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Framework Forum Inaugural Session
MPI Report
Vienna, Austria
May 1, 2012

The inaugural meeting of MPI’s Framework Forum was held in Vienna on May 1 with the theme of “Building the Framework for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Laying Out the Map.” Held at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy with the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, the roundtable brought together more than 50 representatives from governments and NGOs to examine some of the technical, legal and political requirements for a world free of nuclear weapons. 

» Download the MPI briefing paper, "Building a Framework for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Laying out the Map"

Vienna 2012  
(L-R): Mr. Sturm, Amb. Cabactulan, Mr. Ware, High Representative Kane, Senator Roche, Amb. Hoffmann

In opening the session, Sen. Douglas Roche, O.C., the Chairman of MPI, said a framework to provide a comprehensive approach to nuclear disarmament was necessary since “incrementalism” is not working and nuclear modernization is setting back prospects for disarmament. “A framework approach would address the doctrine that underlies the ongoing retention of nuclear weapons.” Such an initiative is not possible without government support, thus with such support “the Framework Forum could be to provide an ongoing, informal setting where the legal, technical, political, and institutional requisites for a nuclear weapons free world can be identified and developed to build political momentum towards the commencement of formal negotiations for a legal ban on nuclear weapons.”

In her welcoming remarks, Ms. Angela Kane, the new UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said she was “attracted to two particular aspects of this framework proposal.” First, it was the focus on the practical—on what is achievable, involving specific steps not just to honor disarmament with words, but to fulfill it through concrete deeds.” And second – while the primary responsibility lies with states, especially the nuclear weapon states - states “are responsible for serving the interests of their people... This MPI ‘framework’ initiative recognizes the vital importance of working with civil society in a collective effort to translate the long-espoused vision of nuclear disarmament into realities on the ground.”

Ambassador Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, who was the President of the NPT 2010 Review Conference called for work to start in preparing the way for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.  In his keynote address, he said, "I believe that the map that we will lay out in building the framework towards a nuclear weapons free world should have the Nuclear Weapons Convention as its inevitable destination because there no longer is any legal ambiguity as to the obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons.”  He added, “How strong our framework will be will ultimately depend on bringing on board all nuclear-armed states... The most serious obstacle to making all these happen is the persistent belief that nuclear deterrence works and is still necessary.”

He noted that the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference referred the possibility of a nuclear weapons convention. “It was still not time then to start drawing a specific work plan on this.  But I believe that the time to start is now.” Ambassador Cabactulan added, “In building this framework, we must recognize that elements that could constitute the foundation of our framework exist or are available.  There is much wisdom to be gained from the structure and experience of current treaty-based disarmament regimes.”

  MPI panel in Vienna
Opening panel (L-R): Amb. Hoffmann, HR Kane, Senator Roche, Amb. Cabactulan

Dr. Ronald Sturm, Head of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation unit of the Foreign Ministry of Austria, chaired the first session on Technical and legal aspects, with detailed emphasis on international humanitarian law (IHL) and verification. Dr. John Burroughs, the Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy said the legal argument centers on the incompatibility of nuclear weapons with international law, especially IHL. “The utter incompatibility of IHL with nuclear weapons in increasingly widely recognized,” he said, “This is good foundation for building the legal framework of a nuclear weapons-free world that is universal in its approach.” As an example of the increasing relevance of IHL in legal, military and political calculations, he noted that US military doctrine is “silent regarding the application of IHL to nuclear weapons... In my opinion, this is because military legal professionals recognize the IHL and nuclear weapons are not compatible, so for the most part they do not care to address it, nor are they encouraged to do so.” He concluded, “IHL is really becoming a standard aspect of US military operations.”

Focusing on an key technical requirement for a nuclear weapons-free world, Dr. Jürgen Scheffran of International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation said a verification regime of a Nuclear Weapons Convention must encompass two key tasks: disarmament and the prevention of rearmament. An effective regime would begin with declarations of stocks and facilities (which are in themselves confidence-building measures), and include infrared and radar sensing, satellite observations and on-site inspections, leading to a new verification organization for the treaty. “The path toward a nuclear-weapon-free world, including the negotiation of an NWC, goes hand in hand with building a more propitious security environment, diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in national security, and establishing an international security community,” he added.

The session on Political and institutional aspects was chaired by Amb. Hellmut Hoffmann, the Permanent Representative of Germany to the Conference on Disarmament. Discussing the role of parliamentarians, Ms. Uta Zapf, MP from Germany and a Co-President of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), said parliamentarians “have a lot of instruments if we proactively use them. We should really press our governments” through parliamentary resolutions and debates and through committee hearings that highlight relevant issues such as nuclear weapon-free zones and the relationship between nuclear and conventional weapons. International networks of parliamentarians, such as PNND, are also ways to bring more attention to the vision of a nuclear weapons-free world, she said. Mr. Alyn Ware, the Global Coordinator of PNND, focused on the role of middle power countries that can both “undertake a range of activities working amongst themselves without having to rely on immediate support of the nuclear weapons States (NWS), and they can undertake a range of activities to engage the NWS.”  Some steps that middle powers could undertake on their own including preparatory work for the elimination of nuclear weapons through the Framework Forum or the “more ambitious route” of a formal process, such as through the UN General Assembly. With the NWS, he said, middle powers could engage these states and the Security Council in developing security mechanisms and guarantees designed to “lower and eliminate the role of nuclear weapons.”

MPI Panel in Vienna  

In discussing the theme of “Building the security framework for a nuclear-weapons-free-world,” Ms. Xanthe Hall of IPPNW Germany focused on common security models for the Middle East and for Europe. Israel says a Middle East peace is a prerequisite for nuclear disarmament, she said, “At the same time, there cannot be peace while there are nuclear weapons in the Middle East... The answer is, of course, a parallel mutually reinforcing process.” She said such a process worked with the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in the 1970s and today an NGO coalition “is encourag[ing] governments, through bottom-up pressure from civil society, to adopt a similar diplomatic process.” Turning to Europe, Ms. Hall said Europeans have forgotten the lessons of previous decades so that now that “there has been a shift in emphasis back to collective defence and away from common security,” meaning the search for security through the acquisition of asymmetric strength. “This is where nuclear deterrence is counterproductive to creating security, despite claims to the contrary,” she added.

In responses from the governmental representatives, participants were broadly supportive of the goals and strategies articulated during the roundtable. One common idea was that consideration of a nuclear weapons-free world needed to look beyond nuclear disarmament and integrate the discussion more with broader security issues, including humanitarian law, conventional arms and human security. Another theme that emerged was that, while any formal negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention is not in the immediate future, there is a definite need for informal work – such as the Framework Forum – to lay the groundwork so that when the time is right, the preparatory work will already be in place.

The countries attending the roundtable were: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Germany, Holy See, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland.    

» Download the MPI brief, "Building a Framework for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Laying out the Map"

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