2021 EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference, Day Two

This article is a brief report of the second day of the tenth EU Conference on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament

On its second and last day, the EU Conference on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, held virtually on 6-7 December 2021, addressed cross-cutting issues that are directly influencing disarmament and non-proliferation policies, such as cybersecurity; arms trade; implications of new technology on arms controlpromotion of diversity in arms controlThe Conference, in its tenth edition, is a major international event that gathers non-proliferation and disarmament experts from governmental and non-governmental institutions worldwide. Organized by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) on behalf of the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium, the two-day meeting has provided an opportunity for an open discussion over arms control, disarmament, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and conventional weapons, their delivery systems and the new challenges in this field. 

As a continuation of the first day, the event restarted with the second plenary session concerning the cyber threats and vulnerabilities and the ways to counter the proliferation of ‘malicious cyber tools’: it addressed the problems related to these threats and their effects on the life of people, such as their blurred definition, that makes them hard to individuate, to regulate and to control. In this session, the speakers argued about the necessity to develop a “global culture on cybersecurity” based on capacity building and international cooperation, in order to check the use of malicious cyber tools in international law or criminal law, whether they are state- or non-state-actors- sponsored. This should be done in order to promote “the global open, stable and secure cyberspace where existing international law, human rights, fundamental freedoms fully apply, and where norms of responsible state behavior apply”, according to what Manon Leblanc, Head of the Cyber Policy Sector at the European External Action Service (EEAS), added.

Linked to this session were the discussions in the fourth one, named “Implications of New Technologies for Arms Control: Harnessing Benefits and Managing Challenges”. The debate dealt with the disruptive potential of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data and technological quantum in the arms control, and ended with a call for the necessity to set international multilateral norms and standards to enhance cooperation and prevent impact on the human societies in countries afflicted by crises. The current “technological laissez faire”, as defined by Pamela Moraga, Coordinator for Disarmament Affairs of the Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations Office at Geneva, has the risk to enable non-state actors to have the access to AI enabled weaponry coming from the “global shop” and use them in extremely vulnerable areas as testing sites for their deployment.

The third plenary session moved to the theme of arms trade control of convention weapons. The speakers focused the discussion on the need to increase transparency as a confidence building measure in the arms transfer obligations among the States, at the EU and at the international level, and on the political logic behind this market, which has severe humanitarian implications in conflict areas where those weapons are engaged. Hanna Neumann, Member of the European Parliament, defined this activity “a vicious circle, where our industries are making money at the expense of civilians […] where we are supporting humanitarian aid in crisis areas and, at the same time, we contributed to creating that situation[…]”. A vicious circle that “is making everything more and more difficult”, she added. 

During the fifth plenary session, named "Promoting Diversity in Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Processes", the discussions shifted to the promotion of diversity in the disarmament and non-proliferation from the gender-based and intergenerational perspective. Regarding the former, Sylvia Mishra, Co-Chair of the CBRN Security Policy Working Group of Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS), claimed that a greater women inclusiveness, on the guidelines given by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, in the decision-making process of the nuclear policy is the key for ensuring peace and security. As for the latter, Masako Toki, Senior Education Project Manager of the Non-proliferation Education Program at James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), asserted theessentiality to engage a diverse group of young people in order to deal with disarmament and non-proliferation process, in order to promote inter-generational diversity.

The event concluded with the last speeches on the “Implementation of the EU’s Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Agenda” delivered by three relevant representatives of the EU institutions and international organizations, and with closing remarks taken by two students involved in the study of these fields. The common reflection over the actual instruments at the EU and international level for disarmament and non-proliferation calls for two necessities: at the governance level, the message is that States shall leave their national interests behind and engage in international political and legal cooperation in these fields; on the humanitarian level, the necessity to shift the focus of the proposals of non-proliferation and disarmament multilateral instruments on the protection of civilians, which still witnesses a lack of real engagement.  


Author: Jasmina Saric


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