Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS University of London dp27@soas.ac.uk

Dr. Dan Plesch speaks about SCRAP at the UN in New York

In an interview with MA International Studies and Diplomacy student Alexandra MacAulay Abdelwahab, Dr. Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) at SOAS University of London, speaks about SCRAPS recent meeting at the United Nations in New York City in the 18 and 19 October 2017.

Reflections on the General Debate of the First Committee, General Assembly of the United Nations

This blog post was written by Panida Wayrojpitak, a second-year international relations student at SOAS University of London.

To learn more about this subject, or to follow the UN debate yourself, please visit the following:

It comes with little surprise that the nuclear disarmament agenda is heavily supported by multilateral institutions and member states that are non-nuclear. Getting nuclear-armed states on board with the disarmament agenda will be a strategic challenge, especially in light of the embeddedness of ‘deterrence’ in military doctrines, of which delegates of non-nuclear-armed states have expressed anxiety against. Several representatives of nuclear-armed states cite the ‘current global security environment’ as justification to not consider further reductions, but one should keep in mind that disarmament requires political will, and continuance of the existence of nuclear weapons only serves as a threat to international security, with regards to, but not limited to, the amount of close calls on accidental usage. This was pointed out eloquently by the representative of Sweden, “A difficult relationship was no excuse not to act.” Another related issue is the usage of terms such as ‘selective approach’, step-by-step’, ‘building block approach’ and ‘gradual approach’, which is simply another excuse to slow down the disarmament process by nuclear-armed states.

Delegates widely praised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, emphasizing the potential of multilateral diplomacy to resolve intricate issues, with the representative of Iran pointing to its conclusion as a ‘win-win achievement’. This perhaps bring hope for the crisis on the Korean Peninsula to be resolved through diplomatic means. However, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stands firm that its ‘deterrence’ policy is for self-defence and a ‘legitimate right of its sovereignty’, as well as pointing to the United States on retaining its nuclear weapons

Despite disagreements in various parts from delegates on the best practice for global security, one of which is the lack of support from key stakeholders on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, if anything, three themes do arise whereby there is a general broad consensus, excluding of course certain member states: condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development, calls for transparency in the alleged chemical weapons usage in Syria, and calls for a nuclear-weapon-free-zone to be established in the Middle East. This demonstrates, that despite disagreements, international norms do have an effect, rendering the possibility of further progressive norms constructions possible, including reinvigorating the General Complete Disarmament (GCD) discourse.

Furthering the disarmament agenda will require states to move beyond national interests to ensure security for all, but how will this gap be bridged when there remains a general ‘realist’ distrust between states?

For other discussions on this subject, check out this post by Reaching Critical Will (RCW), the disarmament programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the oldest women’s peace organisation in the world.

Lobby the General Assembly for a resolution on General and Complete Disarmament

Join our campaign to pressure the United Nations General Assembly for a resolution on General and Complete Disarmament (GDC).

Send a letter to your country’s UN representative:


Letter Template

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you to ask that (insert state name) play an active part in supporting a resolution on General and Complete Disarmament (GDC).  We are aware of the difficulties that members of the General Assembly face in implementing this obligation, but the disastrous increase in wars and armaments must now be checked. (personalise)

As you are likely aware the General Assembly has held three Special Sessions devoted to Disarmament (SSOD): SSOD-I in 1978, SSOD-II in 1982 and SSOD-III in 1988. Since 1995, the General Assembly has been calling for a fourth session on disarmament. It then established Working Groups in 2003, 2007 and 2016 to discuss the agenda and the possibility of establishing a preparatory committee for an SSOD-IV.

I ask in particular that the Assembly should start with consideration of the publication by the UN’s own Office Disarmament Affairs of Occasional Paper 28 (Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the 21st Century – https://www.un.org/disarmament/publications/occasionalpapers/no-28/).

In closing may I draw your attention to the work of our group at www.scrapweapons.com

I look forward very much to hearing from you and am grateful for your consideration.




You can find the contact information for your country’s delegation in the UN’s Blue Book.

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.

NEW SCRAP Publication on Disarmament and Cooperative Security out!

