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GCSP Hosts New Event on Assurances against the Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons

On 14 March 2018, with the support of the Permanent Mission of Germany to the Conference on Disarmament, the GCSP organised a new workshop on “Negative Security Assurances to Strengthen Global Non-Proliferation and as Practical Steps towards the Final Goal of a World without Nuclear Weapons”. 

This event followed two public discussions that had taken place in Geneva on 19 September 2017 and in New York on 5 October 2017.

This restricted workshop gathered some 40 representatives from Member States of the Conference on Disarmament (including nuclear-armed states) and civil society. It was opened by Ambassador Michael Biontino, Permanent Representative of Germany, who expressed the hope that in-depth dialogue could take place to bridge gaps between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states and contribute to a successful Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2020.

GCSP’s expert Marc Finaud then presented a background paper mapping the existing ‘negative security assurances’ (both unilateral and legally binding in protocols to nuclear-weapon free zones), noting recent developments, and proposing possible alternatives to solve current differences. Other speakers included: Robert Einhorn (Brookings Institution), Angela Kane (Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation), and Paul Ingram (British-American Security Information Council).

Among the points discussed were the following:

  • The risk of use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states cannot be disconnected from the risk of nuclear war in general, and priority efforts should concentrate on preventing any use of nuclear weapons;
  • The mapping of existing assurances combined with recent updates gives an impression of complexity and lack of clarity;
  • Although most non-nuclear weapon states became parties to the NPT even before receiving any ‘negative security assurances’ from nuclear-weapon states, they have been consistently demanding harmonized, unconditional, and legally binding assurances since then;
  • It would be in the interest of both non-nuclear and nuclear weapon states to provide more clarity and more certainty about the implications of nuclear doctrines for non-nuclear weapon states;
  • In particular, it would be in the interest of all states to explicitly exclude the use of nuclear weapons to deter or respond to attacks with chemical, biological or cyber weapons or attacks by non-state actors.

A report of this workshop will be presented to a side event during the next session of the Preparatory Committee of the NPT Review Conference in Geneva on 24 April 2018.

Read NSA Seminar Background Report