Place: Oscarsborg, Drøbak
Date: 25-27 June 2009



Since the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, nuclear weapons have created an unparalleled problem of order within the international state system. By 1964, five countries had crossed the nuclear threshold – the USA, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China, respectively. At this stage, negotiations started with the aim of stopping the further spread of nuclear weapons. The result was the Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed in 1968 and entering into force in 1970. With the NPT came a nuclear order, backed by international law, which divided the world into two groups of states: those who can legally possess nuclear weapons – namely, the five existing nuclear powers at the time – and those who have voluntarily resigned the right to acquire and possess such weapons.

In terms of membership, the NPT has been a considerable success. While only 62 states were ready to sign the Treaty when it was opened for signature in 1968, there are today only four states that have not acceded to it. Moreover, over the years a number of other non-proliferation successes have been scored. The safeguard system has been steadily improved. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been negotiated and signed by many governments. South Africa, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have acceded to the Treaty as non-nuclear states after having given up their nuclear arsenals, whereas the secret nuclear weapons programs of countries like Iraq and Libya have been stopped. Indeed, by 1995 the record looked so promising that the NPT parties agreed that the Treaty would continue in force “indefinitely”.

Still, today there is increasing concern that the non-proliferation regime may prove unable to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. More specifically, many experts fear that the regime – a delicate structure of legal obligations, political norms and material control mechanisms administrated by the IAEA – may eventually break apart as a result of four types of pressure. First of all, the NPT is exposed to pressure from outside given the fact that three countries that are not parties to the Treaty – Israel, India and Pakistan – are known to possess nuclear weapons. Secondly, the NPT is pressured from within, in the sense that some countries that have signed on to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapons states have nevertheless developed or are suspected to be trying to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea and Iran are current examples. Thirdly, the NPT is under pressure from below; that is, from terrorists and other non-state actors who may want to acquire radioactive materials or even nuclear weapons as part of their aggressive or criminal schemes. Finally, and perhaps most important, the NPT is subject to pressure from above, which in the present context refers to the unwillingness of the five legal nuclear weapons states to adhere to their Treaty obligation to negotiate “effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” Many experts believe that unless the USA, Russia, Britain, France and China live up to their part of the “double bargain” made by the parties of the NPT, the non-proliferation regime cannot be sustained in the long run. Why should the “have-nots” keep their promise not to acquire nuclear weapons if the legal nuclear weapons states ignore their promise to disarm?

The symposium will address the current and likely future challenges to the non-proliferation regime, and ask what can be done in order to remove, or at least cope with, the four kinds of pressures described above.      



Olav Njølstad, Hans Blix, Leopoldo Nuti, Mohamed Kadry Said, S. Paul Kapur, Campbell Craig, Leion V. Sigal, Sverre Lodgaard, Francis J. Gavin, Morten Bremer Mærli, John Mueller, William C. Potter, David Holloway, Vladimir Dvorkin, Sergey Oznobishchev, William Walker, Bruno Tertrais, Yao Yunzhu, Chen Jian, Clóvis Brigagão, Wyn Q. Bowen, Thomas Jonter, Jacques E. C. Hymans.

Book title: Nuclear, Proliferation and International Order – Challenges to the Non-Proliferation Treaty
Book published: 2011
Edited by: Olav Njølstad
Publisher: Routledge
Order book here: LINK
ISBN: 978-0415580984