Category: Background Papers

This section contains background papers aimed at providing a more thorough introduction to different issues related to nuclear disarmament.

The Birth of a Treaty

A brief overview of mandates and models for negotiating multilateral agreements in the field of arms and disarmament

December 2016


In December 2016, a majority of the UN Member States voted to start a process of negotiation to prohibit nuclear weapons. By adopting resolution L.41, the United Nations General Assembly decided to “convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.[1]

Multilateral export controls to prevent proliferation of WMDs

An overview of the multilateral export control regimes to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

December 2016

Preventing export of weapons (or components of weapons) of mass destruction is high on the international agenda. An intricate web of rules, norms and institutions ensure a degree of international attention to this overall goal, but much remains to be done for the world to be safe from such weapons. This short overview will give an introduction to some of these rules and systems, based on information given on, and providing links to, the relevant web-sites.

Biological weapons under international law

An introduction to the international regulation of biological weapons. 

December 2016

Biological weapons are subject to a specific and comprehensive prohibition under international law. The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) bans the development, possession, and transfer of biological weapons, and obliges States Parties to destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all such weapons in their possession or under their jurisdiction or control.

Chemical weapons and law enforcement under international law

An overview of the legal status of chemical weapons: prohibitions, obligations and exceptions.

December 2016


The use of chemical weapons is subject to comprehensive prohibitions under international law. Not only is the use of chemical weapons implicitly prohibited by the general rule of distinction under international humanitarian law (IHL), most imaginable uses of chemical weapons would contravene the proportionality rule under human rights law.

One night in Bangkok

An overview of the history and politics of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in Southeast Asia.

23 November 2016


This article provides an overview of the history and politics of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts in Southeast Asia, exploring, in particular, the establishment of the Southeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone (SEANWFZ). The paper also considers the role of Southeast Asian states in the humanitarian discourse on nuclear disarmament and in international efforts to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Implications of a nuclear weapons ban treaty for Japan

Japan—both a nuclear umbrella state and the only country to have suffered attacks by nuclear weapons—will be facing some very difficult decisions as the process towards a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons moves forward.

By Nobuo Hayashi  and Hirofumi Tosaki 
November 2016

On 27 October 2016, the UN General Assembly’s First Committee voted to commence negotiations in 2017 for the adoption of a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. This latest development in the movement known as the “Humanitarian Initiative” comes at a time when the divide between the proponents and opponents of a nuclear weapons ban has become increasingly entrenched.

Gender, development and nuclear weapons

Shared goals, shared concerns

October 2016

This study discusses the relationship between nuclear weapons and gender—how and why the two are connected, both to each other, and to shared global agendas such as sustainable development.

Under my umbrella

Understanding the terms ‘nuclear umbrella’ and ‘nuclear umbrella state’

5 August 2016

The term ‘nuclear umbrella’ is frequently used to describe military alliances that maintain the option of using nuclear weapons in their collective defence. Yet despite its widespread use, the concept lacks a precise definition, and there does not seem to be agreement on exactly which states should be referred to as ‘nuclear umbrella states’.