The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council possess over 98 percent of the more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Today, President Obama led a session of the Council focusing on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The other heads of state of the member states on the Security Council joined him for that meeting.
The Security Council is the organ of the United Nations with “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security….” The Council has not been pressing for nuclear disarmament because its five permanent members (US, Russia, UK, France and China) are the five principal nuclear weapons states in the world. These five states are required by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament, but they have been dragging their feet and consequently they’ve placed the NPT in jeopardy. There are four additional nuclear weapons states that are not parties to the NPT (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea). These states must also be brought into any serious effort to prevent nuclear proliferation and achieve nuclear disarmament.
President Obama has called for action to achieve a nuclear weapons-free world, but has indicated that it might not be possible within his lifetime. At this special meeting of the UN Security Council, President Obama had a major platform to lead in his pursuit of that goal. He made clear on this global stage that nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts can no longer be deferred without serious consequences for the human future. He underlined the continuing dangers to present and future generations that demands deliberate and urgent action. Bringing these issues to the UN Security Council opens the door for the Council itself to become far more active in pursuing nonproliferation and disarmament, including taking the following steps.
First, reaffirm the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Second, make commitments by the permanent members of the Council to never use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are parties to the NPT, and pledge policies of No First Use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
Third, endorse the five-point program proposed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, including engaging in negotiations on nuclear disarmament; strengthening security through the nuclear disarmament process; attaining universal membership in multilateral treaties; acting with transparency; and anticipating dangers from other weapons, including eliminating other weapons of mass destruction and limiting missiles, space weapons and conventional arms.
Fourth, instruct its Military Staff Committee, in accordance with the UN Charter, to work out a plan for the total elimination of nuclear weapons and bring this plan back to the Security Council for implementation and enforcement.
Fifth, exercise control over the process of nuclear disarmament, overseeing the manner in which inspections are carried out to assure that weapons are not retained or reintroduced.
Based on today’s unanimous passing of UNSC Resolution 1887, we can share the hope that progress on nuclear disarmament in the Security Council will continue. A bold start has been made and the members could agree to hold such meetings in the future on a regular basis to assure that the task of eliminating nuclear weapons receives high priority among the major threats to global security.
President Obama should be thanked for his initiative in convening and chairing this meeting of the Security Council. What has been missing up to now has been the leadership and political will to move forward the nuclear disarmament agenda. President Obama has demonstrated this leadership. Now it is time for other governments and for ordinary citizens to demonstrate the necessary political will to support this leadership to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.