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Irreversibility in nuclear disarmament 2024 - report

Monday 4 – Wednesday 6 March 2024 I WP3260


In partnership with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Context and key policy issues

The action plan of the 2010 NPT Review Conference established three key principles of disarmament: transparency, verification and irreversibility. As the latter has remained underdeveloped, Wilton Park, in partnership with FCDO and the Norwegian MFA, has convened two successful dialogues on Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament in March 2022 and March 2023. 

The outcomes of the first conference formed the basis for a UK-Norway side event at the tenth NPT Review Conference the following August. This attracted considerable interest, and the draft Final Document acknowledged that further work on IND was required and called for States Parties to build an understanding of the application of irreversibility measures in nuclear disarmament.

International collaboration on IND can now be considered a key element of the next NPT review cycle and a vital component of any future disarmament process. The joint statement made by Austria, Mexico, Norway and the UK at the August 2023 Preparatory Committee meeting emphasised the support to an enhanced dialogue among States parties to build a common understanding of the application of irreversibility. Further, the main focus of such a dialogue would be on irreversibility in the actions and activities of nuclear-weapon States to implement their agreed obligations and commitments on nuclear disarmament.  

The third dialogue on Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament assessed how to take IND forward. It offered the opportunity to further develop detailed thinking on the technical, legal, normative, and political parameters and criteria of irreversibility and foster international dialogue aimed at critically engaging with IND.

Goals and objectives

This conference sought to assess different aspects of IND and consider how to build on the work initiated at the 2022 and 2023 dialogues. To foster new thinking and inform the debate, the conference will be supplemented by newly commissioned original research by non-government subject matter experts.

The conference objectives were: 

  • Further develop a shared understanding of what IND will require. 
  • Based on commissioned papers, discuss the technical, legal, normative, and political parameters and criteria for irreversibility, both during a process of disarmament, and after disarmament has been achieved. 
  • Review the work conducted in diplomatic and academic fields since the 2023 Wilton Park conference, assess its implications, and explore avenues for taking IND work forward. 
  • Develop a programme of work that will include next steps and fora for collaboration, with a framing vision of a submission to the 2026 NPT Review Conference.

Executive Summary – IND 2024

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