UNODA Occasional Papers No.28: Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the Twenty-First Century, October 2016

image of UNODA Occasional Papers No.28: Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the Twenty-First Century, October 2016
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Occasional Papers is a series of ad hoc publications presenting, in edited form, papers or statements made at meetings, symposiums, seminars, workshops or lectures that deal with topical issues in the field of arms limitation, disarmament and international security. They are intended primarily for those concerned with these matters in Government, civil society and in the academic community. This publication's authors, who include some of the world’s leading scholars, diplomats and activists on the topic, examine historic, strategic, humanitarian and economic aspects of general and complete disarmament to elaborate and elevate the case for prohibiting conventional weapons systems as well as nuclear weapons. The featured articles were originally presented at the seminar held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 21 October 2015 entitled “Comprehensive Approaches for Disarmament in the Twenty-first Century: Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament”. It was organized by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica.



Legal aspects of general and complete disarmament

General and complete disarmament (GCD), especially nuclear disarmament, is embedded in the DNA of the United Nations. Based on the role of GCD in the United Nations and the treaty obligation to negotiate a GCD treaty contained in article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), GCD is clearly a global political aim of the highest order; beyond that, it is arguably an obligation of customary international law applying to all States, including those outside the NPT. In view of the practice of States since the NPT was negotiated, the fulfilment of the obligation of nuclear disarmament articulated in NPT article VI is not legally contingent on the achievement of GCD. However, the inclusion in article VI of the objectives of both nuclear disarmament and GCD underlines the practical, mutually reinforcing relationship between nuclear disarmament and control and the elimination of other strategic weapon systems.


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