• UN discussions of General and Complete Disarmament

    Over the last several years, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs have discussed General and Complete Disarmament (GCD) more regularly.

    Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu

    In June 2017, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, addressed the final session of the open-ended working group on a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament. In her speech, she spoke about how all nuclear-armed states continue to invest billions into their weapons, while the pursuit of reductions in arsenals “seems to have come to a halt.”

    She also added challenges to disarmament efforts reach beyond the nuclear field, adding “the illicit trade in small arms and their ammunition continues to devastate already-fragile societies, hampering their abilities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The use of chemical weapons has caused unspeakable human suffering and is undermining the global
    norm against these unacceptable weapons.”

    But, she said, in spite of all this she remains optimistic.

    Click to open her full speech in a new tab.

    Mr. Kim Won-soo

    In April 2017, acting UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Mr. Kim Won-soo, didn’t mince words in his opening remarks to the 2017 Session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission. He warned: “We are witnessing rising global and regional tensions; new and destabilising arms competitions in both strategic and conventional weapons; worrying policy trends that threaten to roll back the gains made since the end of the Cold War; and a dearth of outcomes from disarmament institutions, including this body.

    “We need to work harder to reverse these trends.”

    Click to open his full speech in a new tab.

    At a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York in March 2017, acting UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Mr. Kim Won-soo, warns that the Doomsday Clock– which measures how close humanity is to global catastrophe– was set at two and a half minutes to midnight in January 2017, stating “This is the worst since 1953 and worse than even at the height of the Cold War.”

    He says to move forward we need to modernize our historical vision of general and complete disarmament, explaining: “This approach has led to important instruments, including the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones as well as bans on nuclear testing, various inhumane weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions.”

    Click to open his full speech in a new tab.

    Ms. Angela Kane

    At a speech in Prague, in December 2014, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Angela Kane, set-up the agenda for the 2015 Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons by remarking that “nuclear disarmament contributes to peace and security, yet it also benefits from progress in cultivating a wider environment of trust, cooperation and mutual confidence.”

    She added “as we reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons, we must also limit conventional arms, substantially improve existing mechanisms and institutions for resolving disputes peacefully, and promote even larger goals of justice and prosperity.”

    Click to open her full speech in a new tab.

    At a speech in Moscow in November 2014, then UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Angela Kane, warned that “possession without disarmament… invites nuclear proliferation,” and pushed for the Russian Federation and the United States to fulfil the disarmament commitments made at Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conferences and in Article VI of the treaty itself.

    Explaining: “The more these are reflected in actions by the Russian Federation and United States, the brighter will be prospects for—getting other nuclear-weapon possessor states into the disarmament process, halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and achieving nuclear disarmament.”

    Click to open her full speech a new tab.

    Copies of these speeches were first hosted on the UN website.

  • Report of “The other part of Article VI: General and Complete Disarmament” panel discussion

    Matthew Bolton | Pace University

    This panel, chaired by Maritza Chan, Minister Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, and co-hosted by Pace University and SCRAP, aimed to provide background and perspective on the concept of “general and complete disarmament” (GCD) found in article VI of the NPT. The side event was well-timed, following a discussion in Main Committee I in which nuclear-armed states had misused the concept, seeing it as a precondition of nuclear disarmament.

    All the panelists refuted this notion, arguing that GCD is an important concept and provided vision for thinking strategically about the disarmament process, but should not be seen as a prerequisite for progress on prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.

    Maritza Chan opened the discussion by critiquing the claim “that a course of action that could make the world a less violent, insecure, and unjust place is ‘unrealistic’,” saying that it “is often a claim about the limits of imagination and courage.” She pointed to the example of Costa Rica’s unilateral disarmament and demilitarization in 1948: “Since then, Costa Rica has been at the forefront of efforts to promote international disarmament and peaceful resolution of conflicts.”

    She stated that the concept of GCD “is often dismissed outright as an unrealistic idea or it is used as an empty phrase to suggest a well-meaning though perhaps insincere commitment to eventual world peace. Lately, we have seen it used as a diversionary tool by those who claim progress on nuclear disarmament will only come in some far distant future of global stability.”

