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The Impact of September 11 On Multilateral Arms Control
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On January 22, Jayantha Dhanapala, the United Nations undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, delivered the keynote address at the Arms Control Association’s annual luncheon. In his speech, Dhanapala discussed the span of multilateral initiatives to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and addressed how the importance and the viability of those efforts have changed since the terrorist attacks of September 11.

A career diplomat with extensive arms control experience, Dhanapala was a member of the Sri Lankan foreign service from 1965 to 1997. He served as ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador to the United States, and additional foreign secretary. In 1995, he chaired the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review and extension conference, which resulted in unanimous support for indefinite extension of the treaty. He has held his current post since 1998.

The following is the text of Dhanapala’s remarks and an edited version of the question-and-answer session that followed.


I would like to begin by thanking the Arms Control Association for honoring me as the speaker at your annual luncheon—my first chance to address the Association since my remarks at your annual dinner in 1996. I predicted then that the prospects for nuclear disarmament—despite the success of the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] review and extension conference and the imminent conclusion of the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty]—were “not good.” Looking around at the debris of multilateral disarmament endeavors, I am surprised to be invited again! But I must congratulate Daryl Kimball upon his assumption of the position of executive director of this highly respected institution and do predict confidently that the prospects today for the Association are good. I also pay tribute to the many years of service rendered by Spurgeon Keeny, who helped lay a solid foundation.

Daryl noted in his introduction that the world will soon mark the 56th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of its very first resolution, which aimed at the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. Yet, two other anniversaries also deserve some note on this occasion. Today, 63 years ago, a cyclotron at Columbia University split a uranium atom, heralding the world’s first fission experiment. And a week from today will mark the 38th anniversary of the world premiere of the classic film “Dr. Strangelove,” a film some of you here today might recognize more by its subtitle—“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” All these events illustrate the issues on which ACA and its supporters have worked over the years—issues that remain with us and have acquired even greater urgency after September 11, 2001.

The Historical Significance of September 11

The historical significance of September 11, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, will be debated for years to come. Was it the end of history? Was it our entry into the 21st century through a “gate of fire,” as my secretary-general has put it? That it brought the issue of terrorism into the forefront of the global agenda—far from being a purely national or regional concern—is indisputable.

And yet, the rest of the global agenda before September 11 remains with us. That includes the problems posed by weapons of mass destruction [WMD] to international peace and security. The United Nations “Millennium Declaration” pledged to eliminate the dangers posed by such weapons. These dangers are accentuated by the efforts reportedly made by al Qaeda to acquire WMD. Yet, there are also other extremist groups in all regions who, in their blinkered vision, can only see civilizations clashing, not coexisting, and who are prepared to use unthinkable methods to bring about the crash of civilization in its entirety.

In the backlash to the events of September 11, my distinguished colleague, Mary Robinson, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, along with other human rights bodies, has warned that human rights should not be sacrificed as we deal with terrorists. Secretary-General Kofi Annan put it unambiguously when he said, “There is no trade-off between effective action against terrorism and the protection of human rights.”

Seeing the escalation of global military expenditure, I must myself warn against the sacrifice of disarmament and arms control norms in the battle against terrorism. While some prefer paperless disarmament, that is surely no reason to jettison the treaties and conventions that do act as a legal barrier to the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of their delivery systems. Our need to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining WMD material and technology demands the strengthening of existing norms and greater efforts to implement them.

Multilateral Efforts Against WMD

Prior to September 11, it was already evident that global military expenditure—after its decade-long decline following the end of the Cold War—had begun to rise ominously. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has recently reported that world military expenditure in 2000 was about $798 billion in current dollars and that the largest volume increases were in Russia and the United States. The regions showing the steepest increases in military spending were Africa with 37 percent, and South Asia was not far behind with a 23 percent increase.

