Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hans Blix, "Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms on 1 June 2006.

The WMD Commission was launched by the Government of Sweden in Stockholm on December 16, 2003 to respond to the recent, profoundly worrying developments in international security, and in particular to investigate ways of reducing the dangers from nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons.

Chaired by Dr Hans Blix, the former head of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, the WMD Commission comprises 14 eminent members, representing a broad and relevant geographical and political base with a vast reservoir of expert knowledge and political experience, spanning the governmental, academic and nongovernmental arenas. The Commissioners serve in their personal capacity. They meet periodically, discuss the issues, assess a range of expert studies and contribute their analyses, thoughts and proposals to the collective work of the Commission.

The Commission’s mandate is comprehensive, including not only the proliferation and possession of nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons, and the means of delivering them, such as missiles, but also terrorism-related issues and ways of preventing the acquisition and use of these devastating weapons. The Commission aims to develop realistic proposals for the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, including both short-term and long-term approaches and both non-proliferation and disarmament aspects.

The idea of an independent commission on weapons of mass destruction was initially put forward in 2002 by Jayantha Dhanapala, then UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs. Concerned that in the post 9/11 geostrategic environment, weapons of mass destruction were acquiring a revived and dangerous attraction not only for states, but also for nonstate actors, such as terrorists, the idea arose from the need to find fresh and comprehensive approaches to addressing these threats from the perspectives of non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as preventing terrorism. The initiative was taken up in 2003 by the late Swedish Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, who asked Dr Blix to set up and chair the WMD Commission.

Whether or not the threats have actually grown more serious, it must be acknowledged that fears of a nuclear or radiological weapon being detonated in a major city or of anthrax or other lethal, infective or toxic agents being released on public transport or covertly distributed among the population are more acute today than ten years ago. The existing agreements and domestic and international efforts, although relatively successful in some areas, have been unable effectively and comprehensively to address evolving threats or allay growing fears about the acquisition and use of such weapons of mass destruction.

The WMD Commission follows in the steps of earlier independent commissions in seeking fresh ways to approach these challenges. Of particular note are the 1996 Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and the 1999 Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, which both focused on nuclear weapons. While their results and the proposals remain of great value, the political and international security context has since changed considerably, and the options must now be revisited.

The Commission also benefits from the examples set by earlier international commissions, such as the Brandt Commission, the Brundtland Commission or the Commission on Human Security. In addition to commissioning research and meeting three to four times a year, the WMD Commission may arrange seminars, hearings and conferences in different countries, in cooperation with relevant institutes and research institutions. The Commission will also undertake various outreach activities and involve civil society and non-governmental organisations through presentations, hearings, conferences, website and e-mail. Though some studies will be especially commissioned, we also welcome concise, substantive contributions from others, including governments and interested civil society individuals and institutions. The Commission will consider all relevant suggestions and recommendations for future measures to reduce the dangers from weapons of mass destruction, and the best of the research will be made available through our website or other means.

Our ambition is that the work of the Commission will assess the real threats and available responses, raise public awareness and stimulate new thinking on the major security challenges posed by nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons. The Commission looks forward to working with you to find effective ways to eliminate dangers and prevent the acquisition or use of all weapons of mass destruction.

Download the full text (pdf, 227pp)
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