Multilateral commitments “broke significant ground” at the recent nuclear security summit and are key to strengthening nuclear security worldwide, a European official who attended the event said last month.
He was referring to the joint state-ments, or “gift baskets,” which were endorsed by varying groups of countries at the March 24-25 summit in The Hague. The meeting also produced a communiqué, which was endorsed by all participants—53 countries and four international organizations.
In an April 11 e-mail, the official said that the communiqué, while outlining “positive actions,” does not represent the “most forward thinking on advancing nuclear security” because not all countries are ready to take certain steps. “Achieving consensus required compromise,” he said, whereas the joint statements “allowed countries to go beyond the least common denominator.”
More than a dozen new joint statements were announced at the Hague summit. (See ACT, April 2014.) The gathering was the third in the series of biennial meetings started by President Barack Obama in Washington in 2010. The second summit was held in Seoul in 2012. (See ACT, April 2012.)
The joint statements are mechanisms through which groups of self-selecting states collaborate on multilateral actions in particular areas of nuclear security. They were a new feature of the 2012 summit, building on the individual country commitments, or “house gifts,” of the 2010 summit.
Many of the joint statements are initiatives that were launched at the 2014 summit, but several build on prior statements released at the 2012 summit. They cover a range of issues, including security of nuclear materials in transport, cooperation on combating illicit trafficking, security of nuclear information, security of radiological sources, and nuclear forensics.
In addition to a joint statement in which countries pledged to implement existing voluntary guidelines on nuclear security, the European official highlighted joint statements on nuclear forensics, information security, and treaty ratifications as ones that he particularly hoped would produce “significant results” by the 2016 nuclear security summit.
The 2016 meeting will be hosted by the United States, and many speculate that it will be the last summit.
One of the new joint statements announced in The Hague and led by the Netherlands focuses on nuclear forensics. In contrast to some joint statements, which outlined actions that countries intend to take, the nuclear forensics joint statement presented a number of already completed tools that countries can begin to use, such as a forensics lexicon and an online educational platform for trainings.
The Netherlands began working on this project in 2011 and has developed “a comprehensive programme to foster cooperation among nuclear and forensic institutes worldwide,” according to the national progress report released by the Dutch during the summit.
During the summit, each participating country submitted a progress report detailing the actions it had taken to strengthen nuclear security.
In a March 21 presentation previewing the joint statement, Ed van Zalen of the Netherlands Forensics Institute said that the Dutch sponsored the statement because there is a need to build international capacity to determine the source of nuclear and radiological materials in the event of an incident or theft. One of the actions the Dutch took was the creation of educational platforms that other countries can use for training and technology development for analysis techniques. This will help improve investigations of nuclear security incidents in the future, van Zalen said.
The statement, endorsed by 24 countries, also supports completion of a survey of good practices for investigating nuclear security incidents and the creation of a platform for expert discussion.
The countries “intend to continue the work in the field of nuclear forensics,” including the development of new investigative methods, the statement says.
A joint statement on information security that the United Kingdom sponsored at the 2012 summit was expanded at the 2014 summit.
The initiative recognized the “fundamental need to protect sensitive nuclear information technology and expertise necessary to acquire or use nuclear materials for malicious purposes or to disrupt information technology based control systems at nuclear facilities.” Thirty-five states subscribed to the statement at the Hague summit.
Since 2012, the UK has led efforts to develop a code of conduct on nuclear information security. As part of the continuation of the effort, London is working with the World Institute for Nuclear Security to develop a best-practice guide for nuclear operators and with other subscribing countries to identify and disseminate sound practices for securing sensitive nuclear information.
States that joined the statement at the 2012 summit were asked to provide progress reports ahead of the 2014 summit. The UK published updates on actions that 21 states took to improve information security. Australia, for example, is developing a guidance document for classification of nuclear security information, and Japan included standards for managing and securing information when it set up its new nuclear regulatory agency.
The European official said requiring states to report on what they have done since 2012 to strengthen information security as part of the joint statement is a “positive step for holding states accountable” for their commitments and tracking progress.
A joint statement sponsored by Indonesia aims to assist states in meeting a pledge made in the communiqué, which encourages states to become parties to key legal instruments on nuclear security, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), its 2005 amendment, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
The latter convention, which entered into force in 2007, provides a definition of nuclear terrorism and specifies how states should handle offenders and illicit materials when seized. The CPPNM, which entered into force in 1987, sets security standards for nuclear material in transit. Its 2005 amendment would expand the scope of the physical protection measures to cover material in storage. The amendment is more than a dozen ratifications short of the number needed to bring it into force.
The Hague communiqué said that all summit participants would continue working to meet the goal of bringing the 2005 amendment into force “later this year.”
At the 2012 summit, Indonesia announced that it would consolidate existing guidance on nuclear security, including measures from the key treaties, simplifying the process for states to update domestic regulations to comply with the treaties and guidelines.
In its progress report at the Hague summit, Indonesia said that the initiative, known as the National Legislation Implementation Kit, will provide states “with building blocks to develop comprehensive national legislation in accordance with their own respective legal cultures and internal legal processes.”
In the April 11 e-mail, the European official said this could greatly assist countries that need “comprehensive nuclear security legislation.”
But a U.S. lawyer with expertise in international law said he was less optimistic about what the kit can accomplish because many of the countries that have not ratified the 2005 amendment would not be helped by the initiative. In an April 17 interview, he said that a comprehensive approach is “less helpful for countries that already adhere to some treaties” and have legislation relating to nuclear security in place, such as the United States. The United States has yet to complete its ratification of the 2005 amendment. (See ACT, March 2014.)
He also said that some treaties give states discretion in implementing particular aspects of nuclear security and that is difficult to capture in a comprehensive package.
Kelsey Davenport’s reporting from The Hague was supported by a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America.