Coherent strategies to enhance the security and safety around nuclear weapons and nuclear energy was the focus of a three-day seminar in New Delhi, India organized by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO).
Dr. Paul F. Walker, International Director of Green Cross International’s Environmental Security and Sustainability Programme, was one of about fifty distinguished speakers from a dozen countries to take part in the programme, which ran from 24 to 26 February, 2016 at IDSA.
Dr. Walker joined several panelists in advocating civil society involvement, increased transparency, and consensus building as ways to improve global security and safety. He pointed out the successes of the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition (CWCC) founded by Green Cross in 2009, and of the Fissile Material Working Group (FMWG) formed by several NGOs that same year. The two groups empower non-governmental experts in chemical and nuclear control regimes, and in so doing provide valuable external input on governance.
Delegates spoke about the discriminatory nature of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which established five nuclear weapons states but banned nuclear weapons for all other states. The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, by contrast, bans all chemical weapons in all states. The same rules and verification demands apply to all.
Many Indian speakers pointed out that their country, although supportive of nuclear weapons disarmament and US President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague call for a nuclear-free world, would undoubtedly continue to develop and deploy nuclear weapons unless both the US and Russia prove willing to make deeper cuts to their enormous nuclear weapons stockpiles.
The lack of coherent global management of nuclear nonproliferation, and the fact that some countries see international regulations as harming national sovereignty, was a recurring topic of discussion. Dr. Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, a Visiting Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, criticized the major nuclear weapons states for establishing two sets of norms and institutions to manage nuclear issues.
Most participants agreed on the need for enforceable safety and security standards – not only in the nuclear sphere, but also in chemistry and biology – in order to protect humankind from catastrophes such as the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns in Japan, the 2015 Tianjin chemical explosions in China, and the 2001 anthrax attacks in the US.