Module 5:

International Organizations

What are the international organizations that have a nuclear nonproliferation mission?

The international organizations dealing with nuclear nonproliferation can be divided into two categories:

  • Organizations that implement major international treaties that embody the above-mentioned norms and verify compliance with treaties. These include organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency
  • Organizations that develop multilateral norms against nuclear weapons through multilateral negotiation and debate, such as those listed below

What are the nuclear nonproliferation regime’s norm-building organizations?

Most of the broader multilateral norms for disarmament and nonproliferation emerged from a network of institutions known as the UN disarmament machinery, created in 1978 by the First Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament, or SSOD I

Existing machinery includes:

  • UN Disarmament Commission
    • established in 1978, as the successor body of a similarly-named commission created in 1952
    • seeks to create and evaluate proposals from all member states regarding disarmament at the rate of two substantive items per year
    • serves as the General Assembly’s deliberative body to develop guidelines on nuclear disarmament and conventional arms control issues
  • Conference on Disarmament
    • world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum
    • predecessors were the Ten-Nation Disarmament Committee (est. in 1960), the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC, est. in 1962), and the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (est. in 1969)
    • historically successful, NPT negotiations took place in the ENDC, and the CTBT was negotiated at the CD
    • has a permanent 10-point agenda (known as the Decalogue)
    • focuses on four core issues: nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cutoff treaty, negative security assurances, and the prevention of an arms race in outerspace
    • currently deadlocked, and has been since 1996
  • UN General Assembly First Committee
    • annually considers and adopts over 50 resolutions on disarmament issues—another important step in developing multilateral norms
    • works with both the UNDC and the CD on such matters
  • UN Office for Disarmament Affairs
    • part of the UN Secretariat; serves as the NPT Secretariat
    • provides substantive support to the UNGA First Committee
    • also oversees the work of the UN’s three regional peace and disarmament centers in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific
  • UN Institute for Disarmament Research
    • conducts numerous studies on disarmament issues
    • autonomous within the UN to allow for impartial analysis
    • focuses in part on emerging threats and opportunities caused by rapid technological and political shifts
    • produces authoritative studies on a wide range of disarmament and arms control issues, ranging from small arms to weapons in space
    • uses research and expertise to bridge the gap between the United Nations and the outside security community

What about regional organizations? What role do they play in the nuclear nonproliferation regime?

Regional organizations can generally be placed in one of two categories:

  • Devoted to disarmament or nuclear nonproliferation objectives in a particular region. Many of these organizations promote the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, rewarding states that adhere to nuclear nonproliferation norms
  • An organization whose mission originally focused on other objectives, such as cooperative security, but whose mandate has gradually expanded to include disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation issues. These organizations are important for the nuclear nonproliferation regime because they promote trust among members, provide fora to resolve regional disputes through dialogue, and offer states the opportunity to discuss nonproliferation and other goals with neighbors in the region

Regional organizations with central disarmament or nuclear nonproliferation objectives:

  • The Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) is the supervising organization for implementation of the nuclear-weapon-free zone created by the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. OPANAL entered into force in 1969 to act as the governing body for Tlatelolco by holding annual meetings and verifying compliance with the region’s Control System. OPANAL contains 3 main bodies: the General Conference, which meets biennially; the Council of OPANAL, where five member states meet every two months; and the Secretary General. OPANAL’s membership includes all 33 States in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
  • The Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) is a nuclear verification and safeguards mechanism between Argentina and Brazil. ABACC was created in 1991 in order to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear materials in Argentina and Brazil before either country had signed the NPT. ABACC is the only bi-national safeguards system in existence today.
  • The European Atomic Energy Community was established by the EURATOM Treaty in 1957, which helps to pool knowledge, infrastructure, and funding for nuclear energy. The treaty ensures that all EU members have access to a regular and equitable supply of uranium ores and nuclear fuels. It is legally distinct from the European Union, but has the same membership and is an EU institution. EURATOM provides a centralized framework for the security of nuclear energy in Europe.
  • The African Commission on Nuclear Energy (Afcone) was established by the African Union in 2010 pursuant to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. It has four main areas of focus: monitoring compliance with nonproliferation obligations; nuclear and radiation safety and security; nuclear sciences and applications; and partnerships and technical cooperation, including outreach and promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Commission ensures that states in the region are in compliance with their obligations under the Pelindaba Treaty, among other nonproliferation requirements, and promotes peaceful nuclear cooperation both regionally and internationally.
  • (Defunct) Arms Control and Regional Security in the Middle East (ACRS) is a multilateral working group formed in 1991 during negotiations in Madrid for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. ACRS’s objective was to complement bilateral negotiations between Israel and its neighbors. Confidence-building meetings occurred through 1995 regarding arms control in the Middle East, a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region, and the creation of Regional Security Centers (RSC). No formal ACRS meetings have been held since September 1995 due to continued disagreements among key States in the Middle East.

Regional organizations without a core nuclear nonproliferation mission:

  • The African Union was established to promote the unity and solidarity of African countries, defend the sovereignty of members, eradicate colonialism, promote international cooperation, and coordinate and harmonize member states’ policies. The AU is the successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which produced the Treaty of Pelindaba, which designates the continent of Africa as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) seeks to enhance economic growth, cultural development, and regional peace in the region. Although ASEAN States cooperate mainly on economic and social issues, the organization has a security function; it implements the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), and through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), provides an important multilateral forum for political and security consultations and cooperation.
  • The European Union consists of 28 countries that aim to ensure the free movement of individuals, enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade. The EU first introduced an explicit nonproliferation strategy in 2003; since then, it has developed an increasingly comprehensive approach to foreign and security policy. The EU provides several fora in which member states can coordinate their positions on nonproliferation.
  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a political and military organization that encourages cooperation on defense and security and commits its members to share the responsibilities and benefits of collective security. This security relies on Alliance strategic nuclear forces to provide deterrence. The Alliance also provides an essential consultative forum for its members on defense and security. Since 2009, NATO has made greater efforts to prevent proliferation and to prepare its members for WMD contingencies, including the threat of nuclear terrorism.
  • The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe consists of 57 States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, and is the world’s largest regional security organization. Like NATO, it functions as a political and decision-making body; however, it lacks NATO’s military dimension. It serves as a forum for regular consultations and intensive cooperation on matters related to security, including arms control, disarmament and confidence- and security-building measures.
  • The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños or CELAC) is a regional bloc of Latin American and Caribbean states created in 2011 with 33 countries in the region. Like the Rio Group, CELAC aims to deepen cohesion and integration between state signatories, and to enhance regional security and cooperation.
  • The Organization of American States is the world’s oldest regional organization. It was created to provide collective security and resolve disputes through diplomatic consultation. The OAS has functioned as a forum for discussion of inter-state as well as intra-state conflict since its creation, and has helped to generate regional norms on security. It has focused in recent years on developing confidence-building mechanisms designed to strengthen military-to-military relations and create an environment that permits the governments of the region to modernize their defense forces without alarming their neighbors.