More of the Same: The Ministerial Declaration of the International Conference on Nuclear Security

The International Atomic Energy Agency convened the International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna from July 1-5, 2013. Noting that “the risk that nuclear or other radioactive material could be used in malicious acts remains high and is regarded as a serious threat to international peace and security,” the IAEA held the Conference “to review the international community’s experience and achievements to date in strengthening nuclear security, to enhance understanding of current approaches to nuclear security worldwide and identify trends, and to provide a global forum for ministers, policymakers and senior officials to formulate views on the future directions and priorities for nuclear security.”

The Ministerial Declaration from the Conference was negotiated before it began and was disseminated on the first day of the Conference. The Ministerial Declaration indicates that IAEA member states are not willing, at present, to move beyond the existing approach of primarily focusing on national-level responsibilities and efforts to improve the security of nuclear material to prevent nuclear or radiological terrorism and other malicious acts. The Ministerial Declaration invited states to become parties to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (1980) and its 2005 Amendment and to the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (201). But, arguments for developing more and better international rules to enhance nuclear security globally did not find fertile ground in this IAEA effort. As Global Newswire reported on this point:

As expected, the joint document . . . did not embrace the creation of any formal new rules that would bind participating countries. At the top of a list of 24 principles that signatories support is “that the responsibility for nuclear security within a state rests entirely with that state.” Nuclear watchdogs expressed disappointment over the scope of the document . . . . “I would say that this declaration does not give a lot of hope that IAEA ministerial meetings are the way to move forward the nuclear security agenda–it’s pretty boilerplate,” said Miles Pomper, a senior research associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

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