Since September 11, we have seen that both the United States and Russia have announced increases in their military budgets. Many other countries have cited terrorism as a reason to increase military budgets, although there is no correlation between such investments and counterterrorism. One U.S. commentator pointed out that the United States spends $20 billion annually on preparing to fight a large-scale nuclear war with Russia while spending less than $2 billion annually on homeland defense. News reports also show that the bombing in Afghanistan cost $1 billion per day. Yesterday, participants at an international meeting in Tokyo identified $15 billion in immediate needs for the rebuilding of Afghanistan over the next five years. That is equivalent to 15 days of bombing—surely an insurance premium for never having to bomb that country again and surely a better investment in preventing Afghanistan from becoming an incubator of deadly terrorism ever again.

The events of September 11 should be moving the international community toward a culture of prevention instead of toward a culture of reaction. The secretary-general’s report on the prevention of conflict, issued three months before that tragic date, identified disarmament as one of the key tools in achieving this new culture of prevention.

The United Nations and other multilateral organizations working on disarmament and nonproliferation goals are doing all they can to contribute to this goal, and they are doing so through concrete deeds, not just words. All of the UN’s efforts in this field should be considered within the context of the dozen international conventions that have been negotiated over the years to strengthen international cooperation against the scourge of terrorism. These treaties, combined with the treaty regimes for the elimination and nonproliferation of all WMD, offer the basic architecture for the world’s coordinated, global response to the gravest threats to international peace and security in the new century ahead.

The United Nations is no stranger to the issue of terrorism. Its various resolutions and declarations extend back several decades. The key to the fate of these efforts remains, as it always has, with the resources and the political will of its member states. The UN response to the attacks of September 11 was swift and is continuing to unfold in several important ways. Consider for a moment the following recent activities.

The UN General Assembly and the Security Council adopted resolutions denouncing the attacks the day after they took place. On September 28, the Security Council then adopted Resolution 1373, which aimed at targeting terrorists and those who harbor, aid, or support them. Through this resolution, the Security Council also established a new subsidiary organ called the Counter-Terrorism Committee [CTC], which is working with international, regional, and subregional organizations to find ways of expanding assistance to states on a host of financial, regulatory, and legislative issues. The resolution calls upon all UN member states to report to the CTC on the specific steps they are taking to implement Resolution 1373.

From October 1 to 5, the General Assembly held a special debate on measures to eliminate international terrorism. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, when addressing the General Assembly on October 1, called for developing a broad, comprehensive, and sustained strategy to combat terrorism. He specifically stressed the need to strengthen the global norm against the use or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He emphasized, for example, the need to redouble efforts to ensure universality, verification, and full implementation of key treaties; to promote cooperation among international organizations dealing with these weapons; and to tighten national legislation over exports of technologies needed to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

From October 15 to 26, a United Nations working group on measures to eliminate international terrorism met to continue the elaboration of an overarching draft convention on international terrorism. Efforts are continuing to reach consensus on such a convention as well as on a separate convention on nuclear terrorism.

Also, in October the secretary-general established a policy working group on the UN and terrorism to identify longer-term implications and broad policy steps the UN system might make in the collective international effort against terrorism. This group, composed of many offices and departments inside the UN system, will produce a report by next June containing its recommendations on specific contributions the United Nations can make in addressing this global threat.

On November 29, the General Assembly re-emphasized the importance of multilateral responses to terrorism, disarmament, and proliferation challenges by adopting without a vote Resolution 56/54T, which reaffirmed multilateralism as a “core principle” in disarmament and nonproliferation negotiations. The resolution emphasized that “progress is urgently needed” in the area of disarmament and nonproliferation in order to help maintain international peace and security and to contribute to global efforts against terrorism, and it called upon all member states “to renew and fulfil” their commitments to multilateral cooperation in these areas.

On January 18, the Security Council had an open meeting on terrorism. The secretary-general called on the CTC to develop a long-term strategy that would enable all states to undertake the steps needed to defeat terrorism. The chairman of the committee, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, stated that the council’s aim was to improve the average performance level of governments against terrorism across the globe by upgrading the capacity of each nation’s legislation and executive machinery to fight terrorism. Speakers also called for more attention to be given to issues that fueled terrorism, including poverty, intolerance, regional conflicts, denial of human rights, environmental degradation, lack of access to justice and equal protection under the law, as well the lack of sustainable development.

