The Hiroshima Report undertakes the important effort to work out a balance of compliance by different groups of parties with their undertakings of the NPT as specified by Review Conferences. While it does not aspire to presenting a strictly comparable record for the NPT’s “pillars” and for the compliance of different groups of parties, it offers an opportunity to readers to draw such a balance for themselves. In addition, it presumes that “balancing” matters. And this is the important point.
A convincing balance means, eventually, that the weighing between the three pillars is satisfactory to the parties, and that the compliance balance between the parties arrives at scores that parties themselves feel are appropriate, because the balance is fair. Recurring on fairness as a standard for judging politics in the security sector may strike readers as odd, at first glance. However, this consideration is in line with a key finding of half a dozen academic disciplines over the last twenty years, including some hard sciences: brain research, evolutionary biology, anthropology, social and child psychology, sociology and experimental economics, all of which converge on one finding:
Justice matters in human affairs!
Mainstream economists, International Relations "realists", and friends of "Realpoltiik" believe that international politics is all about maximizing utility (wealth, power etc.). They are wrong. Justice concerns awake emotions: Fulfillment of our claims for justice makes us happy; denial makes us angry and aggressive. For that reason, justice concerns can foster security cooperation (if the rules and norms of cooperation are seen by parties as fair and just) and can impede or even destroy it (when they are seen by parties as unjust and unfair).
To inquire this point for the NPT, my institute has conducted a major project, looking for factors that have fostered and factors that have impeded the normative development of the non-proliferation regime (for the results, cf. Norm Dynamics in Multilateral Arms Control). This regime has not stood still since the NPT entered into force. Progressive changes to strengthen the regime happened both within the NPT context and outside of it to complement the Treaty where it could not be reformed itself.
Within the NPT; parties revamped the verification system after the findings in Iraq following the 1991 war. They strengthened IAEA measures to prevent nuclear terrorism after 9/11. NPT Review Conferences managed to specify Article VI obligations through the "Principles and Objectives" of 1995, the "Thirteen Steps" of 2000, and the "Action Plan" of 2010 and, in that context, established a duty of accountability for the Nuclear Weapon States. Likewise, the depositaries took on the duty to work towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East. On the other side, it is remarkable that during the last ten years, attempts to further strengthen the non-proliferation toolbox failed.
The normative framework of the non-proliferation regime experienced growth outside of the NPT process as well: additional nuclear weapons free zones in the South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia were established while only the one in Latin America had existed when the NPT was negotiated. The Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) took the lead from the NPT-related Zangger Committee in establishing and improving export control standards to prevent the transfer of sensitive knowledge, material, equipment and technology that could be used for making nuclear weapons, and to eliminate the risk of a "race to the bottom" among exporters. UN Security Council resolution 1540 transformed NSG rules into universal law. Multilateral fuel arrangements were explored in the IAEA, and some of these proposals were realized on a voluntary basis. Finally, nuclear security and counter-terrorism emerged as a new field, featuring a panoply of initiatives (e.g. The Nuclear Security Summits, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, the G-8 Global Partnership Initiative).
Have justice concerns influenced these developments? All WMD regimes harbor a conflict over distributive justice, i.e. the right of developing countries to receive assistance and cooperation in the peaceful uses of the respective technology. This conflict has four dimensions: it concerns (1) the appropriate size of such cooperation, (2) the weight of this norm in comparison with the non-proliferation norm, (3) whether the justice principle of need or of (market-related) equity should prevail, (4) procedural justice, i.e. developing countries’ exclusion from "exporter clubs" which make the rules of trade.
In the NPT, the conflict is exacerbated by the inequality between nuclear weapon states (NWS) and non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) and ensuing complaints about insufficient compliance with the disarmament undertaking, and by perceived unequal standards applied to NNWS parties compared to nuclear weapons owners outside of the NPT.
The intra-Western dispute on distributive justice concerning the peaceful uses, triggered by unilateral US export control measures and pressures on non-NNWS to accept stricter verification measures was productively transformed into the NSG and the Additional Protocol. In contrast, the same dispute between the West and the NAM has caused a virtual blockage of attempts to sharpen the "toolbox" (e.g. response to withdrawal, Additional Protocol obligatory, legitimacy of export controls) – the North-South "justice gap" was much wider than that inside the West.
Incremental specification of the meaning of Article VI mitigated, but did by no means eliminate, the conflict about inequality. To the contrary, inequality and increasing misgivings over insufficient compliance by the NWS with the disarmament norm destroys solidarity among parties and thereby creates disunity when unanimity is most needed, namely in compliance crises. As a consequence, instability threatens the regime.
The inequality problem can only be solved through a robust and credible disarmament process, reciprocated by improving measures for non-proliferation. Without satisfactory offers of civilian assistance and cooperation, the non-proliferation toolbox will remain incomplete due to NAM resentment. Cooperation might come as capacity building that strengthens non-proliferation, security against non-state threats, and the development of civilian industry in countries receiving such assistance.
Misgivings about "clubs" (e.g. NSG) taking decisions which impact on all can only partially mitigated by outreach and selective co-optation. With increasing spread of technical capabilities, the negotiation of legal, global rules of transfer will become inevitable. The earlier this is recognized, the smoother life in the regime might become.
It has become obvious that progress in this field requires the formation of groups cutting across the North/South cleavage. Groups such as NAC, NPDI, and states promoting the humanitarian aspect of disarmament have their roles to play.
Professor Harald Müller is the Executive Director of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt.