Category: Background Papers

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


The road to Pelindaba

An overview of the history and politics of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in Africa

By ILPI
29 July 2016

This article provides an overview of the history and politics of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in Africa. It explores the process that led to the establishment of an African nuclear-weapon-free zone, and discusses the terms of its founding document, the Pelindaba Treaty. It also discusses the role of African states in recent and on-going disarmament processes such as the review cycle of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Humanitarian Initiative. The article concludes with a discussion of the future of African states’ engagement in the movement towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

Spelling Tlatelolco

An overview of the history and politics of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean

By ILPI
5 July 2016

This article provides an overview of the history and politics of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean. A particular emphasis is placed on the Latin American and Caribbean nuclear-weapon-free zone. We discuss the terms of the Treaty and how the zone came to include states that were initially reluctant to join it. With this as a backdrop, we also consider the role of Latin American and Caribbean states in ongoing efforts to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

1540 and the 2016 Comprehensive Review

A brief history of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 in light of the 2016 Comprehensive Review

By Hanne Veel
13 June 2016

On 28 April 2004, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolution 1540,[i] the purpose of which is to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to non-state actors, in particular for terrorist purposes. The resolution obliges all UN member states to adopt and enforce appropriate legislation to this end, and to put in place domestic controls to prevent such proliferation. The resolution further establishes a committee to oversee its implementation. In accordance with a subsequent resolution from 2011 (UNSC Res 1977), the 1540 resolution will undergo a comprehensive review in 2016, with a view to improving implementation of the resolution. This article briefly outlines the history and implementation of the resolution to date, with the aim of providing a backdrop to the on-going review process.

Ambiguous ambitions

The saga of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the international legal framework regulating weapons of mass destruction

By Reza Lahidji
10 September 2015

The agreement signed on 14 July 2015 by the representatives of Iran and the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) is considered a major development in international relations by its proponents and critics alike. If it is enacted by both sides and effectively implemented, the agreement will end more than a decade of crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme and twenty-five years of controversies about its policy with regard to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This paper examines the history of Iran’s doctrine on WMD, of the handling of Iran’s case by international institutions governing the production of WMD, and of the internal debate on WMD in the Iranian political system and society. This history sheds light on both fundamental changes within the Islamic Republic of Iran and problematic aspects of the international non-proliferation regime.

Longing for Armageddon

A brief history of non-state actors’ pursuit and use of weapons of mass destruction

By Kjølv Egeland
2 June 2015

Super-villains armed with a weapon of mass destruction is the stuff of countless on-screen thrillers. But the prospect of non-state actors armed with such weapons is far from fantasy. Chemical and biological weapons have been used by terrorist organizations on several occasions, sometimes to devastating effects. Terrorists have been unsuccessful in their attempts at acquiring nuclear weapons, but not for a lack of trying. In this paper I examine the history of non-state actors’ pursuit and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Evidence of catastrophe

A summary of the facts presented at the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons

By ILPI
1 May 2015

During 2013 and 2014, three conferences have been organized in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna as part of an initiative to highlight the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The conferences have gathered representatives of States, UN organisations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, academia and civil society for facts-based discussions about the humanitarian consequences and risks associated with nuclear weapons. The purpose of this publication is to summarise and disseminate the insights presented to the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. [1]

Nuclear weapons under international law: an overview

This summary of the international law as it applies to nuclear weapons is based on Nuclear Weapons Under International Law, edited by Gro Nystuen, Annie Golden Bersagel and Stuart Casey-Maslen, and published by Cambridge University Press in August 2014.

By Geneva Academy and ILPI

This summary of Nuclear Weapons Under International Law describes the regulation and status of nuclear weapons under international law, assessing applicable law as it stands (lex lata) and not as one might wish it to be (lex desiderata). Sixteen international lawyers contributed to the book: Stuart Casey-Maslen, Louise Doswald-Beck, Annie Golden Bersagel, Torbjørn Graff Hugo, Nobuo Hayashi, Cecilie Hellestveit, Daniel H. Joyner, Erik V. Koppe, Martina Kunz, Don MacKay, Daniel Mekonnen, Jasmine Moussa, Gro Nystuen, Simon O’Connor, Marco Roscini, and Jorge E. Viñuales.

Jumping the hurdles

Obstacles and opportunities for inclusive multilateral disarmament

By Torbjørn Graff Hugo & Kjølv Egeland
18 December 2014

Disarmament and international security is an issue that concerns all state in the world, yet not all states have traditionally been active in moving this agenda forward. In this background paper we take a closer look at the numbers behind the assumption, with a particular focus on recent multilateral arms control and disarmament meetings. The data show, not surprisingly, that developing states tend to be underrepresented on these arenas, but also that certain measures seem to be effective in terms of increasing their participation. We analyse and discuss some of the root causes of this ‘development gap’, and end with a set of policy recommendations that stakeholders may want to consider in their efforts to improve the inclusiveness of multilateral disarmament processes.