Talking Transparency

During the recent nuclear weapons working group meeting in Geneva, PAX delivered a statement on the issue of transparency. The statement includes a series of recommendations for countries that don’t possess their own nuclear weapons, but instead engage in other (questionable) nuclear weapons practices. 

The statement was delivered on 3 May to the Open Ended Working Group to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament discussions.

Transparency Statement

Open Ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations

Delivered by Susi Snyder, 3 May 2016

Check against delivery

Chairperson, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

I’m speaking on behalf of PAX, a Dutch organization that is part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

It has been an interesting and informative discussion so far, and I expect that it will continue to be so.

We regret that Hans Kristensen was unable to attend, as his work as a global nuclear sleuth has informed all of us- particularly with the nuclear notebook- the most comprehensive ongoing publication of information about the numbers, locations and status of nuclear arsenals.

However, the work of NGOs, as excellent as it is, does not provide an excuse for the absence of official information.

It is unfortunate that the nuclear armed states are not here to answer for themselves- and to provide information they’ve been requested to provide – for decades.

Given who is in the room, it would be useful to look at transparency measures that can be taken by these states, and taken now.

For example, all states participating here have already agreed, by consensus, to the 2010 NPT action plan. In that, there are a list of recommendations for things that the nuclear armed states should report on (Action 5).

States here can agree to make reports on these items themselves, not solely leaving that as a requirement to the nuclear armed.

We’ve heard a lot about the nuclear host states today, and about the forward deployment of some types of weapons to the territories of other countries. This also came up yesterday, as it contributes greatly to the increased risk of any use of these catastrophic weapons of mass destruction.

I have heard concerns that since the weapons are only deployed on their territories, it is not up to the host state to report on it- that should be done by their owners.

However, the host states can increase transparency about their role with these weapons. That could include:

  1. Multilateral exercises preparing for use of nuclear weapons (e.g. NATO’s Steadfast Noon annual exercises that prepare for the use of B61 gravity bombs);
  2. The role of national militaries or other national agencies in targeting discussions, including through Alliance cooperation on nuclear targeting decision making;
  3. The allocated budgets assigned by governments to facilitate their national air force preparation for the acceptance of the transfer of nuclear weapons. Transparency of budget allocations should, at a minimum, be given to members of parliamentary defence committees. Especially of course within NATO, a so-called alliance of democracies, such information should be provided, one would think;
  4. Emergency response preparations for possible accidents with the weapons stationed on their territories, particularly around the Kleine Brogel, Volkel, Ghedi, Aviano, Buchel, and Incirlik;

[EVERYONE knows the weapons are there. Global Zero published maps of their locations years ago- and you can find all of them (except for the blanked out Volkel air base) on Google Earth.]

  1. It would be useful to share information as well on studies about the impact of multiple weapons accidents, especially given the recent history of civilian break-ins at these facilities (again you can Google videos of break ins at Kleine Brogel and Volkel, if you want);
  2. The specific costs the host governments will have to pay to modify new aircraft to become dual capable- able to drop the nuclear bombs that under NPT they are not allowed to accept the transfer of;
  3. Also, it would be useful to have information about the budgets allocated for security of the facilities that hold the weapons that “may or may not be” on their territory;
  4. And of course, they can end the policies of neither confirming nor denying this public secret, and just admit that the weapons are present.

National parliaments have been calling for transparency, for this type of information, for decades. While some information may have been presented to some parliaments in the 1960s or 1970s, today, MPs continue to request, and are continually denied access to this information. Motions have been filed, and when they are not acted on, MPs seek other options to advance our goals. Not unlike the states in this room- who have put forward menus- building blocks, stepping stones, and so forth for decades, and now must find alternatives to advanced the nuclear disarmament agenda.

A nuclear ban treaty is a way to advance our global agenda. A nuclear ban treaty is a way to codify that these practices, and these preparations for any use of nuclear weapons, are not something the majority find to be within their security interest. A ban treaty is a way to unblock the blockages, to build on the foundations (or cornerstones) of the global legal architecture we need to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world. A nuclear ban treaty ends the loopholes and circumstances that that have allowed questionable risky practices to go on for far too long. A ban is necessary, a ban is possible, a ban is coming.

Thank you.