Arms Control and Disarmament Programme: completed projects

Irreversibility (2010-11)



Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (Switzerland)

Project updates

  •  08/11/2010: Project started.
  • 15/12/2010: VERTIC commissioned one external author to contribute to project.
  • 22/12/2010: First draft to be transmitted to funder by 21/01/11. First review meeting scheduled for 17/02/11.
  • 21/01/2011: Draft submitted to funder.
  • 18/02/2011: Review meeting concluded.
  • 11/03/2011: Final delivery to funder.
  • 01/09/2011: Report now in layout.
  • 14/10/2011: Final report published.
  • 14/10/2011: Project archived.


In the past few years, nuclear disarmament has benefitted from increasing amounts of political attention. This, coupled with continued real cuts of nuclear arsenals, has led to a sense that disarmament no longer is a remote and unachievable goal. Clearly, however, more can be done with regard to the implementation of disarmament obligations.

In 2000, the NPT Review Conference outlined ‘13 practical steps’ toward nuclear disarmament. One of those is the principle of irreversibility. By highlighting this principle, the conference made explicit a widespread concern about the long term durability of disarmament measures. While knowledge needed to rebuild nuclear weapons will never be forgotten, steps taken away from nuclear weapons should not be reversed. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference contains a commitment by the NPT’s 189 States Parties "to apply the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency in relation to the implementation of their treaty obligations".

Over the last decade, ‘irreversibility’ has become a frequently used criteria to evaluate disarmament measures (recently, for instance, many analysts noted with concern the absence of irreversibility provisions in the New START treaty). But the term as such remains undefined. If one could define the term, is it possible to give complete assurances of irreversibility? Can one confidently verify an irreversibility pledge? Our project will aim to explore these issues in greater detail. 


  • First draft completed: January 2011
  • Review meeting: February 2011
  • Revised draft and approval of product: March 2011
  • Layout, print and release: April 2011
  • Final report published: October 2011 - project completed

Resources and publications

Verified nuclear disarmament (2009-11)



Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Project updates

  • 30/06/2010: New presentation posted
  • 16/08/2010: VB12: First draft complete; Under review
  • 20/09/2010: Drafting of brief on 'IAEA General Conference' underway
  • 05/10/2010: Cancelled brief on nuclear disarmament verification
  • 14/12/2010: VB12 and VB13 now online
  • 15/12/2010: Project completed.
  • 01/06/2010: Page scheduled for archive
  • 12/04/2011: Project archived.


New projects inspired by the UK-Norway process are presently under consideration by several countries.

Progress on nuclear disarmament—and its verification—would benefit from a wider circle of practical projects in more States, both NWS and NNWS. Several States have expressed interest in joining the UK-Norway process. While these States cannot join the UK-Norway process as such—this would be unworkable—their financial, technical and human resource potential should not go untapped.

The international climate is fertile for seeding new initiatives. There is increased political interest in the concept of multilateral disarmament. For instance, in December 2008, the Global Zero initiative was launched in Paris and on 19 January 2009, three retired senior military officers called for the UK to disarm unilaterally in a letter to the Times. The P-3 (France, the UK and the US) have already pledged to participate in the technical laboratory conference organized by the UK Ministry of Defence in the autumn of 2009, and China and Russia are expected to join.

VERTIC’s project would aim to inform interested third States and civil society organizations of the need for verified nuclear disarmament, the options for negotiating verifiable reductions and the technical aspects of nuclear disarmament verification. This would draw on VERTIC analysis of these issues over the past 23 years, but would also develop generic lessons from the UK-Norway process that could be applied to disarmament verification generally. The aim is to get more States to commit human and financial resources to the cause.
VERTIC’s activities will be fully transparent. Indeed, VERTIC will continue to liaise closely with, and seek advice from, its Norwegian and UK partners to reassure them that these activities complement—and are not competitive with—the UK-Norway process.


VERTIC intends to produce a series of short fact sheets on nuclear disarmament verification, which will include analysis of various issues such as personnel and budgetary requirements. These papers are intended to support the establishment of negotiations for verified nuclear weapons reductions or disarmament and to inform other States interested in developing a work programme similar to the UK-Norway process.

VERTIC also intends to hold a number of meetings and consultations with other nuclear and non-nuclear weapon States to find out more about national capacities and aspirations in this field. Particular attention will be given, initially, to ascertaining the incoming US administration’s commitment in this area.

VERTIC intends to organize a number of off-the-record consultations with interested States around the 2009 and 2010 NPT meetings. Our partners in the UK-Norway process will be kept fully informed about the outcome of these consultations.


South Asia Strategic Stability Dialogue (2007-11)



Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (partial funding)

Project updates

  • 13/07/2010: Drafting of final report started.
  • 26/08/2010: Final field trip (Sri Lanka) scheduled.
  • 17/09/2010: Field trip (Sri Lanka) completed.
  • 22/12/2010: Final report now scheduled for Trust & Verify 123, scheduled for 7 January 2011.
  • 23/12/2010: Final reporting completed. Project now scheduled for completion.
  • 07/01/2011: Project completed.
  • 01/04/2011: Page scheduled for archiving.
  • 12/04/2011: Project archived


VERTIC has been in discussions with Indian and Pakistani officials since November 2007. Several of those have expressed concern over the unstable political climate in Pakistan, and are obviously concerned that nuclear material (or perhaps even nuclear weaponry) may fall into wrong hands. 

Several of these discussions have focused on the possibility of the establishment of a bilateral fissile material control regime in South Asia. Initial discussions focused on the experiences of the Agência Brasileiro-Argentina de Contabilidade e Controle de Materiais Nucleares (ABACC) regime, which oversees a bilateral nuclear safeguards regime for Argentina and Brazil (administered independently but in cooperation with IAEA safeguards) and whether this concept might be replicated for India and Pakistan.

This project examines the feasibility of a range of confidence building measures that could be applied bilaterally by India and Pakistan in relation to their nuclear weapons programmes. Research and advocacy activities under this project will also seek to build support for the adoption and implementation of such measures in the future.


The project aims will be achieved by holding a series of bilateral meetings and convening a workshop.

VERTIC will publish and disseminate an official project report at the end of the project. VERTIC will lead the project, which will also involve regional organizations as collaborative partners. 

VERTIC has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) to further the goals of this project.

VERTIC is also funding a meeting of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs on this, and other, topics.

Resources and meetings

  • SASSI-VERTIC Meeting on South Asia, Islamabad, Pakistan (June 2008).
  • USI-India-VERTIC Meeting on South Asia, New Delhi, India  (December 2009).
  • 12th Asian Security Conference, IDSA, New Delhi, India (February 2010).
  • Wilton Park Conference on Verified Dismantlement of Strategic Missiles, Wilton Park, UK (April 2010).
  • International Pugwash Meeting on South Asia, Islamabad, Pakistan (June 2010).
  • Meeting on the verified dismantlement of short range ballistic missiles, Colombo, Sri Lanka (September 2010).
  • Building confidence in India and Pakistan, Trust & Verify No. 131, 7 January 2011.