Guest post: Norway to host second disarmament verification simulation

May 09 2012
VERTIC Blog >> Arms Control and Disarmament
Ibrahim Said Ibrahim, Oslo
In June 2012, Oslo will play host to selected experts and diplomats from across a range of scientific, technical, legal and policy areas related to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation – not to mention top graduate students in the field of international security. This being because June will see the Universities of Oslo, Hamburg and King’s College London carry out the ‘Second International Full-Scale Nuclear Disarmament Verification Simulation’.

The first simulation – which took place from 13-17 June 2011 was jointly organized by the University of Oslo and the King’s Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS), and hosted by the Norwegian Institute for Energy Technology. This simulation built upon the achievements of the UK-Norway initiative (UKNi) between 2007 and 2009 by creating a simplified version of the UKNi framework that was able to involve students and academics from a number of nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states. The objective then, as now, was to enhance their shared knowledge of the political and technical issues surrounding warhead dismantlement verification.

The upcoming second simulation that is to take place in June 2012 will both build on lessons learned from the 2011 simulation and seek to identify different scenarios for future simulations and exercises. The Oslo simulation in 2012 will take place in two parts: in cooperation with CSSS from 4-8 June, and from 25-29 June in cooperation with the Center for Science and Peace Research of the University of Hamburg. The simulation’s preparatory phase will take place at the University of Oslo, while the actual simulations will be held at the Institute for Energy Technology. Both the King’s and Hamburg simulations are financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Norwegian Disarmament Research Fund.
A hands-on education and training tool for disarmament verification
The Disarmament Verification Simulation is part of University of Oslo’s educational and capacity-building initiative, which is striving to put words into action by addressing some of the observations and recommendations to have emerged from the UKNi (as well as other experiences in disarmament education).
One of the main lessons learned from the UK-Norway initiative is the importance of the human factor in creating a successful collaborative disarmament verification exercise. Trust and confidence between inspectors and an inspected party is vitally important if a verification exercise is to be a success. Education, surely, will contribute to addressing this issue. After all, if inspectors are well-versed in verification processes and the various pitfalls involved, this will inevitably increase their confidence in both their own ability to make a valuable contribution – and also their confidence in what it is they are witnessing.
Educating ‘next generations’ on disarmament verification could also form the basis of an international ‘verification community’ and, within that, a high-level group of international experts that could in time advise governments and develop a framework for cooperation on the scientific and technical aspects of nuclear disarmament. In addition, disarmament education is foreseen as a major strategy for preventive diplomacy, as well as a matter regarded with importance by governments and their political leaders.
It should be noted that educational research into nuclear disarmament verification allows for research efforts on dismantlement verification to be spread more widely among different countries. At present, the current global expenditures on verification research and development are concentrated heavily within the nuclear-weapon states in general and in the US in particular. What, though, might be the impact of a more diversified, multinational body of research on verification technology and techniques?
Furthermore, educational efforts also entail the potential to involve intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). Educational projects such as these can spur thinking on how IGOs and non-nuclear-weapon states can collaborate more effectively and contribute better to verification processes. And educational and research collaboration can play an essential role in developing international standards and approved techniques for use in actual disarmament scenarios.
Disarmament verification education could also serve as a confidence-building measure between nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states. That may hold particular benefits for later real-world processes where, as in the simulated world of the UK-Norway initiative, non-nuclear-weapon states may be brought into the dismantlement verification process.
Beside the technical measures that can be employed to help ensure the ‘irreversibility’ of disarmament, disarmament verification and monitoring education should be envisioned as a key factor to be incorporated on the road to total abolition. Knowledge is considered to be one of the main rearmament steps, and by establishing adequate disarmament education this could help balance out the equation. Moreover, increasing disarmament knowledge through education would increase societal verification pressure, which could in turn translate into concrete disarmament undertakings by states.
Ultimately, perhaps the best result of the University of Oslo’s efforts would be to create an increased pool of young specialists that can engage actively in nuclear disarmament considerations at both national and international levels. Besides that, the effort hopes to foster a network of institutions in this area, as the field of study is multi-disciplinary and requires various specialists in chemistry, physics and information technology. These are long-term processes, and only small steps, but in the field of nuclear disarmament there are only small steps – and the hope is that these steps, while they may be small, may also be significant.

Last changed: May 09 2012 at 10:46 PM