Group Dynamics and Interplay in un Disarmament Forums: In Search of Consensus

in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
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The elimination of nuclear weapons has been an objective of the United Nations (un) since 1946. Although addressed through multiple forums, including the un General Assembly’s First Committee, Conference on Disarmament and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the possession and renunciation of nuclear weapons nevertheless remains a topic beset by multilateral stalemate and frustration over the entrenchment of positions between nuclear- and non-nuclear weapon states. Yet within these forums, disarmament politics are taking a new turn, with the emergence of new, cross-regional, cross-factional political groups working alongside more established blocs. Focusing on these group dynamics, this article argues that the emergence of new political groups, and their interplay with others, is critical to the effective functioning of disarmament negotiations. Through cooperative information exchange, encouraging policy entrepreneurship and by challenging the rigidity of entrenched bloc positioning, these new group dynamics may make an important contribution in the search for consensus within the un.

Group Dynamics and Interplay in un Disarmament Forums: In Search of Consensus

in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy




In October 2012the unga also established an Open-Ended Working Group (oewg) on ‘Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations’. This was a largely ad-hoc body that met between March and April 2013 and then reported to the unga and cd. A further oewg was announced following the conclusion of the 70th session of the unga First Committee in October 2015; see un Resolution ‘Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations’ A/C.1/70/L.13/Rev.1 (29 October 2015). Space constraints sadly prevent discussion of these oewg as well as other ad-hoc debates such as unga Special Sessions devoted to disarmament.


For example see Reaching Critical WillFirst Committee Briefing Book (New York: Reaching Critical Will, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom2015) p. 4; un News Centre ‘Consensus Eludes Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference as Positions Harden on Ways to Free Middle East of Mass Destruction Weapons’ (22 May 2015); and un News Centre ‘General Assembly President Encourages Disarmament Meeting to Stay Focused’ (3 March 2014).


B. Tertrais‘The “Humanitarian Dimension” of Nuclear Disarmament: A Legitimate Debate?’Fondation pour la Recerche Strategiquenote no. 12 (2015).


Karen E. Smith and Katie Laatikainen‘Introduction: The Multilateral Politics of UN Diplomacy’The Hague Journal of Diplomacyvol. 12 no. 2 (2017) pp. x-x this issue.


Harold Müller‘A Treaty in Troubled Waters: Reflections on the Failed NPT Review Conference’The International Spectatorvol. 40 no. 3 (2005) pp. 33–44 at p. 38; and J. Ruzicka and N. Wheeler ‘The Puzzle of Trusting Relationships in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’ International Affairs vol. 86 no. 1 (2010) pp. 69–85 at p. 75.


Interviews June 2015.


Kingston Reif‘UN Disarmament Body Still Stalemated’Arms Control Today (2 September 2015).


F.C. IkléHow Nations Negotiate (New York: Praeger1964) pp. 197–203.


Sjöstedt‘Leadership in Multilateral Negotiations’ p. 242.


Interviews May–June 2011.


Reaching Critical WillAssuring Destruction Forever: Nuclear Weapon Modernization Around the World (New York: Reaching Critical Will, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom2012).


Interviews June 2015.


Interview June 2015.


Interview March 2015; Interview June 2015.


Interview June 2015.


Interview June 2015.


Interview June 2015.


Interview June 2015.


Interviews June 2015.


Interview March 2015; Interview June 2015.


Interviews June 2015.


Interview June 2015.


Interview March 2015; Interview June 2015.


Interviews March 2015; Interviews June 2015.


Interviews June 2015.


Arild Underdal‘Causes of Negotiation “Failure”’European Journal of Political Researchvol. 11 no. 2 (1983) pp. 183–195.


Megan Dee‘Standing Together or Doing the Splits? Evaluating European Union Performance in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Negotiations’European Foreign Affairs Reviewvol. 17 no. 2 (2012) pp. 187–210.


  • View in gallery
    Cross-alignment of major political groups within the npt: 2010–present

    source: author’s own compilation.

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