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Crafting Narratives about Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament

Copy of Moving forward on irreversibility in nuclear disarmament (Presentation (169)) (4)
  1. IND requires a careful messaging and promotion to face criticisms and gather international support. In the effort to conceptualise IND, a danger to avoid will be transforming irreversibility into an obstacle to promoting disarmament. Critics of IND might point out the current unfavourable international conditions for disarmament and limited technical capabilities for verification and enforcement as insurmountable obstacles. The international context currently witnesses increasing tensions and competition among great powers and diverse and potentially contradictory visions about international security. Some analysts have questioned the utility of nuclear weapons while others have raised scepticism about successfully achieving disarmament in this environment.[12] 
  2. As a potential response to critics, participants argued that it is necessary to present IND as a process, an end-in-view that relies on constant updating and not as a definite result to achieve in the short term. Thus, IND must be framed as a continuous process depending on technical and social factors that could improve and adapt to better face changing circumstances. This framing would help IND proponents prevent unfair objections and even promote a dialogue with critics. To better think of framing options, case studies could give IND proponents examples of how nuclear powers have dismantled components of their nuclear weapons complex, sometimes even in competitive international contexts.
  3. There is a need to craft a careful narrative about IND to also engage with the larger audiences in the international non-proliferation and disarmament regime. A mindful portrayal of IND would pay attention to how we talk about responsibilities and commitments. While non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control advocates might share a desire to strengthen the regime, they might disagree on how to do so. Even disarmament proponents might disagree on the best ways to strengthen and improve this pillar of the NPT. These discrepancies are the result of different understandings of the origins and consequences of critical components of the regime, including disarmament commitments, rather than an unwillingness to dialogue.[13] 
  4. A prudent framing could help IND proponents bring together communities that, even when they disagree on the definition or importance of some of its elements, value the international non-proliferation and disarmament regime and want to sustain it in an international context marked by challenges and competition. Moreover, favouring negotiations over short-term steps about IND could help keep dialogues open and relations going, even when the broader strategic and political relations among states decline. Thus, seeing IND as a process could also help sustain the regime in a context marked by competition by maintaining open communication channels, even if the conversations are on specific IND components and short-term goals.

[12]   For an overview of the landscape of opinions, see Rose Gottemoeller, “The Case Against a New Arms Race: Nuclear Weapons Are Not the Future,” Foreign Affairs, August 9, 2022,

[13]   Jonathan Hunt, The Nuclear Club: How America and the World Policed the Atom from Hiroshima to Vietnam, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2022.


Conditions to Achieve Irreversible Nuclear Disarmament



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