    Dr. Matthew Bolton of Pace University in New York City then provided a history of the development of the idea of GCD from its roots in Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace, the League of Nations covenant, and early Cold War disarmament negotiations. He asserted that the humanitarian initiative—putting the human at the centre of disarmament efforts—offered the most promise for progress on nuclear disarmament and offered a vision of an approach to proceed on conventional weapons disarmament too.

    Following this background, Dr. John Burroughs of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, provided a legal analysis of article VI, demonstrating that the NPT obliges states to progress on nuclear disarmament as a key element of a broader goal of fulfilling GCD. Nuclear disarmament cannot and should not be held hostage by the misuse of the term.”

    The practice of states parties and the agreements reached in the Final Documents adopted by NPT Review Conferences demonstrate that the third component of Article VI cannot be interpreted as requiring that nuclear disarmament is to be implemented through one Treaty covering other weapons and armed forces generally,” he said. “Rather, a nuclear disarmament convention (or similar instrument or instruments), like the conventions on biological and chemical weapons, would be a contribution to the objective of general and complete disarmament.”

    Dr. Emily Welty of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs challenged participants to root disarmament work in a broader vision of just peace. She dismissed claims that discussions should be solely “pragmatic” or “realistic”, noting that for people of faith, disarmament requires engaging in acts of “prophetic imagination”.

    Christopher King of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) called on states to develop a “modern version of GCD” that acknowledges that disarmament and arms control must take place in the context of broader peacebuilding. He challenged participants to think about how to “bring these disparate partial measures together” into a cohesive “strategy” and “narrative.” He stated that “civil society and academia’s creative and innovative solutions” could help lead the way.

    Paul Meyer of the Simons Foundation and Simon Fraser University rejected the “hard linkage” of nuclear disarmament and GCD, but called attention to the “soft linkages” between a security system rooted in “nuclear weapons” and “a world awash with weapons” of the conventional kind. He pointed to the progress in Europe toward the end of the Cold War on seeking both conventional and nuclear disarmament, such as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Meyer introduced the SCRAP “Basic Elements” proposal, developed at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, which aimed to show the possibility of moving forward on GCD. He said that it is “exactly in these times” of insecurity” that we must “consider what is possible”.


    Click here to listen to the panel discussion: Audio file 

  • Dr Dan Plesch invited to the Civil Society Forum on the Conference on Disarmament

    Dr Dan Plesch, director of the CISD, has been kindled invited to participate to the one-day Informal Civil Society Forum on the Conference on Disarmament, by Michael Møller, Acting Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament.

    The Informal Civil Society Forum will take place on Thursday, 19 March 2015  at the Palais de Nations in Geneva.

    This forum is part of Michael Møller’s ongoing efforts to facilitate initiatives that can help address the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament.

    “It continues to be a priority for me to engage civil society to a greater extent in this effort, and I believe that there is much to be gained from a more structured and frequent exchange between Member States and civil society in this area.
    In this context, the overarching objective of the event is to generate ideas and inject different perspectives into the discussions on the agenda items of the Conference through informal interaction among Member States and civil society representatives.” Michael Møller


  • Ban Ki Moon’s, UN Secretary General, message to SCRAP

    On behalf of the UN Secretary General, Ms. Angela Kane (the former High Representative for Disarmament Affairs) sent us a letter in 2014, in which she acknowledges the important work carried out by SCRAP.

    Text of the letter:

    6 November 2014

    Dear Dr. Plesch,

    On behalf of the Secretary-General, I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 27 October 2014, inviting the Secretary-General to address the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London on the topic of General Disarmament.

    The important work carried out by SOAS in the area of disarmament within the framework of the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP) is duly recognized. In particular, the “Basic elements of an international legally-binding agreement on General and Complete Disarmament” is indeed an innovative initiative.

    Unfortunately, due to longstanding work commitments, the Secretary-General would be unable to accept your kind invitation. Nevertheless, my staff at the Office for the Disarmament Affairs would be pleased to discuss with you relevant issues of mutual interest.

    I wish to tank you for your interest and support for promoting disarmament issues and wish you much success in your endeavours.

