The Way Forward: Developing Legal and Political Strategies to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Strategy Consultation

October 28-29, 1999
Vancouver, Canada
Convened by The Simons Foundation in partnership with The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Project Ploughshares, and Simon Fraser University.

Introduction by Dr. Jennifer Allen Simons, President of The Simons Foundation:

The Way Forward: Developing Legal and Political Strategies to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Strategy Consultation emerged from my concern about the nuclear dangers to the world and its people.

Although it is one of the stated objectives of the United Nations, and although people have been working since the end of World War II to rid the world of nuclear weapons, no progress has been made. In fact, the reverse has occurred - the killing power of a nuclear weapon, since the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has magnified to mass proportions, and nuclear arsenals have multiplied to levels that have become a horrific nightmare. The radioactivity of Earth, its groundsoil, water and atmosphere, even without a nuclear war, is proving to be dangerous to the health of the people. Even though atmospheric nuclear testing has been banned, the levels of strontium 90 in the teeth of babies of America is at the same level as during the height of the testing in the 1950s.

The end of the Cold War provided an opportunity to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction and to halt the mining of uranium, the research, development and manufacture of nuclear weapons, but the opportunity has been lost and research and development and subcritical testing of weapons continues. Proliferation is on the rise, the Conference on Disarmament is at a stalemate, the nuclear weapons states are ignoring Article VI of the NPT, and lack of progress in the NPT Regime is a cause for gloom. Moreover, the US Senate has refused to ratify the CTBT, the United States is placing the ABM Treaty in jeopardy and there has been a recent change for the worse in Russia's nuclear weapons policy.

With these concerns in mind, I invited David Krieger of The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares, and Simon Fraser University to partner with The Simons Foundation in this consultation and I want to thank them for their invaluable contributions. We, at The Simons Foundation, could not have accomplished this without their ideas and expertise. I also want to thank Penelope Simons for her work in preparing for the Consultation and for writing the report, and Mary-Wynne Ashford, Nola-Kate Seymoar and Bev Delong for their arduous tasks as recorders. Elaine Hynes of The Simons Foundation and Vaune Adams of Simon Fraser University deserve thanks also for their painstaking work and attention to detail which ensured the quality of the event.

The consultation brought together distinguished experts in disarmament from many parts of the world - international lawyers, government policy makers and advisors, political scientists, medical doctors, former ambassadors, naval commanders, Senators and activists. The names of the participants are listed at the end of this report.

The purpose of the consultation was to identify and develop legal and political strategies, approaches and policies in an endeavour aimed at transforming the international disarmament agenda from one of strategic stability to an agenda that pursues the speedy elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons.

The consultation took the form of two concurrent working groups: a legal and a political. The legal stream was composed of a group of legal experts - the key lawyers, those who thought through the problem of bringing the question of the illegality of nuclear weapons to the International Court of Justice - as well as individuals skilled in lobbying and in developing political and advocacy strategies. The political stream was composed of the key activists in the World Court Project and the Ottawa Process as well as experts in disarmament and individuals skilled in lobbying and political strategy.

Though we recognized that the legal and political are integrally related, we believed that by focussing in this way, we could define and develop strategic approaches in ways that could, first of all in the legal stream, provide concrete steps sanctified by rule of law for policy developers and negotiators in the official realm, and also consider potential legal actions both in international law and nation state jurisdictions which would move forward the abolition agenda. And, secondly, in the political realm, we would look at past effective disarmament strategies, in particular the World Court Project and the Ottawa Process for the Landmines Treaty, with a view to developing from these a way to move forward speedily and mobilize the public to support the abolition of nuclear weapons. We believe this was a successful approach.

The status of the nuclear disarmament efforts was the focus of discussion by both groups in the first session. Both groups, in the second session, considered the question of how to move forward from a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention to a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

In the following session, the legal working group discussed potential legal actions which could move the abolition agenda forward and came up with specific recommendations which are presented in the report. The political working group surveyed the effective disarmament strategies from past actions and developed strategies building on the past successes. The groups came together to share their discussions and conclusions several times during the Consultation.

In my view, the Strategy Consultation was a success and the following report, we believe, will provide useful information and tools for moving the nuclear weapons elimination agenda forward and I want to express my appreciation and thanks for the contributions of the participants, for their creative and energetic thought and strategy development. It is our hope to convene a follow-up conference in the future.

I encourage you to utilize the report, to disseminate its recommendations and to distribute it as widely as possible.