Kane: Comprehensive and step-by-step approaches needed for nuclear disarmament

The world must consider multiple types of approaches to the process of nuclear disarmament if it is to achieve success, a U.N. official recently said during the 10th International Security Forum.

Angela Kane, the U.N. high representative for disarmament affairs, spoke last week during a panel called "Next Steps in Nuclear Disarmament: Where do we go from here?" at the Geneva Center for Security Policy. During the panel, Kane discussed the history of step-by-step nuclear disarmament proposals.

"There is certainly a rich history of step-by-step proposals for nuclear disarmament," Kane said. "Efforts have long been underway at the U.N. to pursue what have been called 'partial measures' contributing to this goal. These have brought us the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the Partial Test Ban Treaty, five nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, and other treaties limiting the deployments of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons today are about a quarter their number during the height of the Cold War. So hasn't this approach been a great success? Not quite. Nuclear disarmament has remained-at best-a distant goal. Roughly 20,000 nuclear weapons still exist despite these partial measures."

Kane said that neither step-by-step nor comprehensive approaches have led to a nuclear-weapon-free world.

"We see instead an endless debate over conditions, divergent priorities, and red lines, as the world approaches the seventh decade of its precarious nuclear age," Kane said.

Kane discussed the comprehensive disarmament proposals considered in Geneva in 1955 and step-by-step processes like the 64-point action plan developed by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. She said there was no need to choose between comprehensive and step-by-step approaches, because some issues must be done bilaterally while others are achieved through multilateral approaches.

"I have come to the conclusion that there is a place for both comprehensive and step-by-step approaches, provided that the latter are backed by accountability measures," Kane said. "The best step-by-step approach is one that is explicitly tied to disarmament and backed by regular reviews of how the steps are being implemented. The worst such approach offers a partial measure as either an end in itself, or a means to achieve some other policy goal."

Kane closed by saying that the international community must keep the objective of disarmament in mind to ensure leaders achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.