This collective effort treats terrorism as a multidimensional subject, requiring diverse, synergistic contributions throughout the UN system. There are very strong reasons indeed for one to believe that the events of September 11, while not directly involving what are classically termed “weapons of mass destruction,” will lead to the strengthening of global disarmament norms. Multilateral efforts are already underway to create, maintain, implement, and extend such norms in a variety of global arenas.

With respect to nuclear weapons, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] called the September 11 events a “wake-up call” for new efforts to enhance controls over security of nuclear materials. After having been handicapped by a zero-growth budget for many years, the IAEA is finally starting to get some of the additional funds it needs to confront new safeguards and physical security threats seriously.

In an effort to rekindle international efforts to enhance the physical security of fissile nuclear materials and other radioactive substances, the General Conference of the IAEA adopted a resolution on September 21 requesting the director-general to review the agency’s activities to strengthen its work relevant to acts of terrorism that involve such materials.

In late October, the IAEA organized an international symposium on nuclear verification and security of material, involving the participation of more than 500 national and international experts in the fields of nuclear safeguards, nonproliferation, security, and safety. The agency is looking closely at the adequacy of controls under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material to see what more can be done to enhance these controls. Specifically, the director-general has decided to convene a group of legal and technical experts to draft an amendment aimed at strengthening the convention. The IAEA is also working hard to strengthen nuclear safeguards through its efforts to promote international acceptance of the Additional Protocol. The success of the IAEA’s multilateral efforts in all these fields will be not only laudable but also absolutely essential if there is any hope whatsoever for progress in eliminating the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Multilateral efforts against the possession or proliferation of chemical weapons are another intense focus of ongoing multilateral efforts. In response to two UN Security Council anti-terrorism resolutions last September, the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] specifically addressed the issue of chemical terrorism in its autumn session. The council has stressed the need to focus on achieving universal adherence to the convention, enacting national implementing legislation, and ensuring the OPCW’s ability to respond to a request for assistance and protection in the event of the use or the threat of use of chemical weapons. The council also established a working group to develop recommendations for OPCW’s contribution to the global anti-terrorism effort. The working group will propose specific measures to the next session of the council, which will be held from March 19 to 22 this year.

Worldwide, 70,000 tons of chemical agents have been declared to the OPCW. These stockpiles have been completely inventoried, inspected, and reinspected. Furthermore, all the declared chemical weapons production facilities have been deactivated. The global chemical industry is subject to inspection by the OPCW. Dual-use chemicals, which could be misused as precursors of chemical weapons, are carefully monitored, and the trade in the most dangerous chemicals is limited to member states.

With respect to biological weapons, despite the inability of the states party to the BWC [Biological Weapons Convention] to reach a consensus on a verification protocol after many years of effort, efforts will continue at the treaty’s resumed review conference later this year to reach agreement on a common multilateral approach to reinforce the global ban on biological weapons. I hope that the growing public awareness of the threats associated with such weapons will inspire greater progress in this area, notwithstanding the absence of an organization to implement this norm.

For its part, the World Health Organization has compiled a final draft of international guidelines on responding to terrorist attacks using biological and chemical weapons. The draft emphasizes international cooperation, including through the OPCW, to prepare for possible terrorist attacks.

Historically speaking, the United States has played key roles in fostering multilateral approaches to alleviate these threats, particularly those arising from the global spread of weapons of mass destruction. With respect to nuclear threats, the United States recognized even before the end of the Second World War that efforts to address such threats would require extensive international cooperation. This led to the Baruch Plan, the Atoms for Peace program, the creation of the IAEA and its system of nuclear safeguards, and numerous other initiatives and agreements. Together, these led to the accretion of a body of international law founded both on numerous multilateral treaties and on the customary practices of states. In many cases, these multilateral control efforts originated in unilateral proposals by leaders of countries, and it is surely fair to say that the leadership of the United States has often been crucial in the success of these efforts. This leadership will continue to be vitally important in contributing to the success of multilateral organizations like the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the IAEA, whose efforts will also substantially reduce the risks of possible use of chemical or nuclear weapons not just by states, but also by terrorists.

