Category: Policy Papers

This section contains policy briefs aimed at critically reviewing different pathways towards nuclear elimination. ILPI encourages readers to share their views and opinions on the different articles and arguments.


21st century biodefence: Risks, trade-offs & responsible science

The dramatic increase in the number of laboratories and scientists working on dangerous pathogens and toxins has exacerbated safety and security risks

By Gregory Koblentz and Filippa Lentzos
  • There has been a dramatic increase in biodefence activities and in the number of facilities and researchers working with dangerous pathogens around the world.
  • This has generated a number of trade-offs, risks related to safety, security, responsible science and transparency.
  • The 2016 BWC Review Conference must encourage states to implement stringent national biosafety, biosecurity and dual-use research regulations; task the science advisory group to develop clear, internationally-recognised guidelines governing dual-use research of concern (DURC); establish a working group to revise the CBMs; and encourage states to participate in the CBM mechanism as well as more interactive information exchanges such as peer review and compliance assessment.

Keeping up with the scientists

To protect and implement the BWC, states parties must improve the framework for reviewing developments in science and technology

By Caitriona McLeish and James Revill
  • Science and technology (S&T) of relevance to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is advancing rapidly. Such developments have both positive and negative implications for the implementation of a number of the provisions of the BWC.
  • While science and technology reviews have been integrated into the overall BWC review process, their utility has been limited.
  • There is significant support for enhancing science and technology reviews, but differences remain over the details.
  • States parties need to develop a shared understanding of what they want science and technology reviews to achieve, and then determine the best framework to meet that objective. 

Divide and delegate: The future of the BWC

While greater operational application of BWC provisions is clearly needed, states parties should not try to make the BWC something it is not

By Richard Lennane
  • The BWC has successfully established a strong norm against biological weapons, but states parties have a poor record on collective action to implement and strengthen its provisions.
  • The intersessional process has revealed the signi cant potential of means of pursuing the BWC’s aims outside of the direct purview of the Convention, as well as the important role of actors other than states parties.
  • The Review Conference should recognize these facts, and pursue outcomes that protect and promote the norm against biological weapons, delegating operational details to those best placed to pursue them.
  • Such an approach could be applied in particular to Article VII assistance provisions, review of science and technology, and the structure of the intersessional process.

Learning from the past

What past experience can tell us about addressing the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons

By John Borrie

In this paper, John Borrie draws parallels between the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons and the processes to ban cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines. Although there are important differences between nuclear and conventional weapons, previous disarmament initiatives offer valuable lessons for the humanitarian initiative.

Trident & the unilateralist taboo

Overview of the British nuclear policy debate and examining the decision to renew Trident

By Paul D. Beaumont

This policy paper provides a critical overview of the major points of contention in the British nuclear policy debate, before examining the decision to renew Trident in 2007 in more detail, and evaluating the prospects for reversal. The paper concludes with reflections on where the current policy trajectory will likely lead the UK and the potential difficulties associated with this strategy.

A ban on nuclear weapons: what’s in it for NATO?

The effects on NATO member states of an early adoption of a legally binding instrument

By Stein-Ivar Lothe Eide

The proposal that nuclear weapons should be banned through the early adoption of a legally binding instrument is gaining traction. A topic of increasingly serious discussion, it is making its way up the international agenda – from being an idea with no real prospect of successful adoption, to a proposal to be reckoned with. Arguing that a process to ban nuclear weapons could become a political reality in the foreseeable future, this paper considers the implications of such an instrument for NATO member states. The paper finds that as a matter of international law, there is no barrier to member states’ adherence to such a treaty. Likewise, concerns about the political implications for NATO ignore historical variations in member state military policy and underestimate the value of a ban on nuclear weapons for promoting NATO’s ultimate aim: the security of its member states.

Nuclear necessity and other myths

Debunking myths about the necessity of nuclear weapons

By Ward Wilson

Based on his recently published book, Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons, Ward Wilson carefully presents and deconstructs the most common arguments in favor of maintaining nuclear weapons in this latest ILPI Nuclear Weapons Project policy paper. Wilson’s analysis demonstrates how many widely held assumptions about the necessity of nuclear weapons do not withstand critical scrutiny, citing evidence from the Cuban missile crisis, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the absence of a major nuclear conflict during the Cold War. Ultimately, Wilson concludes that the justifications nuclear-armed states offer for maintaining these weapons do not hold up to closer examination, and that imagining a world without nuclear weapons is the only viable alternative.

About a ban: dismantling the idea of a ban on nuclear weapons

Assessing the viability of a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons 

By Torbjørn Graff Hugo

The idea of a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons has gained traction in the multilateral system over the past couple of years, having been presented and discussed on numerous oc- casions, both among states and civil society.1 Most recently, a number of states called for the start of negotiations on a legal framework prohibiting nuclear weapons during the High- Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament on September 26. This paper assesses the pros and cons and the general viability of such a proposal, herein what form a ban on nuclear weapons might take and how it would work, how it would relate to existing regimes such as the NPT, and whether it would in fact be an effective tool for achieving the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons.