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

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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Combat Drones: The Brave New World of the Conventionalization of Unmanned Warfare

Twenty years ago, the US Air Force began to develop the next generation of fighter aircraft aimed at securing total air superiority. The F-22 Raptor was intended to triumph over the relics of Soviet imperialism – Flankers and Fulcrums, Sukhoi and MiGs. Yet as the 20th century drew to a close, the attacks of 9/11 heralded a new kind of war; the United States prosecuted the Global War on Terrorism with the purpose of destroying terrorist organizations and regimes sympathetic to the cause of terror. Amid this war, the Raptor also came under threat – its aerial dominance challenged not by fighters fielded by rival powers, but a propeller-driven and aerodynamically obtuse creation: the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). At barely two percent of the unit cost of an F-22, the US military is increasingly deploying drones such as the Predator to undertake missions and operations previously reserved for manned combat aircraft.

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