Disarmament Committee

Finding ways to rekindle a spirit of common purpose in international nuclear non- proliferation and disarmament governance.

by Lucas Mittelmeier, Jonas Nelle and Malte Ernestus

Key Terms

Nuclear Proliferation: Nuclear proliferation is the spread of nuclear weapons, fissionable material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information to nations not recognized as "Nuclear Weapon States" by the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Disarmament: The reduction or withdrawal of military forces and weapons.

Nuclear Warfare: A military conflict in which nuclear weapons, devices that deliver a destructive force through nuclear reactions, are used to inflict damage upon the enemy. This method of warfare causes particularly devastating effects, including a very large blast radius and long-term harm to blast survivors (nuclear fallout).

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs): A nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical or other weapon that can bring significant harm to a large number of humans, man-made structures or the biosphere.


Since the creation of nuclear weaponry during the Second World War in the race between the Allies and Germany, this potent weapon of mass destruction has changed the mentality of war forever. The United States was the first nation to develop this weapon in the Manhattan Project, a collaboration between American, Canadian and British scientists. Following Russia’s obtainment of nuclear weaponry in 1949, the UK, France and China all reached the same status in international relationships before the end of the 1960s. Next, India, Pakistan and North Korea also implemented the necessary steps to add this weapon of mass destruction to their arsenal. Albert Einstein, who worked on the Manhattan project and was thus one of the main inventors of the atomic bomb, would later go on to say: "I made one great mistake in my life-when I signed the letter to President
Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made." Ever since the civilian population has become a witness to the devastating power these weapons possess in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the regret of the invention of such a ruinous weapon has been widespread. This lead to the creation of treaties such as the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). However, India, Pakistan and North Korea never signed these treaties and both the US and China never ratified it. Although progress has been made in ridding this planet of nuclear weaponry, there are still enough such weapons to wipe out the entire population.

Current UN Involvement

From the 2014 session of the Disarmament Commission: “This year presented an opportunity to break the 14-year-long dearth of consensus”. If the Commission keeps failing to reach consensus in the near future, it's credibility and relevance is at risk.

The daily global military spending is almost double the UN's annual budget, disarmament is currently clearly underfunded. Documents such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Budapest Memorandum are a step in the right direction. Nonetheless there were no concrete results achieved in the Committee concerning nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation since 1999. Consequently, about 17,000 nuclear weapons exist on the planet and only 39 per cent of the global population live in nuclear-weapon-free zones. Facing crises as the one in Syria and Crimea the need for disarmament is as obvious as never before.

Possible Solutions

It will be a key point to rebuild trust among all member states. This committee can play a leading role in creating a win-win proposition in the field of disarmament and especially nuclear non-proliferation. In detail, Many UN Delegates have stressed the importance of nuclear-weapon-free zones, for example in the Middle East. A problem might have been the production of several resolutions of mediocre value and no new substance in recent sessions instead of relevant and innovative documents. It is the 2014 committee's task to find exactly this kind of innovative approach to 'rekindle a spirit of common purpose' among member states and re-establish the committee's authority.

Research Links




Reviewing guidelines already in existence concerning the use of and the trade with chemical weapons.

by Lucas Mittelmeier, Jonas Nelle and Malte Ernestus

Key Terms

Chemical Weapons: In the broad sense, a chemical weapon is a device that uses chemicals especially created to inflict pain or cause harm to humans. They are often in the form of gas or liquid and can thus easily affect civilian populations outside of the intended targets.

Chemical Warfare: Chemical warfare is the use of the toxic substances of certain compounds as weapons.

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs): A nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical or other weapon that can bring significant harm to a large number of humans, man-made structures or the biosphere.

General Purpose Criterion: “According to the general purpose criterion, a toxic or precursor chemical may be defined as a chemical weapon depending on its intended purpose. Put simply, a toxic or precursor chemical is defined as a chemical weapon unless it has been developed, produced, stockpiled or used for purposes not prohibited by the Convention. The definition thus includes any chemical intended for chemical weapons purposes, regardless of whether it is specifically listed in the Convention, its Annexes or the schedules of chemicals. The CWC does not, however, expressly state what “chemical weapons purposes” are. Instead, it lists those purposes that are not prohibited by the Convention. Chemicals intended for purposes other than these are considered chemical weapons.


Unlike nuclear and radiological warfare, chemical warfare has existed for thousands of years. However, chemical warfare as we know it today was first seen on the battlefields during WWI. Before that, chemical weapons were limited to weapon such as poisonous arrows and noxious fumes. WWI brought along the first strategic deployments of chemical weapons such as chlorine and phosgene gases. Since their first utilization, movements have been afoot to ban such ruinous weapons altogether. Such efforts culminated in the creation of treaties and, most notably, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a UN organ. However, most attempts have not been extremely successful, as demonstrated by the use of Russian chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war in the last year.

UN Involvement and Treaties

The most relevant treaty on chemical weapons control and reduction can be considered the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), first opened for signature in 1993 and entered into force in 1997. The OPCW is the organ responsible for the implementations of the convention and covers 98 per cent of the world's population. It allows for the stringent verification of compliance by State Parties and is the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework that provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction and international control. As of 31st December, 72.85 per cent of Category 1 and 52 per cent of Category 2 chemicals (see research links for definition) have been destroyed. Nonetheless, a constant revision and clarification of the guidelines is necessary. Here a brief summary of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC):

The CWC aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. States Parties, in turn, must take the steps necessary to enforce that prohibition in respect of persons (natural or legal) within their jurisdiction.

All States Parties have agreed to chemically disarm by destroying any stockpiles of chemical weapons they may hold and any facilities which produced them, as well as any chemical weapons they abandoned on the territory of other States Parties in the past. States Parties have also agreed to create a verification regime for certain toxic chemicals and their precursors (listed in Schedules 1, 2 and 3 in the Annex on Chemicals to the CWC) in order to ensure that such chemicals are only used for purposes not prohibited.

A unique feature of the CWC is its incorporation of the 'challenge inspection', whereby any State Party in doubt about another State Party's compliance can request the Director-General to send an inspection team. Under the CWC's 'challenge inspection' procedure, States Parties have committed themselves to the principle of 'any time, anywhere' inspections with no right of refusal.

Also see the research links for detailed information.

Research Links