This snapshot, taken on
08/04/2010
, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date.
 
 
The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites.
Advanced search
Top image
Global conversations

John Duncan

John Duncan's weblog, Geneva
Posted 01 April 2010 by John Duncan  |  0 comments

The very welcome pronouncements emerging from the US/Russian negotiations on a new Strategic Arms Reduction treaty comes as the international community gears itself up for Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York .
 
The NPT RevCon as it is known,  will be a defining moment after a decade of stalemate and disappointment, when the basic bargain underpinning the treaty – that the 5 Nuclear Weapon States would disarm and the other 184 countries would not acquire nuclear weapons – seemed to be in danger of unravelling.  Russia and the US hold the greatest number of nuclear weapons. Their agreement to get back on the reductions track should breath new life into the NPT. It is slightly ironic therefore that some commentators and NGOs are now declaring the NPT obsolete and calling for a brand new global agreement to ban nuclear weapons.

Historians will probably conclude that responsibility for the decade deadlock in multilateral arms control is evenly shared. No one side has a monopoly on intransigence. But they will also point to a failure of the wider multilateral diplomatic community to demonstrate that they could move beyond the tired rhetoric of division: East/West, North/South, to develop a new ways of working and reform our international organisations to better reflect the interconnected and interdependent world in which we live.

To get around the impasse, coalitions of likeminded states went outside the formal structure to negotiate new agreements such as the ban on Landmines and more recently Cluster munitions. It was argued that, while these new treaties did not include the US, Russia and China, they had established a new international norm of behaviour, which those outside would be “shamed” into respecting.

To an extent this is true, but it ignores the military and economic dimension; the fact that an increasing number in the military were already questioning the usefulness of these weapons in modern warfare, that the countries who continue to use them cannot do so in joint operations with their allies, and that those that manufacture them effectively lost almost their entire export market at a stroke.

To suggest that a new treaty “banning” nuclear weapons would “shame” the world’s nuclear weapon states into not using them is to ignore that the purpose of nuclear deterrence is to ensure that the weapons are never used. There is no read across from the bans on landmines or cluster munitions.

The underlying thought that by legislating against nuclear weapons would make the world a safer place is a dangerous one. To paraphrase  the UN High Representative for Disarmament Sergio Duarte   One cannot legislate for security even in the domestic environment where a whole panoply of enforcement by the police and the courts exists. Laws against murder have unfortunately not prevented murders taking place.

The UK Policy paper  “Lifting the nuclear shadow”  set out why focussing efforts on a nuclear Weapons Convention(cf page 34) is premature and potentially counterproductive. Few would suggest that the international Disarmament and Non Proliferation architecture of which the NPT is a central part is perfect, but it has provided the impetus for nuclear disarmament – nuclear weapons stocks reduced to a third of what they were 25 years ago; proliferation while still a serious threat to international society has been limited to a handful of countries- not the 20-30 states President Kennedy and others once feared.

The challenge facing the multilateral diplomatic community in New York in May of re-establishing the collective endeavor to make progress along the road towards a world free of nuclear weapons is a daunting one. It is much easier to fall back on rhetoric than to accept that progress requires commitment from all sides; that disarmament is often a slow, expensive and complex process.  There are no easy solutions or quick fixes. 


This blog originally appeared in The Independent Newspaper 31st March 2010



John Duncan
01 April 2010
Tags:
Share this with:

Have an opinion?




Posted 05 March 2010 by John Duncan  |  0 comments
Last week I attended the 2010 Moscow Non-Proliferation Conference. More than 70 security and non-proliferation experts from Russian and foreign think-tanks gathered with governmental officials to discuss nuclear matter, ahead of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which takes place in May this year. Watch my video below, in which I talk about the importance of the NPT and the UK / Russia relationship.

 




John Duncan
05 March 2010
Tags:
Share this with:

Have an opinion?




Posted 05 March 2010 by John Duncan  |  2 comments
This week I have been in Moscow for a workshop to mark the 40th Anniversary of the NPT coming into force and to prepare the way for The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that will take place in New York in 8 weeks time.

