International Disarmament Institute News

June 30, 2017
by mbolton
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Op-Ed: Ensuring Respect for the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Matthew Bolton, director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, published the following op-ed in the Nuclear Ban Daily on 29 June 2017 on ensuring respect for theNuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, currently being negotiated at the UN in New York. For more a detailed report on his research regarding positive obligations, including ensuring respect and promoting norms, click here.

A crucial purpose of the ban treaty process is to stigmatize nuclear weapons. To do so, it should undermine the policies and practices in nuclear-armed and nuclear-allied states that entrench the persistence of nuclear arsenals. This includes delegitimizing doctrines of nuclear deterrence and accepting the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territories of non-nuclear weapons states. Prohibitions on military preparations and planning, stationing, and financing of nuclear weapons are key elements in this effort, raising the costs—economic, social, political and diplomatic—of the nuclear weapons complex.

However, stigmatizing nuclear weapons will require more than negative prohibitions. It will also require states to take positive actions that cultivate, generate, and disseminate the norms of the treaty, both domestically and globally.

In this round of negotiations, states and civil society have begun to discuss potential provisions to this effect, including regarding universalization, norm promotion, disarmament education and awareness raising, and fostering a culture of peace. Others have suggested language that would require states to condemn violations of the prohibitions by states not party. Such obligations would help do the discursive work of delegitimizing nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence doctrines.

In building and strengthening this stigmatizing architecture, states should also consider augmenting it with the “respect” tradition in humanitarian law.

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May 31, 2017
by mbolton
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The Role of Education in Advancing Arms Trade Treaty Universalization and Implementation: Lessons Learned from ATT Academy East Africa 2016-2017

Participants of the ATT Academy meet in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya.

The 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), negotiated and adopted at the UN in New York, offers opportunities to limit the potential for conventional weapons to be used to commit crimes against humanity, terrorism, organized crime, violations of human rights and humanitarian law and acts of gender-based violence. It currently has 90 state parties, but some states that were strong champions of the Treaty have not yet acceded to it. Many states that have joined the
ATT nevertheless report they need technical assistance and training to implement the Treaty effectively.

Responding to these concerns, Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute in partnership with the Control Arms Secretariat organized the ATT Academy 2016-2017, a year-long program of education, research and training on the Treaty for carefully selected East and Horn of Africa officials and key civil society activists. This project was supported by the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR).

In this report on lessons learned in the project, participants report that the ATT Academy provided them with in-depth knowledge of the ATT, enabling them address accession and implementation challenges in the region. Organizers learned that the ATT universalization and implementation effort will require an educational component, to share information, technical expertise and lessons learned. A targeted, intensive, longterm, in-person and contextualized program of training is better than one-off seminars. High-impact pedagogies like simulations and group discussions are often more effective than a lecture format alone.

To read the full report, click here.

April 28, 2017
by mbolton
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Humanitarian Positive Obligations for a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

Nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations at the UN in New York, March 2017. Photo courtesy of ICAN.

The object and purpose of the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty is to address and prevent the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. As such, the political process that has led to the beginning of negotiations is rooted in humanitarian disarmament, which seeks to eliminate the suffering caused by problematic weapons.

A new report authored by Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, argues that the international community should seize the opportunity to achieve the humanitarian aims of this process by ensuring the nuclear weapons ban treaty includes strong positive obligations as well as prohibitions. Positive obligations would make the process of stigmatizing and limiting the harm of nuclear weapons the responsibility of all states, including those affected and not directly affected by nuclear detonations. Such provisions would encourage states to engage directly in extending and universalizing the norm, working toward a nuclear weapons free world.

Existing weapons treaties, especially humanitarian disarmament ones, provide important precedent for positive obligations. Their relevant provisions tend to fall in three categories:

  • Rights and remedial measures (e.g. environmental remediation, risk education, victim assistance),
  • Promotion of the treaty and of its norms (e.g. universalization and disarmament education),
  • International cooperation and assistance to implement the above two sets of obligations.

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