development of political, cultural and economic cooperation with countries with which Kazakhstan might otherwise have been in conflict. It also included the negotiation of regional agreements like the Central Asian NWFZ, and elevating the role of regional security organisations such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

Kazakhstan has also taken a role as a host for diplomatic meetings on critical issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and the Syrian conflict. And in 2016, Kazakhstan initiated a global award for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World and Global Security, the first recipient of which was King Abdullah II of Jordan.

President Nazarbayev is expected to report to the Security Council on the Kazakhstan experience, in order to encourage those countries still relying on nuclear weapons to explore and develop similar confidence building measures and common security approaches. In this way, they should be able to relinquish their reliance on nuclear weapons, as Kazakhstan has done.

Nuclear-armed States are obliged under international law including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to achieve complete nuclear disarmament. However, they have given no timeline for phasing out nuclear deterrence and achieving global zero. President Nazarbayev has called “on all Member States, especially the Security Council’s permanent members, to set a goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons by the UN’s 100th Anniversary in 2045.” He has also called on all UN members to contribute 1% of their military spending to fund the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The veto power of the Permanent Members (China, France, Russia, UK and USA) makes it difficult to adopt resolutions on these proposals at the Security Council, and there seems to be no intention by Kazakhstan to try for adoption of a resolution on January 18.

However, there are indications that some other Heads of State and/or Foreign Ministers will attend the session, and the deliberations could help pave the way for a successful UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in May 2018, which will not be subject to such veto power.

UNFOLD ZERO, a global coalition promoting UN initiatives for nuclear disarmament, has called on the Security Council Members to speak on January 18 in support of the goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045, and to announce at the Security Council Session that they will attend the UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament at the highest level in order to advance this goal.

In addition, the Permanent Five Security Council Members are being encouraged to commit to never initiating a nuclear war, i.e. to pledge a no-first-use policy. China already has such a policy. The leader of the UK opposition Jeremy Corbyn has promoted such a policy. And there have been recent calls in the US Senate for the US to adopt such a policy.

“It is imperative for those with their finger on the button to end their threats to initiate the annihilation of innocent people and the destruction of civilization,” said Alyn Ware, Co-founder of UNFOLD ZERO. “It is a lack of maturity and imagination that leads the nuclear-reliant States to believe that they have to hold onto nuclear deterrence for-ever. It is time for them to give up this ‘insecurity’ blanket, and enter the 21st century of common security, international interdependence, conflict resolution and law.”

A no-first-use policy would be a significant confidence-building measure between nuclear armed countries, would help reduce the risk of nuclear war by accident, miscalculation or intent, and would pave the way for negotiations between nuclear-reliant countries on a more comprehensive prohibition and phased abolition of nuclear weapons.

UNFOLD ZERO is also encouraging the nuclear-armed countries to announce on January 18 a reduction in the $100 billion annual nuclear weapons budget, and a commitment to re-invest some of these resources in economic and social need (such as the SDGs), as they are required to do under Article 26 of the UN Charter. This call is part of the global campaign Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, which is also working with non-nuclear countries to end investments in nuclear weapons corporations.

And UNFOLD ZERO is also encouraging the non-nuclear Security Council Members who have not yet signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden) to do so on January 18. [IDN-InDepthNews – 04 January 2018]

Photo: General view of the Security Council meeting on non-proliferation by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 15 December 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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