    Yours sincerely,


    Angela Kane

    High Representative

    for Disarmament Affairs

    Click for a copy of the original letter.

  • SCRAP Student Ambassadors at the 2014 ICAN Civil Society Forum in Vienna

    As two students involved in the SCRAP project, we had the opportunity to attend the ICAN Civil Society Forum in Vienna on the 6th and 7th of December. This event brought together a variety of campaigners, activists, experts, civil society groups and NGOs with the aim of discussing the need for a nuclear weapons ban, prior to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons on the 8th and 9th of December.

    We thoroughly enjoyed attending this international event, where we learnt more about campaigning and had the opportunity to liaise with experts, NGOs, and government officials from a variety of countries. Despite having encountered some unexpected resistance from some civil society groups, we were positively impressed with how well diplomats received our message when we presented them the holistic approach to disarmament proposed by SCRAP.

    It was extremely interesting to discuss the issue of disarmament with experts in the field, as well as with other students and activists. We felt particularly privileged to meet Hiroshima survivor, Setsuko Thurlow, who delivered a powerful account of what she went through on that tragic day and how she has used her experience to advocate for a ban of nuclear weapons.

    We look forward to further discussing general and complete disarmament with some of the activists and diplomats that we met in Vienna at the United Nations in Geneva this February.

    To keep up to date with SCRAP’s latest news, follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

    Carolina Sarmento and Marta Corti (MA Candidates, International Studies & Diplomacy, CISD, SOAS, University of London)

  • New Advisory Committee member

    SCRAP is pleased to welcome a new Advisory Committee member. Geneva based disarmament expert Marc Finaud joined the SCRAP Advisory Committee in May this year. Marc Finaud is a Senior Programme Advisor for the Emerging Security Challenges Programme at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and a Resident Senior Fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). He is a former French diplomat who was seconded to the GCSP in 2004 before becoming a staff member. 

    View the SCRAP Advisory Committee members

  • Humanity Versus the Bomb

    This post originally appeared on OpenCanada.org on 25 February 2014.

    Although the natural beauty of the venue belied the subject matter, representatives of 146 states and 120 NGOs met February 13-14 at the Mexican coastal resort of Nayarit for the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.  Hosted by Mexico, the conference followed an initial gathering in Norway in March 2013 in which 127 states were represented.  Both were inspired by a single, unprecedented reference in the concluding document of the 2010 Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) expressing deep concern over the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of any use of nuclear weapons.

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  • Challenging Critics: Thoughts on SCRAP’s UN Panel

    Outside the creative bubble that is SOAS, University of London, SCRAP is difficult to defend. Even inside critics lament the project’s overly idealistic – or some would say ludicrous – aim to not only pursue total and complete global disarmament, but to propose an initial legal framework through which this might be feasible. It is within this context of general skepticism that SCRAP held a panel discussion on the subject at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Attended by members of the disarmament community, diplomats, and an international group of students, the event proposed to open up discussion on this impossible idea. The panel’s members gave the forum an immediate weight; the UN Acting Head in Geneva Michael Moller delivered opening remarks, while Ambassador Urs Schmid of Switzerland, Marc Finaud of the Geneva Center for Security Policy and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, and CISD Director Dan Plesch contributed to a discussion chaired by Finish Ambassador Paivi Kairamo. SCRAP’s student ambassadors Alexandra Tsamados, Kevin Miletic, and Bodil Jacobsen added their unique views on the project.

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  • UNOG Acting Director General Moller’s Opening remarks at SCRAP’s UN Discussion

    Mr Michael Moller, Acting Director General of the United Nations Office of Geneva (UNOG), delivered the opening remarks at SCRAP’s discussion at the United Nations on 12 February 2014. The discussion was titled New Approaches to General and Complete Disarmament: looking towards Mexico and The Hague.

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  • Notes on the Berlin Session on Humanitarian Disarmament

    The Berlin Session on Humanitarian Disarmament brought together a wide range of people and organisations from various backgrounds to constructively discuss the challenges facing humanitarian disarmament campaigns, and share ideas as to how best protect civilians and limit harm on humanity due to indiscriminate weapons. The Berlin Session also explored the link and drew parallels between humanitarian security, development, and inhumane weapons.

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