On 13 October 2017, the Permanent Missions of Chile, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom held a side event on nuclear disarmament verification as the General Assembly’s First Committee entered its thematic discussion on nuclear weapons. Mr. Knut Langeland, Norway’s Special Representative for Disarmament Affairs and moderator of the panel, stressed in opening remarks that verification is not an end in itself, but rather a means for building trust and advancing disarmament objectives. Although the field of nuclear disarmament verification remains new and largely untested, Mr. Langeland noted, past arms control measures and other initiatives have laid the foundation for more comprehensive efforts.
Ambassador Sabrina Dallafior, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland, spoke about the organizing principles behind any effective verification regime: credibility, compliance and confidence-building. She also emphasized that, along with irreversibility and transparency, verification forms a key pillar of the disarmament architecture. Ambassador Dallafior finished her remarks by drawing attention to the mutually reinforcing relationship between treaties and verification measures in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.
Ambassador Matthew Rowland, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament, opened by outlining the respects in which verification is integral to the nuclear disarmament process. Verification is not only required for warhead dismantlement, he pointed out; it will be essential for upholding a world free of nuclear weapons. Dr. Rowland also addressed the institutional side of verification, questioning which multilateral organizations are best equipped to conduct nuclear disarmament verification and whether new ones should be created to carry out the task. In concluding his statement, the ambassador noted that because current and past arms control measures have centred on the elimination of delivery vehicles, the verification of warhead dismantlement remains unchartered territory.
Mr. Claudio Garrido, First Secretary of Chile’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, highlighted the complexities surrounding nuclear disarmament verification. One of the greatest challenges to an effective verification system, he acknowledged, is striking a balance between national security concerns and the requisite level of access and assurance. To resolve some of these questions, Mr. Garrido said the international community should examine existing programmes, such as the United Kingdom-Norway Initiative on nuclear warhead dismantlement verification.
The final panellist, Andrew Bieniawski, Vice President for Material Security and Minimization at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), gave an overview of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV). Established by the United States Department of State and NTI to develop the tools and techniques for disarmament verification, IPNDV is now an international initiative with over 25 participating States. Bieniawksi pointed to verification of warhead dismantlement as the central challenge of IPDNV’s work and one of the most important and complex issues for future stockpile reductions. He concluded by outlining how an effective verification system would track the complete lifecycle of a nuclear weapon, from its deployment on a delivery vehicle to its dismantlement.
Text and photo by Paul Warnke