By Onur Güven, researcher public international law on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation at the T.M.C. Asser Institute.
Already known as the legal capital of the world, The Hague is also, together with Geneva, Vienna and New York City, one of the international centres on disarmament and non-proliferation. To sum some of the qualities in this matter: the city will house the third Nuclear Security Summit in March 2014, the region facilitated the conclusion and establishment of related international treaties and instruments, and most importantly the city is seat for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
On December 10 the Nobel Peace Prize Lecture will be held in Oslo as part of the Award Ceremony. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the OPCW with the Nobel Peace Prize for its “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons [CW]”, thereby honouring The Hague community with another Nobel Peace Prize winner. The OPCW carries extensive efforts, not only to eliminate CW, but also to prevent their reemergence. And it is this latter responsibility, non-proliferation, which is perhaps, in the long run and without underestimating the complexity of the challenges in CW disarmament, a more lasting challenge.
The effects of information and communications technology combined with globalisation have rapidly altered our social environment. These changes are amplified by various other scientific and technological developments, including the convergence of chemistry and biology, the advancements in the life sciences, the continuous increase of processing power, and the emergence of applied nanotechnology and 3D-printing. All of these developments carry a dual-use nature, the potential to use them both for peaceful purposes and for hostile purposes. But the line where we have to differentiate between these purposes may not always be evident.
These challenges and opportunities underline the importance of raising awareness of the dual-use nature of science and technology and of the ethical framework of conducting research. And of course the importance of the legal framework with regard to the licensing and trading of technology; which surprised the scientists close by in Rotterdam when they published their H5N1 research only to found out that they were required to obtain an export licensing permit in accordance with the Dutch code implementing the Australia Group Common Control List. Media exposure, while perhaps effective on raising awareness on the effects of WMD use and the importance of WMD destruction, may not always suffice. Proliferation risks posed by new technologies may not be so readily identifiable for audiences as the effects of the CW use in Syria entering our household screens.
Education and outreach is therefore vital to address some of the core non-proliferations concerns, namely: the role of researchers and the general public in preventing the proliferation of WMDs and their delivery systems. And in this matter The Hague is becoming increasingly prominent through the synergy between the international organisations and community it houses and the various knowledge centres and platforms in nurtures.
These are: the Hague Declaration concerning Asphyxiating Gases, the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, and the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
The question remains to be further settled at the Amsterdam Court of Appeal and with potential consequences in the EU and among the Australia Group members.