IPI HomePublicationsMeeting NotesWeapons of Mass Destruction and the United Nations: Diverse Threats and Collective Responses

 

print print  |  share share back back

Meeting Notes - May 31, 2004

Weapons of Mass Destruction and the United Nations: Diverse Threats and Collective Responses

Natasha Bajema with Cyrus Samii, rapporteurs

 

 

The proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons (NBC) remains a profound problem for the international community for a number of reasons. Efforts to newly acquire such weapons typically indicate that an interstate dispute has fallen into a downward spiral of obduracy and mutual estrangement, breeding intensified fears of malign intentions, and undermining the possibility for the cooperative pursuit of regional interests and the peaceful use of advanced nuclear, biological, and chemical technologies. Terrorist acquisition of such weapons is constrained, but not inconceivable. NBC terrorism is an acute threat, because terrorists are more likely to use weapons as soon as possible after acquiring them, rather than maintaining them for deterrence. Differences in perceptions of the threat of NBC proliferation and in the adequacy of the UN to deal with such threats have forced the organization to search for a redefinition of its role.

Regimes for the nonproliferation of NBC face a crisis in two dimensions. The first dimension involves a series of startling revelations about the extent and linkages of weapons programs around the world. These revelations have occurred against a backdrop of both positive and negative trends in relation to state-based programs. But increases in the availability of requisite technology and the likelihood of massive terrorist attacks have produced a heightened perception of NBC threats. The question remains whether this heightened perception will be translated into a strengthened nonproliferation framework.

The second dimension of the crisis concerns the ability of the international community to devise effective responses. This dimension is defined by the rigid bipolar debate over unilateral versus multilateral responses. Ad hoc and coalition efforts have been initiated outside the multilateral framework, particularly by the US, in response to the seeming inadequacies of multilateralism. Critics of such initiatives claim that they bypass and erode the multilateral framework, which is essential for the long-term reduction of NBC threats. The key challenge for the international community is to reconcile the different roles of unilateral, bilateral, plurilateral (i.e., multinational, but not within the multilateral framework), and multilateral instruments to provide for a comprehensive response.

The Global Observatory

As Nature of Conflict Changes, Is International Humanitarian Law Still Relevant?
In this interview, Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, legal director of Doctors Without Borders, discusses the relevance of humanitarian law in today's conflicts.

Key Global Events to Watch in April
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.

2014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.

The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.

Recent Events

April 05, 2014
IPI Opens Middle East Regional Office
International Peace Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen inaugurated IPI’s new Middle East Regional Office with a recognition of the area’s critical importance to the world and the rapid political changes underway in the countries of the region, and he asserted that IPI has an “important role” to play there.

March 26, 2014
Derek Plumbly on Lebanese Resilience Amid Rising Challenges
Lebanon has exceeded expectations in dealing with the continuing fallout from the crisis in neighboring Syria, said Derek Plumbly, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, on March 26th. Speaking at the International Peace Institute, Mr. Plumbly praised the Lebanese people for “actually sustaining a measure of stability in their country.”

March 25, 2014
Adebajo, Panel Discuss African and African-American Nobel Peace Laureates
The ten Africans and three African-Americans who have won the Nobel Peace Prize comprise a complex group of peace leaders, said Adekeye Adebajo, Executive Director of Centre for Conflict Resolution, on March 25th. He spoke as part of a panel at the International Peace Institute’s launch of Africa’s Peacemakers, Nobel Laureates of African Descent, edited by Mr. Adebajo.

View More