You are here

Strengthening Parliaments’ Role in Nuclear Security

An Interview with Dr. Tulia Ackson, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Parliaments are unfortunately often overlooked as key players in the universalisation of international treaties.

— Dr. Tulia Ackson, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

1. Can you describe the IPU’s role and work, especially with regard to the empowerment of parliaments in promoting peace and security, and in promoting the SDGs?

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was founded 135 years ago as the first political multilateral organization in the world and is dedicated to promoting peace through parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue. Its key objective is to encourage parliamentarians to meet and engage in mediation rather than resolving their differences through war. 

As President of the IPU, I am proud that we now have 180 Member Parliaments (MPs), representing most of the 46000 national MPs worldwide. Both of the founders of the IPU, as well as a dozen other leading IPU figures, have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The IPU plays a special role in countries emerging from conflict or in transition to democracy. It helps them develop their parliaments as robust and democratic institutions that can heal national divisions  to and protects citizens so that they can enjoy freedom from fear and freedom from war.

Disarmament and non-proliferation are also crucial for peace. The IPU lobbies hard for a nuclear-weapons-free world and promotes the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1540 on preventing non-State actors from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. The IPU also works towards the eradication of illicit flows of small arms and light weapons that are everyday tools of violence and killings. Because war often affects women and youth disproportionately, we focus on peace and security in relation to these groups, based on UN Security Council resolutions 1325 and 2250.

One of my priorities as IPU President is the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Parliaments’ legislative, oversight and budgetary responsibilities make them key players in, for example, reducing social and economic inequalities, improving the health of the people they represent and taking action to save the planet from the climate emergency. Our self-assessment SDG toolkit, produced with the United Nations Development Programme and translated into a dozen languages, is also proving very successful. The toolkit helps parliamentarians identify good practices, opportunities and lessons learned on how to institutionalize and mainstream the SDGs into the legislative process.


2. How is the IPU helping to advance the universalization of legal instruments for nuclear security?

I am proud to say that supporting the ratification of legal instruments on disarmament and nuclear security is one of the IPU’s key areas of work. We raise awareness and provide assistance on the ratification and implementation of disarmament treaties and initiatives. We have numerous examples where dedicated members of parliament, acting as champions of a cause, were game changers in ensuring the signature and ratification of such international instruments.

Parliaments are unfortunately often overlooked as key players in the universalization of international treaties. Parliaments are the entity responsible for the ratification of any international text and its integration into national law for efficient implementation.

Concretely, the IPU has been discussing the nuclear issue, both in terms of peaceful use and from a non-proliferation and disarmament perspective, for many years, as an essential part of its actions in favour of peace, international security and development, and with an emphasis on the impact and importance of the universalization of legal instruments for nuclear security.

One of the first IPU resolutions on the issue dates back to 1994 and dealt with The importance of adhering to the obligations specified in the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. 

The next year, in 1995, another resolution spearheaded calls for the early conclusion of a truly comprehensive and internationally verifiable test ban treaty. This materialized a year later, in 1996, with the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Since then, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament has remained high on the IPU agenda, with regular resolutions and high-level declarations on the issue, culminating in our landmark resolution titled Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: The contribution of parliaments, adopted in 2014. This resolution calls on parliaments to ensure full compliance with all provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to strengthen the safety of all nuclear materials.

The IPU has also been working to raise awareness among its Member Parliaments of the necessity of fully implementing these instruments, including through the organization of regional seminars under the umbrella of UN Security Council resolution 1540. Such events provide an opportunity to highlight the pressing need to develop and maintain appropriate and effective measures to account for and secure nuclear materials.

Targeted campaigns on nuclear-related international instruments have also been successful. For instance, the IPU has contributed to most of the ratifications of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) since 2019.


3. Why is the role of parliamentarians important in further promoting adherence to international legal instruments, like A/CPPNM?

Parliamentary diplomacy can help to remove the national obstacles that may be roadblocks for the signature and ratification of international legal instruments. Parliaments are also important in overseeing the full implementation of these instruments. The IPU supports its 180 Member Parliaments by creating forums to share experiences and by showcasing the benefits and successes of treaties on non-proliferation and nuclear security.

This is important as no parliament wants to be the weak link, especially given that the international infrastructure of legal instruments of non-proliferation, nuclear safety and disarmament can only truly become effective when implemented globally.

In relation to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its Amendment, and with respect to the realities on the ground, countries must be aware of the concrete possibility of having their territory used for the transport of illicit nuclear material, while also considering that their neighbours are equally vulnerable to this possibility.

Under the framework established by the CPPNM, parliaments understand that this issue cannot be tackled alone and that unless they succeed in cooperating, the safety of their constituents and those in neighbouring countries cannot be guaranteed.

Parliamentarians are well-aware that global problems require global solutions, and opportunities to present a united front on issues of such importance are few and far between. I am convinced that the United Nations, its specialized agencies like the IAEA, and the global parliamentary community represented by the IPU can be successful in addressing the multiple challenges the world is facing today.


May, 2024
Vol. 65-1

Stay in touch