Sweden and Germany show nuclear disarmament leadership

In previous Rideau Institute blogs we have highlighted the important nuclear disarmament initiative by the Swedish government in the lead-up to the 2020 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). See:  UN Disarmament Chief visits Ottawa; FM Champagne outlines foreign policy priorities (25 Feb 2020) and  FM Freeland’s disarmament no-show and latest on Iran-USA confrontation (17 June 2019).

The second ministerial meeting of the Stockholm Disarmament Initiative took place in Berlin on 25 February last.  German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who will report to the UN Security Council on the outcome of the meeting, stated:

We want to overcome the stalemate in the area of nuclear disarmament. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is in grave danger if we do not invest more political capital and make the Treaty fit for the future!

Both Germany and Canada are NATO members. Germany is also in the second year of its two-year stint as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, while Canada is vying for a seat for 2021-22. Yet their response to the Swedish initiative could not be more starkly different. While the German Foreign Minister chose to host the second meeting in his country’s capital, Canada’s Foreign Minister, echoing the example of his predecessor, did not attend – an absence made all the more notable by his failure even to mention nuclear disarmament in a major foreign policy speech mere days before.

Instead Canada was represented by former Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, now Ambassador to Germany. More importantly, we signed on to a substantive Ministerial Declaration that commits all participants to working concretely to reduce nuclear risks in accordance with many elements of the Swedish  “Stepping Stones” Working Paper.  RI President and former Canadian Disarmament Ambassador Peggy Mason comments:

Under German leadership, the participating countries, including Canada, have taken an unequivocal position against any use of nuclear weapons, and for the further reduction in nuclear arsenals, reduced salience of nuclear weapons in security and defence policies and the “disentanglement” of conventional and nuclear weapons systems.

Global Affairs initiates NPT consultations with civil society

Officials at Global Affairs Canada (GAC) have sought written input from civil society disarmament experts on Canada’s National Report on the implementation of the NPT in the lead up to the 2020 Review Conference. On the utility of these reports, Cindy Termorshuizen, Director General, International Security Policy at GAC, comments:

A key way in which States can assess the health of the Treaty is by reviewing reports submitted by States outlining their activities in support of the Treaty. Reporting, particularly by nuclear-weapon States, is essential to transparency, building trust and confidence, encouraging dialogue, and measuring if States are following through on their obligations and promises.

While Canadian civil society disarmament experts, including RI President Peggy Mason, welcome this opportunity for providing direct input, many also believe it is not a substitute for more comprehensive talks:

However welcome GAC’s efforts to seek civil society input on Canada’s national report to the NPT via phone or email, these should be in addition to—not instead of—dedicated, substantive, in-person consultations on nuclear disarmament, as well as disarmament and arms control more generally. – Cesar Jaramillo, Project Ploughshares

Photo credit: Florian Gaertner (Participants at Berlin Meeting) / Web design credit: Best Website Hosting

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