This is the 4th of a series of 5 workshops that began at Wilton Park in December where the world of Think-Tanks has provided an informal platform for nations to come together to discuss the way forward and how to achieve a successful outcome in may. These meetings have taken on a perhaps unexpected importance, with the delay in the announcement of the US Nuclear Posture Review and the conclusion the “follow on to START” bilateral negotiations between the US and Russia.

It is probably no bad thing that the wider membership is being forced to come up with their own proposals rather than simply waiting to respond to proposals from the big nuclear players. A collective endeavour, which the NPT is, requires a willingness to accept collective and individual responsibility.

It is a real pleasure to be back in Moscow after a gap of 2 years and I spent a very interesting extra day talking to Russian think tanks and journalists.

On the issues I cover we work very closely together. Russia, the UK and the US are the formal depositories of the NPT Treaty, so it is perhaps unsurprising that when we were trying to breakout of a long period of disagreement amongst the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS), it was the UK and Russia who forged the compromise the led to the first joint NWS declaration in 8 years (see 2008 blog entries).

On the more practical front the UK and Russia working closely in the Global Threat Reduction Programme, a joint effort to dismantle our cold war armouries. While it costs little to call for disarmament, the practicalities of dismantling nuclear and conventional weapons is a very costly and complex exercise indeed, not least to ensure there is no impact on the environment. The UK works alongside Russia In Murmansk, in Schuch’ye and Andreeva bay, sharing expertise and developing new destruction facilities. Two Nuclear Weapon States working together to implement our disarmament obligations.

On the civil uses of nuclear power, the UK and Russia are working on new mechanisms such as the Nuclear Fuel Assurance and Guaranteed Fuel Reserves, ideas aimed at ensuring that those who want to develop nuclear power can have a secure source of supply of nuclear fuel.

As a Scot I rather enjoy the opportunity to work with the Russians given the long standing links between our countries; something a Russian colleague (whose Scottish ancestors came over at the time of Peter the Great) reminded me at my recent Burns supper by reciting a complete Burns poem in Russian from memory (For a' that!”).

John Duncan
05 March 2010
Tags:
Share this with:

Recent Comments

>> The NPT is an illegitimate treaty because it promotes nuclear power. Contrary to your assertions,...<<
Mortimer Vanunu
14 March 2010

>> Dear Mr Vanunu, Thank you for your comment. I can't help feeling that you cite opinion as fact when...<<
John Duncan
17 March 2010

See all comments (3)

Have an opinion?




Posted 07 February 2010 by John Duncan  |  2 comments

It’s been a busy week for events on Nuclear Disarmament and Non Proliferation starting with Brian Eno and Rory Bremner’s “Visions for a New Century” on Monday, to the “Global Vision” summit in Paris on Tuesday through to the Munich Security Conference running into this weekend.

In all of these civil society has come together with politicians and officials to set out their ambition for the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York in 3 months time.
 
As I have commented in earlier blog entries, the NPT is a peculiar beast. While there is a cross party consensus in the United Kingdom that nuclear weapon proliferation represents one of the major security threats to our global society, we will not see politicians (unlike the recent Copenhagen summit) gathering in New York in May at the Review Conference to hammer out a deal. Success or failure will lie in the hands of the diplomats – a daunting prospect.

So the support of civil society and the pressure that has come from the meetings this week to “Do more, Go further” is very important in building the constituency we diplomats need to argue that the time has come to breakout from the “Decade of Deadlock” in taking forward this agenda.

In just under a month the United States will reveal the results of their own Nuclear Posture Review. In the meantime global civil society has been setting out the areas where they are looking for progress, most notably former ministers Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi of Australia and Japan’s report on “Eliminating Nuclear Threats”.

For those who would like further information the following links May be useful:

Towards A World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Gordon Corera (BBC) on Global Zero

Leading NGO BASIC website on Getting to Zero and the Brian Eno event

The FCO's own dedicated website on the Road to 2010

 



John Duncan
07 February 2010
Tags:
Share this with:

Recent Comments

>> This article by Ambassador Duncan is spot on-- all should read it. Ed Aguilar Project for...<<
Ed Aguilar
07 February 2010

>> Sir, there should be peacefull use of NUCLEAR ENERGY under safe & controlled conditions. There...<<
Prabhat Misra, District Savings Officer, Etawah, U.P., India
09 February 2010

See all comments (3)

Have an opinion?