Similarly, the successful conclusion of an international convention against nuclear terrorism—a goal that has eluded an international consensus for too long—would help significantly in confronting this enormous challenge. There is also a compelling need to upgrade physical security at facilities that produce, store, or use a wide variety of controlled radioactive substances—especially those of the fissile variety—and to re-examine internationally the adequacy of controls currently prescribed by the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Strong U.S. leadership on behalf of these two important conventions would undoubtedly serve the interests of international peace and security.

The problem of nuclear terrorism was anticipated long ago. On April 25, 1945, a mere fortnight after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote a memorandum to the new president warning that “the future may see a time when such a weapon may be constructed in secret and used suddenly and effectively with devastating power by a willful nation or group against an unsuspecting nation or group of much greater size and material power.” Yet, most of the early postwar efforts to address the global nuclear threat focused exclusively on nation-states as their primary subjects. Nuclear terrorism became a popular topic in the professional arms control literature in the mid- to late-1970s, though the urgency and global scope of this threat has only recently started to receive the attention it so richly deserves.

This important leadership role for the United States is not limited to initiatives of its government. Since its founding in 1971, the Arms Control Association has pursued the fundamental goal of promoting public understanding of effective policies and programs in arms control, a role it has fulfilled well over the years. The United Nations also appreciates the importance of such activities by numerous other academic and other nongovernmental groups in civil society around the world. In response to a General Assembly resolution, the United Nations itself has underway an experts study on disarmament and nonproliferation education. The group has already met twice and plans to submit its report later this year to the 57th session of the United Nations General Assembly. With public understanding and support as a foundation and strong multilateral norms and institutions to advance such norms, the world will have every reason to expect a significant reduction in both the threats posed by all weapons of mass destruction, including terrorist threats.

The terrorist acts of September 11 have shaken the world out of a dangerous complacency. The public, concerned groups, and legislators are now starting to take much more seriously not only the threat of terrorism but also the danger that WMD may actually be used against military or civilian targets. In this sense, the sarin nerve gas attack in Japan in 1995 and the anthrax incidents in the United States and elsewhere in recent months have encouraged leaders everywhere to reconsider old assumptions, reassess old policies, and explore new collaborative international ways and means of alleviating genuine common threats.

Longer-Term Implications of September 11 for Disarmament

It is, of course, premature to predict the specific, long-term impacts of the events of September 11 upon the prospects for nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, disarmament, and their common denominator—international peace and security. One can safely say, however, that the tragedy is already leading to calls for a profound reassessment of the doctrine of nuclear deterrence and for an entirely new approach to the whole notion of weapons-based approaches to defense.

It is regrettable, but surely indisputable, that the states that possess nuclear weapons remain quite unprepared to give them up anytime soon despite repeated formal and informal commitments, most recently their unequivocal undertaking at the May 2000 review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. There certainly has been some progress to note in recent years, including efforts by some nuclear-weapon states to declare publicly their holdings of fissile nuclear materials, to declare limitations or reductions in the size of their arsenals, to halt the production of new fissile materials, and in some cases to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We hear of a reduced dependency on nuclear weapons but of a continuing need for a strategic “triad” that includes nonnuclear means of deterrence—recognizing that a country’s vast superiority in highly capable conventional weapons can conceivably inspire other states to seek WMD as an asymmetrical response. We hear reaffirmations of the doctrine of the first use of nuclear weapons and, from some nuclear-weapon states, words on behalf of the continuing value of tactical nuclear weapons. We hear of reductions in deployed, operational weapons but also of transfers of operational weapons to various reserve categories rather than to facilities for their verified physical destruction. We also hear that these reductions will occur unilaterally, outside of any binding treaty framework, and hence will be reversible and free from any bilateral or international verification. One senior U.S. official recently stated that “we are currently projecting to keep the nuclear forces that we have to 2020 and beyond—and longer and beyond.”

