Reinforcing the World´s Regime Against Nuclear Weapons

The world's regime against the further spread of nuclear weapons needs to be stronger, with new approaches designed to confront new and unprecedented challenges, in the view of IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. He delivered the keynote address 14 November at the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference in Washington, DC, being attended by distinguished experts in the field.

Inspections are the key, in the long haul, to ensuring that clandestine efforts to develop nuclear weapons — in Iraq or elsewhere — are detected and thwarted, he said.

"It is essential that we make every effort to see to it that inspection — which is central to the entire nuclear arms control effort — succeeds both in Iraq and everywhere else. This requires that we continue to learn from our past experience, that we refine the system, and above all that we continue to work together towards that goal." The use of force, he said, should clearly be "the last resort and not the first option".

The Director General said that preserving the impartiality of the inspection process was imperative. "Efforts by national governments to infiltrate the inspection process are ultimately counter-productive, because they lead to the destruction of the very fabric of the process, let alone its credibility," he said.

A central requirement, he noted, is the need for a tough and consistent approach when it comes to States that fail to comply with pledges to forego the nuclear option.

"Comparisons continue to be made between the different approaches adopted with respect to Iraq and the DPRK — two countries in violation of their non-proliferation obligations. Obviously, the two situations differ and are highly complex, and it is understandable that incentives and disincentives — 'the carrot and the stick' — have to be used with differing emphases," he said. "However, I believe that while differing circumstances may necessitate asymmetric responses, in the case of non-compliance with non-proliferation obligations, for the credibility of the regime, the approach in all cases should be one and the same: zero tolerance".

In some cases, new incentives are needed, he said, citing the countries remaining outside the non-proliferation regime. "In my view, we should not continue to treat these States only as 'outsiders', but rather induce them to act as partners in the global effort to consolidate the non-proliferation regime and to make progress in nuclear disarmament."

Other proposed approaches include:

  • Strengthening the verification system to ensure that States take their non-proliferation obligations more seriously;
  • Security Council reform to enable the Council, through clearly defined ‘rules of engagement,’ not only to respond but also to prevent threats to international peace and security;
  • A broader definition of the concept of threats to international peace and security, to encompass not only military threats but also threats that relate to the lack of good governance, the desperate need for economic and social development and the denial of human rights;
  • A functioning mechanism for the settlement of disputes — including as appropriate the resort to international adjudication and arbitration;
  • A smart system of sanctions for dealing with non-compliance, adaptable to different regimes and different situations;
  • Readily available and better equipped UN forces to contain and manage incipient disputes; and
  • Agreed limitations on the use of the veto power in the Security Council.

"While it may be unrealistic to expect complete nuclear disarmament in the very near future, it is essential that incremental steps be taken by all parties, which would signal a willingness to reduce the volume of and dependence on nuclear weapons," Dr. ElBaradei said.

Read the full statement.

Last update: 18 November 2014