9 October 2006 - Second Edition

Jennifer Nordstrom | Reaching Critical Will

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On October 9, the Chair of the First Committee opened the Monday morning session with a short, terse condemnation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) nuclear test. Ironically, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, Ambassador Tibor Toth, also made a presentation to the First Committee that morning. There has not been a nuclear test in nearly a decade, and a non-nuclear weapon state party to the
Non-Proliferation Treaty has never left the treaty and tested nuclear weapons. Many were still in shock, and although some governments made statements on Monday deploring the test that could fundamentally change the disarmament and non-proliferation regime, the responses really came pouring in on Tuesday, both from governments at the First Committee and from civil society around the world.

Because of the focus on the test, there was much less new discussion of other non-proliferation concerns. Accordingly, while we have in-depth coverage of North Korea in this issue of the Monitor, the proliferation, nuclear weapon free zones and Iran reports will be published again in next week's issue.

In its October 9 statement, the DPRK explained that its nuclear test was a result of its perception that the law of the jungle prevails, and it needs the threat of excessive force to deter a powerful enemy. Moreover, as the Netherlands reminded us in its October 10 statement, threat perceptions are about economies as well as militaries.

There are 192 states in this increasingly globalized and technically advanced world, and if we want to avoid similar threat analyses and results in the future, we must create an international system based on the rule of law, not the rule of force. The rule of law states that nuclear disarmament is an obligation on at least five nations of the world. The rule of law states that nuclear weapons are illegal, and a requirement exists to negotiate an end to their destructive power over the planet. That law must apply equally to everyone in order to be perceived as legitimate, and therefore work. Creating and obeying law is not blind faith, but is rather the process of building a just international system with fair rules and effective verification to ensure they are being followed.

As civil society, it is our job to find hope in tragedy, and to point towards creative solutions. There is some possibility here: the nuclear test is another guide post, a warning sign at the crossroads about which Secretary- General Kofi Annan warned us. We can either work to build a collective security system in the interests of all, or this can be one of many tragic and destructive instances of people and states taking security into their own hands. If we are to choose the former- as we must- the First Committee, as the only global body charged with deliberating and adopting resolutions pertaining to international security, must take the lead. A collective security requires negotiation and compromise, as the political will to implement all decisions reached.

Over the next three weeks, the Committee will adopt a variety of resolutions that aim towards strengthening our collective security. More than just perfunctorily fulfilling its mandate, member states should view the upcoming weeks as a prime opportunity to assert the rule of law, the primacy of cooperation and the necessity for enlightened rationality. If it fails to do so, the DPRK will be proven correct: the law of the jungle will prevail. The the Committee must prove them wrong.

-Jennifer Nordstrom, Reaching Critical Will

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