Disarmament Verification: A True Partnership?

In the IPNDV’s (International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification) Deliverable One: A Framework Document with Terms and Definitions, Principles, and Good Practices, Working Group 1 addresses the rationale of verification principles, and identifies proper usages of these principles in real life. The examination of these principles are based on “existing verification mechanisms,” “work already done by previous disarmament verification initiatives,” and “existing research and publications” (2). While providing a good overview of the different principles involved in verification, as a first deliverable, the output raises two problems: first, it provides little direction for future advances, and second, it muddles the line between national and multilateral interests and inspection.

Throughout the entire deliverable, the one part in which concrete action plans are laid out is in the summary of Principle 3 – Non-Proliferation, and the limitation of transferring proliferation-sensitive knowledge. In this section, the authors argue that the IPNDV should “identify options to prevent the transfer of [sensitive] data for monitoring technologies,” and present possible methods to do so (5). This productive analysis of state of affairs, coupled with a recommendation identifies problems with the current system and attempts to solve them, which advances the work of IPNDV. Unfortunately, the other principles only offer somewhat-obvious statements that re-confirm the reason certain rules are in effect, without bringing about additional value for the IPNDV. Although the paper itself does state that its purpose is mainly descriptive, I cannot help but think that such a collection of simple normative statements cannot be helpful in helping the current IPNDV team, or propelling their future work. I would love to hear about whether you guys agree/disagree!

More importantly, my biggest qualm about this deliverable was the lack of clarity it gave on distinguishing national and multilateral affairs and interests. While Principle 4 states that the level of interference of verification is moderated, and capped by the “international legal system, [which is] based on State sovereignty” (6), Principle 7 later states that multilateral verification – such as the one described in Principle 4 – puts “multilateral entities “above” the parties” (10). Although later followed by the statement that “multilateral agreements are never entirely multilateral,” as there is an element of national verification (use of NTMs), the deliverable goes back and forth on whether the fundamental basis of multilateral verification rests upon State sovereignty, or multilateralism itself. Taken together with my earlier point, it seems to me that the deliverable is a not-so-effective document that can propel the IPNDV forward. — Christine