SCRAP is pleased to announce the launch of the new publication Reintroducing Disarmament and Cooperative Security in the Toolbox of 21st Century Leaders.

Over the last few years, it has become commonly accepted that the international security system has come under serious strain with rising regional and international tensions; significant military buildups; erosion of cooperative security agreements; and loss of a much needed ‘disarmament track’ in diplomatic relations between important actors. The need to re-establish linkages between security/stability and disarmament/arms control has never been so apparent.

With this in mind, the SCRAP project developed by the Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London and SIPRI have developed a joint publication on disarmament and cooperative security aimed at renewing emphasis on cooperation to reverse potentially dangerous competitive security dynamics. The publication seeks to highlight how dialogue and disarmament diplomacy can contribute to responding to and accommodating national security interests, while opposing conventional thinking that equates national security with modernization and build-up of military capabilities.

The publication will be launched on 30 January 2017 with a seminar organized by the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the IAEA/UN in Austria.

Link to online publication 

Lobby the UN Security Council!

Join our campaign to get the UN Security Council to act upon its obligation to regulate armaments!

Here’s an easy first step – send a letter to one of the P-5 using the template letter below and cc’ing us!



Dear Ambassador,

I am writing to you to ask that (insert state name) ‘s play an active part in implementing the legal obligation of the UN Security Council to regulate the world’s armaments under Article 26 of the Charter.  We are aware of the difficulties that members of the UN Security Council face in implementing this obligation, but the disastrous increase in wars and armaments must now be checked. (personalise)

I ask in particular that the Security Council begin regular discussions on general disarmament and that the Council should start with consideration of the publication by the UN’s own Office Disarmament Affairs of Occasional Paper 28 (Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the 21st Century – https://www.un.org/disarmament/publications/occasionalpapers/no-28/).

In closing may I draw your attention to the work of our group at www.scrapweapons.com

I look forward very much to hearing from you and am grateful for your consideration.





China – ChinaMissionUN@Gmail.com

France – france@franceonu.org

Russia – press@russiaun.ru

United Kingdom – uk@un.int

United States – USUNPolFax@state.gov

SCRAP – info@scrapweapons.com

Remarks on GCD to the UNSG’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters

SCRAP Committee Member Dr Randy Rydell gave a presentation on “Challenges facing the NPT and its review process with a particular focus on the Middle East:  lessons learned from non-UN and regional processes on arms control and disarmament” to the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters on June 29, 2016.


NEW SCRAP-UN publication on General and Complete Disarmament













This publication’s authors, who include some of the world’s leading scholars, diplomats and activists on the topic, examine historic, strategic, humanitarian and economic aspects of general and complete disarmament to elaborate and elevate the case for prohibiting conventional weapons systems as well as nuclear weapons. The featured articles were originally presented at the seminar held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 21 October 2015 entitled “Comprehensive Approaches for Disarmament in the Twenty-first Century: Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament”. It was organized by the SCRAP project developed by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London, and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica.

Link to the publication

The South and Disarmament at the UN

See Dr Dan Plesch’s latest article in the Third World Quarterly.

The South and disarmament at the UN

This article analyses the Global South’s role in disarmament. It offers evidence of a customarily ignored Southern agency in UN processes and suggests that the later work of Hans Morgenthau explains both this agency and contrary state policies. The article looks at the recent agreement with Iran as an example of constructive convergence and sets out the structure of an emerging and Southern-supported disarmament initiative.

How can we reinvigorate General and Complete Disarmament? – Expert Panel at GCSP

On the 10th February, SCRAP and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) held a joint Expert Panel on Disarmament at the Maison de la Paix in Geneva, to debate the different strategic approaches that could be utilised to reintroduce and rehabilitate General and Complete Disarmament (GCD) into the discourse of international relations and the practice of states. The panel consisted of five experts, with a range backgrounds and research specialisms in the field of disarmament. While the panel had heterogeneous opinions about which strategies should be adopted, it shared a common commitment to nuclear disarmament.

