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Essays

'Responsibility while protecting': are we asking the wrong questions?

Xenia Avezov

The Brazilian-proposed concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’ (RWP) has polarized opinion on how the international community should respond when civilian populations are targeted. RWP’s supporters claim it would make civilian protection interventions, especially military ones, more accountable and proportionate and rein in perceived misuse of the internationally accepted ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). Some of RWP’s opponents see it as a deliberate ploy by states aligned with China and Russia to impede intervention. In reality, this debate is a distraction from less comfortable truths about R2P.

For the bathroom or the missile factory? Why dual-use trade controls matter

Dr Sibylle Bauer

Toothpaste is a harmless consumer product, but it contains fluoride compounds—industrial chemicals that are needed to manufacture the deadly nerve agent sarin—making it a so-called dual-use item.

Wrong paths to peace: the re-emergence of armed violence in northern Mali

Helen Wilandh

The internatioal community's plan for a military intervention in Mali is arguably only needed because too much priority has been given to security, at the expense of development efforts to the political, economical and social complexity of the situation in northern Mali.

Harmony or discord? Foreign policy implications of China's upcoming Party Congress

Mathieu Duchâtel and Oliver Bräuner

As the Communist Party of China prepares for a once-in-a-decade change of leadership at the 18th Party Congress in November, the country’s foreign relations are in worse shape than they were 10 years ago, especially in East Asia but also in terms of heightened strategic rivalry with the United States. How the incoming leadership chooses to manage further the expansion of Chinese economic and security interests has huge implications for the rest of the world. If the incoming Party leadership fails to prevent widening political rifts in China’s political system (including the People’s Liberation Army, PLA), foreign policy could take on an even more assertive tone, complicating international cooperation with China on issues of international security.

Sep. 12: The Iraq Action Team: a model for monitoring and verification of WMD non-proliferation

Ambassador Rolf Ekéus

This month, the United Nations General Assembly opens its annual meeting in New York. The General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament is one of the few venues in which both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon state representatives have the opportunity to discuss options to strengthen the worldwide nuclear non- proliferation regime. The ‘action team’ that operated in Iraq in the 1990s provides a model for a more effective non-proliferation body.
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UNSCOM conducts third inspection of Iraqi chemical weapons UNPhoto/Shankar Kunhambu

July/Aug. 12: The new information superhighway: practical methods for sharing knowledge and stemming destabilizing arms flows

Hugh Griffiths

Nearly all destabilizing arms transfers to conflict zones and areas targeted by UN or EU sanctions are clandestine in nature, making monitoring difficult and prevention harder still. However, instead of attempting to create new instruments to tackle these problems, more efficient use can and should be made of existing mechanisms to enforce EU and UN arms embargoes. A recent incident involving a Russian-owned flag of convenience ship that attempted to deliver helicopter gunships to Syria demonstrated the potential effectiveness of such mechanisms. 

Looking back to ensure future progress: developing and improving multilateral instruments to control arms transfers and prevent illicit trafficking

Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley

Between July and September this year, the international community will be faced with the daunting prospect of concluding negotiations on an international arms trade treaty and a review of the implementation of the United Nations programme of action on small arms and light weapons.

Global security norms and institutions: struggling with new and old uncertainties

Recent editions of the SIPRI Yearbook have pointed to persistent contemporary trends that define and shape developments in global and regional security, armaments and disarmament.

A tale of two summits: the Group of Eight and NATO

Dr Ian Anthony

Next month's NATO summit will be held in Chicago, in an election year. While it will be hard to find anyone willing to go on record as saying that the choice of location is intended to be a boost for President Obama, it's difficult to interpret it any other way. The NATO summit will take place at the same time as a meeting of leaders of the most industrialized countries, the Group of Eight (G8). Perhaps unfortunately for NATO, both the agenda and the format of the G8 summit make it the more interesting and important of the meetings.

Using nuclear forensics to increase international nuclear security cooperation

Vitaly Fedchenko

Nuclear forensic analysis (nuclear forensics) has gained prominence as a tool to detect, prevent and deter acts of nuclear terrorism and illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. However, the potential applications of nuclear forensics go beyond nuclear security and demonstrate that cooperation can be achieved in and between a number of international security frameworks.