There are three sets of reasons for a palpable rise in nuclear anxieties around the world: growing nuclear arsenals and expanding roles for nuclear weapons, a crumbling arms-control architecture, and irresponsible statements from the leaders of some nuclear-armed states.
Thirty years ago, when the Berlin Wall was brought down marking the end of the Cold War, the threat of conflict between two nuclear-armed, ideologically opposed superpowers receded, and my generation, which had grown up in the shadow of the bomb, breathed a sigh of relief. Although the nuclear threat did not vanish then, it certainly became subdued as the process of disarmament and control seemed to move forward along a clear path of no return.
In late 2016, the United Nations decided to launch discussions on the establishment of a treaty banning all nuclear weapons, and on May 22, 2017 the Chair of the conference dealing with this issue presented a first draft of the proposed treaty. The proposed draft is of a treaty negotiated among states, not taking into account the existence of non-state entities that could be holding a trump card in the case of universal nuclear disarmament. Moreover, in many respects, the draft falls into the same troubling trap of previous treaties. It is a detailed treaty but with a number of loopholes that come to placate the diverse opinions and approaches of the states to the issue. Thus while striving toward nuclear disarmament is a noble goal, one must be realistic and not really expect the proposed treaty to achieve it.
A short time after nuclear weapons were used in World War II, a movement to eliminate these weapons, the most horrific weapons of mass destruction (WMD), began with what is known as the Baruch Plan. Although many governments and hundreds of non-governmental organizations supported and still support nuclear disarmament, their achievements(including the disarmament of South Africa, reductions of stocks, and a moratorium on testing that was not universally upheld) have been partial.
The AU is taking a well-timed look at how arms embargoes can be better implemented.
Arms embargoes are the most common type of sanction currently applied by the United Nations (UN), and one of the five main types of targeted or smart sanctions (others are diplomatic sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes and commodity interdiction).
The key aim of smart sanctions is to raise the regime’s costs of non-compliance (with the sanctions) without bringing about the wider suffering often associated with comprehensive sanctions, such as trade bans.
How effective these embargoes are in Africa is the subject of much debate; not least because the continent has been subjected to the majority of arms embargoes since the UN’s first stand-alone arms embargo against apartheid South Africa in 1977. Since then, several African countries have faced such embargoes; some repeatedly. Liberia, for example, experienced a series of UN-imposed arms embargoes in varying degrees and forms between 1992 and 2016. Despite this, illicit weapons continued to be trafficked into the country.
While ferocious armed conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, and Syria dominate news headlines, the foremost United Nations (UN) process to combat the illicit trade in small arms appears to have lost its way. In 2001, UN member states hammered out a compromise program of action to be the foremost global map to tackle illicit small arms, which are widely used to injure and kill people both in times of war and peace.