Dr Dan Plesch, the founder of the SCRAP project and the Director of the Centre for International Studies, gave an introduction to SCRAP’s work to date and described the project’s proposed strategy over the next few years. Drawing attention to pre-existing agreements about nuclear weapons – the provisions of the Vienna Accords, START – INF, and the recent Iran agreement, among others –Dr Plesch emphasised that the technical blueprint for GCD has been to a large extent already achieved. However, political negotiations remain the obstacle to seeing that blueprint realised.

Dr Plesch laid out three political strategies for SCRAP’s campaign:

1. Work with like-minded states to rehabilitate the concept of GCD, and reintroduce a resolution for a debate on the matter within the UN General Assembly. Such a debate, he noted, might prove to be of interest to countries without armed forces, the states of the Non-Aligned Movement, and to the P5.

2. Open up a dialogue with the Security Council and the P5 about Article 26 of the UN Charter, which delineates the Security Council’s responsibility to regulate armaments.

3. Explore the opportunities raised by Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

Timothea Horn, a Doctoral Fellow at the GCSP conducting comparative research on state behaviour during multilateral talks on arms control treaties, delivered the preliminary findings of her doctoral research. The conventions on cluster munitions and land mines, she noted, were negotiated without the participation of major arms producers such as the US, Russia and China, and the same approach could be adopted in the negotiations of a ban on nuclear weapons. Moreover, by excluding nuclear powers from the negotiations, non-nuclear states could make more meaningful progress on a total ban among themselves without being derailed. By contrast, UN negotiations are typically less directed and more prone to losing focus.

Alyn Ware, the Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), made the point that New Zealand had previously been able to use the UN to successfully mediate issues such as the occupation of East Timor and the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, and that these kinds of mechanisms should not be disregarded.

Mr Ware also advocated cooperation with the UN Open Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament, whose mandate opens with an obligation to “substantively address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that would need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.”

Finally, Mr Ware also suggested that GCD could be integrated into the selection process of the next UN Secretary General.

Ambassador Sergey Batsanov, the Director of the Pugwash Office Conferences on Science and World Affairs in Geneva and a long time practitioner and scholar in the field of arms limitation and non-proliferation, pointed to the mid-1990s as the period in which the disarmament debate began to lose focus. During this period, nuclear weapons discourses shifted their focus towards non- and counter-proliferation, rather than on multilateral disarmament; the use of force against potential proliferators as a policy was perceived to gain greater legitimacy; and security policy began to consider other forms of disarmament, such as disarming child soldiers.

Moreover, Amb. Batsanov raised concerns about excluding nuclear-armed states from the decision-making process. This would risk failing to address their security concerns, and could lead to the normative work around disarmament failing to translate into action.

Marc Finaud, a Senior Programme Advisor in the Emerging Security Challenges Programme of the GCSP and former French diplomat, began by drawing attention to Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which places an obligation on states to negotiate GCD without conditionality. This obligation was initially pursued with a step-by-step approach that focussed on individual types of weapon (chemical, biological, cluster munitions, land mines etc.), but this approach has since stalled and, according to Mr Finaud, needs to be revised.

Moreover, some weapons such as missiles are not covered by any treaty regulations, whether nuclear or conventional, and need to be brought under stricter control.

On the whole, Mr Finaud convincingly argued that legally binding and strongly enforced agreements on arms control were more stable and safe for all parties than the currently uncontrolled arms race that the world is exposed to today. States must be reassured that GCD does not mean the total dismantling of all weapons systems; rather, it means moving towards a cooperative security approach, a model seen for example in the Helsinki Accords.

The panel then took questions, one of which was on the subject of deterrence. Dr Plesch addressed this in two ways. The first was to question the value of deterrence by referring to the famous Washington Post article by the realists Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn from 2007, that suggests that the world survived the Cold War more through luck than by intent. The second was to highlight the considerably greater difficulty and danger of continuing to pursue a deterrence policy in a more unpredictable, multipolar world, compared to that of the Cold War.

SCRAP would like to thank again the GCSP for kindly hosting and co-organizing this expert meeting and look forward to working with link-minded countries and institutions to achieve GCD.

Sebastian Brixey Williams, SCRAP Student Ambassador