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Conditions to Achieve Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament

Copy of Moving forward on irreversibility in nuclear disarmament (Presentation (169)) (4)
  1. Participants engaged in a thorough revision of the elements that can facilitate IND as a process. They highlighted the legal, political, economic, social, and technical factors that could promote, guarantee, and sustain irreversibility. Following the lead of the 2010 NPT Review Conference action plan, participants emphasised the importance of improving transparency and verification mechanisms to go in tandem with irreversibility in nuclear disarmament. It is necessary to consider the technical capabilities that could help achieve IND, including the capabilities to dismantle nuclear weapons complexes transparently and to verify disarmament.
  2. Complementing technical factors with social elements will be necessary to promote IND comprehensively. The technical components could lay the groundwork and provide the capabilities to guarantee IND, but a sustainable approach to irreversibility must pay attention to social dynamics.[9]  Two key societal factors for IND are confidence and stigmatisation. The international community might ask for mechanisms and tools to ensure a state has forgone its nuclear arsenal and effectively disarmed. Governments might also look for assurances that a state will disarm. Different options to improve confidence in disarmament include improving state relations and strengthening transparency and verification mechanisms.
  3. Case studies and comparative analyses could help identify what technologies helped countries—e.g., Kazakhstan, South Africa, and Ukraine—dismantle their nuclear weapon programs and the mechanisms designed to verify these processes. Case studies and comparative analyses are also helpful in examining how rivals engaged in disarmament processes despite low levels of mutual trust. For example, Argentina and Brazil collaborated in building nuclear capabilities during the Cold War despite their rivalries; these countries cooperated again in the early 1990s to create the Brazilian–Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials to guarantee the peaceful nature of their nuclear complexes.[10]
  4. Participants discussed ways in which IND as a process could modify the value of nuclear weapons. They called for a better understanding of the processes of social stigmatisation as a possible way to change the perception of nuclear weapons and their possession. There is a tradition of engagement between nuclear scholars and psychologists to understand the social-psychological determinants of nuclear proliferation. IND advocates could forge a similar relationship to analyse what social-psychological could improve disarmament prospects. Adding social psychologists to disarmament conversations could help IND advocates devise techniques and tools to advance confidence-building around disarmament and stigmatisation around nuclear-weapon possession.
  5. International Relations scholars examine how stigmatisation and stigma management work in international politics, especially regarding norm compliance.[11]  These bodies of literature could help IND proponents understand how to socialise states into accepting IND by changing the value that societies attribute to nuclear weapons as a security tool—a potential component behind intentions to achieve or reverse disarmament processes. But these scholars could also made IND proponents aware to how nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states might react and even successfully reject efforts to stigmatise nuclear weapons.

  1. [9] Rebecca D. Gibbons, “Norms versus Security Approaches to Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament,” in Williams, Link, and Rodgers, op. cit.
  2. [10]   Toby Dalton, Togzhan Kassenova, and Lauryn Williams (eds.), Perspectives on the Evolving Nuclear Order, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., 2016, in
  3. [11]   George Lawson and Ayşe Zarakol, “Recognizing injustice: the ‘hypocrisy charge’ and the future of the liberal international order,” International Affairs, 2023, vol. 99, no. 1, pp. 201-217, in

Contextualising Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament


Crafting Narratives about Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament

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