The NPT’s strengthened review process, however, will play an important role in holding all the treaty’s nuclear-weapon states accountable for their past commitments to eliminate their nuclear stockpiles. The first preparatory committee meeting of the states party to the treaty will get underway in April, and there will be two additional sessions before the 2005 NPT review conference. The fate of this ongoing process will provide some solid indicators of the future of both nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation.

Another area for potential progress in the years ahead lies in the field of controlling the dangers inherent in long-range ballistic missiles, though global multilateral disarmament efforts in this field are unfortunately still nonexistent. In April 1999, the secretary-general issued a statement noting with concern the lack of multilateral norms with respect to both missiles and missile defenses. A year later, the General Assembly asked the secretary-general to establish an experts group to examine the question of missiles in all its aspects. I hope that the events of September 11 will lend some new urgency to efforts to establish such norms, though I do not underestimate the difficulties ahead in achieving such a goal.

There are solid technical and economic grounds for doubting that terrorist groups will themselves acquire ICBMs anytime soon. In terms of nonstate actors, the missile “genie” is still inside its bottle. With sufficient political will, strengthened by the heightened public sensitivity to international threats, it is possible that the states that possess such weapons may in the years ahead be willing to conclude some new multilateral agreements to reduce substantially the dangers of such missiles. The MTCR’s [Missile Technology Control Regime] draft “code of conduct” and the Russian Federation’s Global Control System are examples of such proposals that are now under consideration. Multilateral progress in this area can build upon unilateral actions or agreements among specific countries.

Global missile and WMD threats can also be reduced via greater multilateral cooperation in export controls to ensure that the most sensitive components and technologies, as well as related dual-use goods, do not end up creating new risks to international peace and security. Such an effort, however, must be global and nondiscriminatory or it will have little chance of long-term success. The global goal, however distant it may now appear, of eliminating long-range missile delivery systems has some profound advantages over halfway measures that focus exclusively on nonproliferation, missile defenses, deterrence, or simply enhancing confidence in existing missile stockpiles. These advantages relate specifically to the basic fairness and equity of a nondiscriminatory disarmament goal and the practical advantages in verifying compliance with a global ICBM ban rather than arrangements that simply aim at regulating the development, stockpiling, and use of missiles.

It is vital, therefore, that these incremental steps in the field of missiles occur not just to stabilize the global missile status quo but also to serve a longer-term purpose—namely, the ultimate elimination of such missiles. The preamble of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty envisages the goal of the elimination from national stockpiles of all delivery vehicles for weapons of mass destruction, and I believe that incremental steps in this direction would undoubtedly serve the interests of international peace and security.

Toward a New Multilateral Approach to Security

What is perhaps most striking about many responses to the threats posed by both terrorism and weapons of mass destruction is the extent to which these responses rely upon weapons. What is missing from this weapons-based approach to security is an emphasis on the need for deeper multilateral cooperation rooted in binding legal norms that are implemented with the assistance of global international organizations.

The late Paul Warnke once referred to the nuclear arms race as a process much akin to “apes on a treadmill.” It is perhaps more apparent today than ever that real change, when it comes to thinking about nuclear weapons, is slow in coming and slower yet in implementation. Extensive international cooperation and public participation from civil society is needed to ensure that counterterrorism efforts will escape this familiar syndrome.

Effective measures against WMD terrorism and on the behalf of WMD disarmament simply cannot be accomplished by any single country acting alone. No one country controls all global exports, monitors all transfers of technology, and enforces all legal obligations. Certain dangerous weapons materials like plutonium, highly enriched uranium, and many strains of deadly bacteria and toxins are hazardous to whomever possesses them, given at the very least the risks of accidents, thefts, and sabotage. These materials are born dangerous. They are dangerous to produce, store, transport, or use even for ostensibly peaceful purposes. They are not dangerous simply when located inside so-called rogue states. They are dangerous everywhere and always.

For this reason, multilateral treaty regimes like the BWC, CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention], and NPT serve a triple security purpose: they serve to prevent the proliferation of such weapons to states; they make it much more difficult for terrorists to acquire significant WMD capabilities; and they promote an equitable, fair, and global public good called disarmament. While subject to improvement, they also serve these ends better than any single state, acting alone, can hope to achieve, and they surely serve these ends better than competitive arms races undertaken in the name of achieving or preserving military supremacy.

