Archive | September, 2011

Steps towards a NWFZ in the Middle East

13 Sep

The idea for a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) is nothing new. Discussion through the 1960s led to a joint declaration in by Egypt and Iran in 1974 which resulted in a General Assembly resolution (and broadened in 1990 to cover weapons of mass destruction). These proposals were motivated by a number of factors from confidence building for the benefit of regional stability to suspicion over Israel building up its nuclear arsenal (and their status of being outside of the NPT). Along with Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons (and earlier suspected attempts by Libya, Iraq and Syria), a NWFZ in the region is long overdue.

But how would you create a such a zone when two of its powers (Israel and Iran) are in denial over its weapons programs. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been working on it for over a decade. IAEA Head Yukiya Amano has initiated a forum for 21-22 November, and is confident that it will create the necessary steps forward – and will lead to a successful conference on the proposal in 2012.

A few obstacles remain.

  • Iran, who rigerously opposes Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal and condemns the “nuclear imbalace” in the region, has indicated that it will not attend the forum.
  • Israel (with the US and other western countries) is increasingly alarmed by Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program (a program which it denies).
  • Israel is wary of Arab states’ bringing forward a resolution during September’s IAEA meeting calling for it to ratify the NPT; Israel has indicated that this will derail the NWFZ pursuit.
  • Some Arab states want certain conditions attached to the forum, rather than it being a general round-table discussion.
  • Other factors identified include ongoing instability in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and threats posed by extremist groups.

So is the time right to persuit negotiations? And how? One author (see Boutwell below) raised the point that during the 1995 NPT Review, Arab states insisted on indefinite extension of their commitment to the NPT in return for progress towards a NWFZ. Alongside the progress with the CTBT, these confidence building gestures could lead to Israel openly declaring its nuclear status – which may also find itself under increased pressure from the United States. Iran could follow. This development may thus lead to Israel ratifying the NPT, and will therefore be engaged with the disarmamant process acting in a more open and transparent manner. In this new “structure of accountability”, steps could lead towards a NWFZ in the Middle East through further confidence building, trust and nuclear oversight by the IAEA. This could also mean a lesser role for P5 nations as Middle Eastern nations work alongside each other in pursuit of nuclear disarmament.

Sources: -middle-east-nuclear-free-zone-1.379589 (Rethinking Security Interests for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East)

International Media Perception of the United Nations/Cooperation with International Media on the Part of the United Nations

11 Sep

This is a work in progress and everyone’s feedback is highly appreciated!

Thanks, Lia


I have been talking to Bob about the difficulties both, media representatives and UN staff, have been encountering in the past regarding

– the requirement of necessary information to being able to file a story interesting and important enough that it actually gets picked by your respective editor at your outlet, also strongly depending on the political orientation of the outlet
– a strong media focus on negative developments/incidents (“scandal”) at the UN
– a nearly exclusive focus on the General Assembly and the weeks building up to it
– a strong focus on “local” reporting at the GA
– on the other side you find UN staff that is often briefed not to speak
– in general a “media hostile situation at UN headquarters” as Nick Birnback in 1995 Manager at the United Nations Association of the U.S.A. responsible for Media Affairs in a panel organized by C-Span on “Media and the UN” points out. Interestingly enough the only somewhat analytical survey of a situation that seems, from my own experience, unfortunately stagnant om both sides, I found on the World Wide Web.
– a well established “back room” information policy that often appears to be off the record which doesn’t enable the journalist to quote, which then makes it often impossible to prove the argument, therefore the story doesn’t get printed/broadcast
– no coherent press policy on behalf of the UN

I am not audacious enough to believe that I might have a solution for the established madness on both ends, but there might be something we can do about it to raise some awareness. Bob was mentioning that he would like to get in touch with a number of journalists at the UN on a one on one level and talk about the issue. There are currently 222 correspondents at the UN, in NYC and in other places of the US.,com_comprofiler/task,usersList/listid,4/Itemid,6/

Of these 222 I know on a personal level about eight correspondents.
Now, I believe that journalists are at times non-cooperative for a number of reasons.
So in order to get some kind of possible response, I was thinking about sending out a (anonymous?) questionnaire in order to try and evaluate some sort of quality standard, which could be presented to the UN’s Media Unit.

Please, let me know, what your thoughts are on this and here are the questions, which are of course open for additions and edits:

1) What outlet are you with?
2) How long have you been a UN correspondent?
3) How often per month do you report on current issues at the UN?
4) What are your main topics you report on at the UN?
5) On a scale from 1-10, how effective do you find the UN information policy?
6) How often per month do you place UN stories with your outlet?
7) Do you cover and place stories on the General Assembly every year?


Palestine: The UN Debate and Beyond

11 Sep
Palestine: The UN Debate and Beyond
A Discussion – Monday September 12, 3.30PM – 5.00PM

Venue: Chapel, Church Centre for UN, 777 UN Plaza (1st Avenue/44th Street)


Rashid Khalidi
Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and
Director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and
Public Affairs.


Karima Bennoune
Professor of Law and Arthur L. Dickson Scholar at Rutgers School of Law,
Palestine is expected to seek membership (or expanded recognition and rights) at
the UN during the 2011 General Assembly. The discussion will look at the
context of Palestine’s UN bid and explore the legal ramifications of the idea of
Palestinian statehood. The speakers will examine options at the UN in September,
and pathways beyond.

Co-sponsors: Global Policy Forum, the NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine

Please RSVP to by Friday September 9

The CTBT: 23 September

8 Sep

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty enjoys a level of irony. Despite the treaty not yet being in force, its premise to ban physical nuclear tests has to a great extent been realized.

The number of atmospheric explosion tests peaked in 1962, with the USSR and USA going head-to-head. China conducted the last in 1980. Similarly, after a high-level number of underground explosions in the 1960’s and 1970’s, test numbers have decreased drastically: with four explosions on the sub-continent in 1998; two more recently on the Korean Peninsula. To date, the list of countries having tested is just eight (CTBTO interactive map). So despite this significant progress, what’s the hold-up on getting the comprehensive ban into force?

The key obstacle to the treaty’s implementation is that it requires all 44 ‘Annex 2’ states to ratify it. These Annex 2 states participated in the CTBT’s 1994-1996 negotiations and possessed nuclear power or research reactors at that time. Nine out of the 44 – China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, the United States, India, DPR Korea and Pakistan – are yet to ratify the CTBT; the latter three are yet to even sign it. Reluctance to ratify varies ranging from:

  • Classical concerns over state sovereignty, the nuclear security guarantee, rival states’ capabilities and suspicion over other states’ insincerity (eg, key states are accused of having double standards).
  • The CTBT being incomplete: concerns about loopholes, clarification and verification.
  • Some states want to uphold the right to modernize their technology, which may require testing
  • Domestic and political issues. (See for example: Kubiak, ‘CTBT Hold-out States’)

So nine is all takes. US President Obama had promised to ratify the treaty but has now come under opposition from the Senate. China want’s the US to ratify first; Pakistan, despite not being opposed to the CTBT, dares India to go first.

Watch this space for further updates.

– Kees Keizer