The U.N. Conference on the Establishlent of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction took place at the U.N. in New York, 29 November to 3 December 2021.
The Conference is open-ended – that is open to those States that wish to attend – with a mandate provided by General Assembly Resolution A/73/546 to continue meeting annually:
The process will not be easy in an area where armed conflicts exist and are undermining stablity. There are very real concerns concerning nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Regional conflicts could unleash a nuclear war through escalation of a conventional war, miscalculation or delibeate pre-emptive attack. This is the second time that the conference is held. The 22 countries of the Arab League and Iran participated as did the U.K. and Russia. Israel and the U.S.A. did not. While the difficulties are real, the Conference provides opportunities for governments of the region to share perspectives, consider proposals and look at the institutional requirements to establish such a zone.
While non-governmental organization representatives cannot participate as such in the Conference, a nuclear-weapon free zone is of vital interest to those organizations working on arms control, disarmament, and regional conflict resolution.
The idea of a Middle East nuclear-free zone was first put forth by a non-governmental organization, the Israeli Committee of the Denuclearization of the Middle East in April 1962. Non-governmental organizations, often working closely with the United Nations disarmament secretariat, have played a role in the creation of regional nuclear-weapon free zones starting with the Treaty of the Tlatelolco for Latin America, after the dangers highlighted by the Cuban Missile Crisis.
As the “father” of the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco the Mexican Ambassador Alfonso Garcia Robles explained the concept of nuclear-weapon free zones as a step toward global disarmament:
Non-governmental organizations have proposed that the following States be included in the Middle East process: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the Palistinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen. In looking at the list of potential members, we see that a nuclear-weapon free zone is not the only issue on the political agenda. We also see that the possibilities of action for non-governmental organizations to work on security issues is not the same in each country. There is deep mistrust and rivalries among many of these States.
Thus, it is probably necessary for non-governmental organizations outside of the area to organize what are called Track II initiatives – a non-official way to discuss regional security issues and to provide policy advice to governments. A first step is to identify opportunities, areas of mutual interest, and then to make recommendations where progress can be made and where governmental diplomatic efforts could be made. Civil society organizations can also reach out to youth in the Middle East who are interested in creating positive changes with in the region.
A first opportunity to present proposals to government representatives will be the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT Review) to be held at the U.N. in New York during this January 2022. Nuclear-weapon free zones as well as the needed confidence-building measures have provided an important focus of earlier NPT Reviews.
The Association of World Citizens has stressed the importance of Nuclear-weapon Free Zones at earlier NPT Reviews and will do so again for the January 2022 Review.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.
Featured Image Photo by Anthony Beck in Pexels.
The Association of World Citizens strives to respond to situations in this turbulent and frequently violent world by making proposals for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and by making proposals for developing appropriate forms of government, often based on con-federalism, decentralization, and transfrontier cooperation. A current focus is on the situations in Yemen (1) and Somalia. (2)
In March 2015, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, held by a rebal force, the Ansar Allah Movement, commonly called the Houthis. Since that date, the armed conflict has continued, destroying the fragile economy, displacing a large number of persons, creating a humanitarian tragedy. So far, all mediation efforts have failed. The situation becomes more complex each day due in part to the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
A calligraphic logo used by Ansar Allah, a Shia movement in Yemen commonly called the Houthis, with Arabic text: “Oh ye who believe, be supporters of God” (Quran 61:14). By Ansar Allah (Houthis), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
The state of Yemen was the creation of two separate units.
One was the southern part originally known as the Aden Colony and the Eastern and Western Aden Protectorates under British rule. The northern part of the country had been under Ottoman rule until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. From 1918 until 1962, it was ruled by Imams. In 1962, there was a military coup organized by officers who had been trained in Egypt and were influenced by Nasser’s views on Arab nationalism. The coup was followed by an eight-year-long civil war between the military forces called “republicans” and the forces of the Imam Bader. The republicans won, but the government was weak and unstable.
The south of the country after the British left took the name of the Prople’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, the two segments of Yemen were united, and the Republic of Yemen was established. However, the euphoria which had existed at the start was short-lived. The people in the south had been promised that their lives would be bettered after unification. Life did not improve, and many in the south felt marginalized. Today, there is a strong sentiment in the south for separation and independence.
When the fighting in Yemen stops, the creation of appropriate forms of government will have to be found. The return to two separate states presents real difficulties as people have moved from their original home areas due to changing economic conditions and to the armed conflict. Yet a single centralized government also seems impossible. As Martin Dent points out, where there is strong identity politics, there must be forms of government that fill the gap between unity and independence.(3) There is a need for Track II efforts to discuss possible structures of government in Yemen.
Muhammad Al-Badr was the last king of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen (North Yemen) and leader of the monarchist regions during the North Yemen Civil War (1962–1970). By Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Somalia. Similar Conditions.
In Somalia, we have very similar conditions. The two Somali colonial areas, one under the control of Britan and the other under that of Italy were combined into one state in 1961. There had been a period of U.N. trusteeship after the end of the Second World War when the area of Italian colonial status had ended and before the two colonial territories were united. The political culture of the two territories was different. This impact of the colonial legacy was an element leading to the current situation. In January 1991, the military government of Siyad Barre was overthrown, and now different parts of the country demand independence, in particular Somaliland and Puntland, though their boundary claims overlap.
In addition to regional demands for independence, there is an armed Islamist movement, Al-Shabaab, which poses regional and international security issues which continue. Mediation efforts by the United Nations have not progressed. Again Track II efforts may be helpful to find governmental structures able to provide autonomy without dividing the Somalia state into three or more independent states.
(4) The Association of World Citizens stresses the need for creative thinking on the structure of a state, on the need for regional cooperation and a willingness to negotiate in good faith.
Military portrait of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia’s longest-serving President. By Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
(1) Helen Lackner. Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State.
(London: Saqi Books, 2017, 330pp).
(2) Sarah G. Phillips. When There Was No Aid: War and Peace in Somaliland ( Ithica: Cornell University Press, 2020, 227pp.)
(3) Martin J. Dent. Identity Politics: Filling the Gap Between Federalism and Independence.
(Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004, 232 pp.)
(4) Hurst Hannum. Autonomy, Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990, 503 pp.)
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.