The United States, with all its material and intellectual resources, is destined to play a leadership role in world affairs. Of this, there can be no doubt. Whether this leadership will inspire the global elimination of WMD returns to the issue of political will, the same issue that inspired the creation of this Association over three decades ago. As the Arms Control Association, located in the most powerful country on Earth, you have a heavy burden to ensure that this leadership moves the world in the right direction.

In his Nobel lecture of December 10 last year, Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke of three priorities of the United Nations in the century ahead: eradicating poverty, preventing conflict, and promoting democracy. This is the “triad” that will genuinely serve the interests of international peace and security. And in the realm of preventing conflict, the goals of disarmament, arms control, and the peaceful settlement of disputes must remain the triad within the triad. Let the United States put an end to the debate whether arms cause conflicts or vice versa and recognize that each continues to affect the other, as they have from time immemorial. Let the United States dedicate our triads to productive, not destructive, uses.

You have my very best wishes and my full support in all your efforts to bring the United States closer to a world free of all weapons of mass destruction—a world able to grow and prosper in peace, with security for all.

Questions and Answers

Question: What are the consequences of not having a legally binding verification mechanism for the BWC in place, and can the alternatives that the United States put forward serve as a viable alternative?

Dhanapala: I don’t think it was ever advocated by the strongest proponents of a BWC verification system that we could have a perfect verification system. However, the protocol would have strengthened the treaty with greater transparency, with greater cooperation, and with a greater ability of the states party to this convention to be able to have assurances that the BWC is, in fact, being implemented.

Now, we do not, at this point in time, have any process leading toward the protocol because the process was, as you know, abruptly ended in July of last year. And the review conference, at which many agreed on some intermediary measures, has also been adjourned. I hope that states party to the convention will spend the time between now and the convening of the review conference in November of this year developing arrangements that could help bring a greater sense of confidence that the convention is, in fact, being implemented.

We also need to universalize the convention. We only have something like 144 parties to the treaty. So, we need to have many more parties sign up and, of course, thereafter make the treaty as implementable as possible.

Question: You spoke at some length about all the agreements covering weapons of mass destruction. I didn’t hear you say much about the small arms and light weapons conference last summer, which was the pinnacle of several years’ worth of organizing by governments and nongovernmental organizations and just barely pulled out a statement of agreement. What are the next steps that are possible in that arena, given that the next review conference is many years in the future?

Dhanapala: Well, I confined myself deliberately to the weapons that fall within the classical definition of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, and their delivery systems. It is true that small arms have been recently referred to as having the impact of weapons of mass destruction because of the colossal number of deaths they have caused, particularly since the end of the Cold War, and because they are widely used. We have an estimated 500 million of these small arms and light weapons in circulation.

The UN has been a pioneer in bringing this issue onto the global agenda. There were two very important, groundbreaking expert studies in 1997 and 1999 that were issued. And amongst them was a recommendation that we should convene an international conference on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. That conference was held in July of last year in New York, and after a great deal of negotiations that went on until the small hours of the morning, we were able to come out with a consensus document—a program of action.

This program of action sets out a series of measures at the national level, the regional level, and the global level; and we are in the process of implementing those measures. We have convened a number of workshops. This is a program of action whose implementation does not rest on the shoulders of the UN alone. A number of regional organizations like the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], the African Union in Africa, the OAS [Organization of American States] in Latin America, and several other subregional organizations are organizing efforts to try to bring these measures into action.

The 2001 program of action also calls for us to conduct a feasibility study, which will begin next year, on trying to have some kind of a global norm on marking and tracing weapons. This was an initiative by France and Switzerland, and we are in the process of identifying a group of experts that will undertake this feasibility study.

Question: What is the prospect of a UN forum more conducive to exploring ideas than the present, very large forum in Geneva being developed?