Posted 02 February 2010 by John Duncan  |  2 comments

With only 13 weeks remaining before the start of the Non - Proliferation Treaty Review Conference the pace of consultation and meetings across the world is hotting up. This week I am in Manila with many of my fellow NPT ambassadors for a workshop hosted by the Philippines, who will be chairing the Review Conference in New York in May.

With the NPT debate all too frequently sliding into an acrimonious debate between the nuclear haves and have-nots, we could not wish for a better country to chair the RevCon. A leading member of the Non Aligned Movement, but also a country that has a special historic relationship with the United States and Europe.

Filipinos are also one of the 21st Century’s truly global communities, with one of the largest diaspora working and living across the world. From our meetings with them it was clear that President Macapagal-Arroyo and Foreign Minister Romulo took a keen personal interest in our discussions; reminding the assembled diplomats of the need to make progress after a decade of deadlock.

At this stage it would be unrealistic to imagine that nations will fully reveal their positions. We are still in the mode of “staking out the ground”. But civil society were as in Atlanta (see earlier post) pushing hard for a change in nuclear doctrine, in particular an explanation of the circumstances in which nuclear weapons might be used.

Resources:

On YouTube Watch series of videos shows senior decision-makers on non-proliferation discussing their views on the NPT Review Conference in 2010.

John Duncan
02 February 2010
Tags:
Share this with:

Recent Comments

>> John, I'd be interested in your take on the political purpose of the RevCon given the non-binding...<<
Nick Ritchie
03 February 2010

>> Nick. Its a good question and as I say in my latest blog, the NPT may seem a slightly strange way to...<<
JOHN DUNCAN
07 February 2010

See all comments (3)

Have an opinion?




Posted 08 July 2009 by John Duncan  |  1 comments
There has been a wide welcome amongst governments and also by the think tank community for the announcement of a’ Joint understanding’ by Presidents Obama and Medvedev earlier this week to reduce their nuclear arsenals to below 1,700 warheads each and their commitment to co-operate more closely on non-proliferation.

With the existing START Treaty due to expire in December this year, the priority has been to get something in place before then. A tall order given the slow pace of Arms Control and Disarmament diplomacy for much of the past decade. And the fact that the US and Russian negotiating teams have been hard at work in Geneva over the past weeks involving some of their best diplomats. This week’s announcement should therefore be seen as a step in a longer process. The US’s still has to complete its own Nuclear Posture Review. These are issues go to the heart of the nation state’s responsibilities – to protect and safeguard its citizens. This is not an area for “gesture politics”. More a time to start putting the substance into the bold vision that both presidents articulated in London and Prague earlier this year.

But we can see that Russia and the US are well on track, reflecting the increasing willingness of the nuclear weapons states to co-operate on nuclear issues and in particular on disarmament. This will be particularly important as we approach the NPT Review Conference next spring.

For our part, the UK has been working hard to strengthen the consensus across all pillars of the NPT. As Gordon Brown commented in his Lancaster House speech and again in the Building Britain’s future paper , we have to confront interconnected challenges of our global society, where the nuclear question is a central issue that plays into many, if not all of them

John Duncan
08 July 2009
Tags:
Share this with:

Recent Comments

>> John The recent Moscow agreement is to be welcomed. But it still leaves worries that the UK...<<
Dr David Lowry
11 July 2009

See all comments (2)

Have an opinion?




Posted 07 May 2009 by John Duncan  |  3 comments
A day of surprises. Has the “Decade of Deadlock” finally ended? After 15 years when the final Preparatory Committee, currently meeting in New York, has completely failed to agree the Agenda for the major Review Conference, this morning we actually did it.

Quite remarkable. Of course to anyone outside the community of Disarmament  diplomats this may seem quite a bizarre thing to get exited about. But the agenda sets out in some detail what the 5 yearly Review Conference next year is going to focus on. The fact that the last Review Conference in 2005 failed is largely due to the inability of  nations to agree what they wanted to discuss.

