Why I think the NAC is back

The NAC, or New Agenda Coalition, were once earth rattling mind-changers. They brought us the 13 practical steps in nuclear disarmament. They transformed how we looked at nuclear weapons states- and were a profound reminder that there is an obligation to disarm. In the past few years though due to changes in governments, or changes in policies, or changes in people, they seemed to get a little less enthusiastic. A little less bold. But now, the NAC is back!

The NAC submitted a working paper to this UN Open Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament. The working paper goes further than the paper they did for the NPT earlier this year. There are some pieces of this working paper that all states should take note of. There are recommendations for action not only by nuclear armed countries. This paper clearly and significantly talks about nuclear umbrella countries- those who rely on other people’s nuclear weapons. There are some lines from the paper that I want to specifically highlight.

When the NAC talked about existing arrangements and their shortcomings, they didn’t hold back. They actually said “At the same time, the failure to reduce and eliminate those nuclear weapons stationed outside the territories of the NWS raises doubts about the commitment of the States concerned to the goal of nuclear disarmament.” (Paragraph 9).


In this, the NAC not only called out the US for continuing to station nuclear weapons in other countries, but also called out those other countries for allowing the weapons to stay. Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey take note! You are sovereign, independent countries, and you can choose to block consensus if consensus insists that you keep the weapons everyone knows you don’t want.

There are some things in this paper that I don’t necessarily agree with. For example, the idea of providing legally binding negative security assurances as an interim step. I’m glad the NAC said interim, because putting treaties into place that continue to recognize the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons.. well, that doesn’t help us get rid of them. However, I do note that they didn’t specifically suggest negotiations of an international instrument for this- they simply said “providing legally binding negative security assurances”. I can imagine the debates in the US Congress to legislate the assurances provided in the US nuclear posture review. I’ll have to ask some law expert if its possible that a presidential executive order becomes legally binding on this.

A last thought, that I do appreciate, is the recognition that none of the elements to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons needs to be contingent on all of the other elements being already in place, and that work on most, including a prohibition on the possession, stockpiling, development or transfer of nuclear weapons, could begin immediately.

The NAC, and its members (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa), can boldly go where many others cannot- and put forward more and bolder ideas.

Welcome back NAC!