Dhanapala: Well, we have two groups of fora in the UN, and they owe their existence essentially to the 1978 Special Session on Disarmament. There are the deliberative fora, as you know: the First Committee and the Disarmament Commission. There is no dearth of ideas there. These ideas are discussed regularly—in the case of the Disarmament Commission, in a much more focused way. There are two agenda items that are discussed over a cycle of three years.

In the 66-member Conference on Disarmament, which is the negotiating forum to which you referred, they have not adopted a program of work for four years. Here again, it is not for want of ideas, but because those delegations represent the political will of governments. They have not been able to even agree on an agenda because there is no agreement on, for example, the establishment of an ad hoc committee to discuss the ban on a production of fissile material because others want, at the same time, two other committees established, on nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

I know that the committee is resuming today for its new session. But I see no prospect of any work being done on the negotiation of fresh agreements.

Question: You mentioned the importance of establishing legal norms on disarmament. Morton Halperin responded to a question this morning about undertakings taken by the states party to the Nonproliferation Treaty in 2000 on meeting their Article VI commitments. His statement was, to paraphrase, that the leaders of the United States—the Clinton administration and the Bush administration—may not have taken those undertakings seriously. Could you share with us your perspective, based on where you sit and your experience, about how other states perceive their NPT Article VI commitments on disarmament and how the Bush administration’s current approach might affect other states’ views about the value of the NPT itself?

Dhanapala: Well, certainly it was a disappointing statement to hear this morning, but I have heard it from other diplomats as well, both from the United States and from other nuclear-weapon states, so it was not a total surprise. But it will stand in the way of our asking other member states of the United Nations who are party to treaties to honor their legal commitments if nuclear-weapon states consider commitments made in declarations to be ones that they can walk away from. So, we need to reassess the way in which treaties are implemented.

I myself presided over the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s review and extension conference in 1995. The only reason that we were able to have an indefinite extension of that treaty without a vote was because there was a clear prospect of a CTBT being achieved in the near term and because we had a set of decisions that strengthened the review process; a resolution on the Middle East; and a series of benchmarks against which the accountability of nuclear-weapon states could be measured at future review conferences.

Unfortunately, the experience of the treaty’s parties after 1995 has not given them the confidence that those commitments have been implemented. I fear that there may come a time in which we reach a threshold of tolerance on the part of treaty parties, and, with the kind of problems that we see developing in various regions, there may be strong pressures for countries to move away from their commitments to the NPT. This is a situation I think we should never reach. We should try very hard to implement the treaty in all its aspects, not merely Articles I and II.

Question: I wonder if you would carry that theme a little bit further. The commitments made in the final document in 2000 were political commitments. The commitments made in the Statement of Principles at the 1995 review conference were also political commitments, but they were linked to the legal decision to indefinitely extend the Nonproliferation Treaty. Would you talk a little further about the effect on the NPT’s status if the political commitments set forth in the Statement of Principles are not observed by relevant states, principally the nuclear-weapon states?

Dhanapala: You are quite right in making a distinction between the political commitments of the 2000 final declaration and the package of decisions that were adopted in 1995. However, I think a lot of countries will look upon the interplay of the political commitments and the legally binding aspects of the treaty as being very, very closely linked.

When, as you know, the 1995 conference took place, there was a very vocal minority of states who disagreed with the indefinite extension decision, but went along with the “no vote” formula that we were able to design. I fear that—depending of course on international circumstances and the evolution of global politics, in particular in regions where we know conflicts prevail—there may be pressures for neutralizing the advantage nuclear-weapon states have. There may be dissatisfaction with the way in which there has been an imbalanced implementation of the NPT.

I don’t want to be a predictor of bad events, but we have to be very, very conscious of the fact that various countries may not tolerate what they see as double standards, and this is not only a situation in the area of disarmament, but also in other areas as well. And this is why the UN has approached the whole issue of terrorism as a multidisciplinary issue. We need to ensure that we have strong norms in all countries that are linked to the legal treaties that we have, particularly on WMD, and this will enable those countries who are parties to the treaties to abide by the obligations, preventing WMD material or technology from falling into the hands of terrorists as well.

Posted: March 1, 2002