This year both the Nuclear Weapon States (UK, US, Russia, France and China) and the Non Nuclear Weapons states (everyone else in the NPT Regime) simply said enough is enough and refused to allow those who wanted to use procedural tricks to prevent discussion from blocking the way forward. US leadership is part of this, but one nation cannot carry the day alone. It takes those on the centre ground to rally around to defeat those on the extreme wings.

Now of course the serious work begins.



John Duncan
07 May 2009
Tags:
Share this with:

Recent Comments

>> Congratulations on agreeing the Agenda. Has the new US administration brought significant change and...<<
Paul Macdonald
08 May 2009

>> Dear John, First of all thank you very much for this really unique and breathtaking possibility to...<<
Hansfrieder Vogel
08 May 2009

See all comments (4)

Have an opinion?




Posted 07 May 2009 by John Duncan  |  0 comments
A day of surprises. Has the “Decade of Deadlock” finally ended? After 15 years when the final Preparatory Committee, currently meeting in New York, has completely failed to agree the Agenda for the major Review Conference, this morning we actually did it.

Quite remarkable. Of course to anyone outside the community of Disarmament  diplomats this may seem quite a bizarre thing to get exited about. But the agenda sets out in some detail what the 5 yearly Review Conference next year is going to focus on. The fact that the last Review Conference in 2005 failed is largely due to the inability of  nations to agree what they wanted to discuss.

This year both the Nuclear Weapon States (UK, US, Russia, France and China) and the Non Nuclear Weapons states (everyone else in the NPT Regime) simply said enough is enough and refused to allow those who wanted to use procedural tricks to prevent discussion from blocking the way forward. US leadership is part of this, but one nation cannot carry the day alone. It takes those on the centre ground to rally around to defeat those on the extreme wings.

Now of course the serious work begins.



John Duncan
07 May 2009
Tags:
Share this with:

Have an opinion?




Posted 30 September 2008 by John Duncan  |  5 comments

Welcome to our new Blog. As the UK's roving ambassador for Arms Control and Disarmament I have been running a blog diary for the past 18 months, so it is good to be on-line with a more interactive version. I look forward to comments and views as we show you what the work of a multilateral mission involves.

The Arms Control and Disarmament team is very different from most UK overseas missions. The core team is based in Geneva at the Conference on Disarmament. The Geneva team are the hub to 10 Virtual Teams drawn from across government, civil society and academia who come together to carry out the actual negotiation that is at the heart of our work.

Making a Better World for a Better Britain is more than just a strapline for us. It actually describes what we do since our job is to negotiate the international agreements in Arms Control and Disarmament that we hope will make the world a safer place. Many of the major treaties in this area were negotiated here in Geneva; from the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty going as far back as the Geneva Conventions, which protect civilians and POWs in time of war.

Of course negotiating treaties may seem a particularly dry and legalistic area of work with hours spent discussing texts and the meaning of words. But all diplomacy is fundamentally about people and relationships. Time and again we see that our ability to build compromises and to secure deals is based on personal understanding and trust between the negotiators. Having a good argument is rarely enough to win the day.

But perhaps more important is the effect our work has on people's lives. I think few people would question that the agreement to ban Cluster Munitions in Dublin last May will have a real world benefit to ordinary people caught up in war and conflict.

Over the next 4 weeks my Geneva team will be in New York for the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. We will be joined there by members of our Virtual Teams as the UN membership reviews the political landscape of Arms Control and Disarmament - everything from Nuclear weapons to landmines and depleted uranium. Some 60 resolutions will be put forward urging action and proposing solutions. I hope you will join us on this journey. It is a busy time for all the team, but we hope to give you a glimpse of what our work involves and will do our best to answer your questions. The links on the side bar will tell you more about the issues and our main webpage gives background and information on what we do.



John Duncan
30 September 2008
Tags:
Share this with:

Recent Comments

>> Hi John, Good to see that new blogs are appearing all the time. I have a question concerning the...<<
Seb
30 September 2008

>> Britain has a Arms Control and Disarmament team? How does this fit in with Britain being the second...<<
Stu
01 October 2008

See all comments (6)

Have an opinion?




Full archive of blog entries