GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Gulf Non-Government Organizations (NGO) Remain Key in Advancing the Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone Middle East (WMDFZME) Agenda
Paper Proposal Text :
First proposed by the governments of Iran and Egypt, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution 3263 to demilitarize the Middle East over four decades ago, formally idealizing the establishment of a regional nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East. The scope of the zone has since widened to include all WMDs, though progress on a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone Middle East (WMDFZME) agenda has stalled entirely since its initial proposal in 1974. Yet, as the region holds its breath following the successful implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran (JCPOA), advancing the first full nuclear fuel cycle in a regional state, it is time to renew the conversation towards a comprehensive WMDFZME. Most recently in February 2016, even the Foreign Minister of Egypt noted that the world had moved closer to an achievable zone, contingent on Iran meeting its obligations to not pursue nuclear weapons. Although parameters of the zone remain hotly debated, especially by Gulf countries, the region is rapidly changing and the Gulf is in a key position to lead the conversation on a WMDFZME.

Under constantly shifting circumstances in the region, it appears unilateral or direct government-to-government interaction has become more difficult, further obstructing the WMDFZME agenda. Indeed, as regional governments continue to transform, it is still worthwhile for the international community to engage other non-governmental organizations as an extension of official diplomacy to generate progress. NGOs, especially those geographically located in the Gulf, could be particularly instrumental in shaping the conversation. Bolstering the work of academic institutions, professional associations, training or research centers in Gulf states could certainly further a peaceful nuclear agenda, an ideal first step. These entities, typically endowed with top-tier professionals and facilities, are well-positioned to pursue backchannel options towards a more realizable WMDFZME, advancing candid conversations on a more multilateral approach that will support other prospects for greater regional cooperation.

Certainly, bolstering backchannels or Track II or III diplomacy through institutes not formally affiliated with the government is not a new concept in the Middle East, nor the Gulf. Although many NGOs still fall under strict government purview, existing and informal relationships can leverage greater private-public cooperation and be paralleled with more formal efforts to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) across the region. Namely, institutions could facilitate informal, candid discussions through short-term projects, initiatives, or other programmatic work towards a WMDFZME, including nuclear energy collaboration or cooperation. As such, trainings, workshops, table-top exercises, and ongoing diplomatic efforts could all contribute to raising awareness on the benefits of a zone and ridding the region of nefarious materials.

Further, additional support for regionally-driven initiatives by NGOs, with an emphasis on rising institutions in the Gulf, could increase expertise across the region and build-up other necessary confidence-building measures towards a verifiable zone. And to parallel efforts in demilitarizing the region, other emerging, potential areas of cooperation could also be discussed, such as the increasing call for peaceful applications of nuclear energy development in the region. In particular, opportunity for a regional, shared nuclear fuel cycle is becoming ever more real. Similarly, there are options for the region to support a state-based division of labor in the fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment or management of nuclear waste.

In short, first, this paper will cover previous efforts and ongoing scope of Track II and Track III diplomacy in a WMD security context in the region, with an emphasis on the Gulf, in addition to how these efforts can be reassessed to advance a WMDFZME. Second, the paper will outline key international organizations in instrumenting a WMDFZME, and what regionally-based organizations may be appropriate to act as extensions of ‘official diplomacy’. Further, steps on how to indigenize efforts towards a WMD-free zone will be explored, and how to effectively ‘translate’ or ‘socialize’ new methods of approach on security affairs into discernible policy options, especially in countries that are on the path to acquire nuclear power (e.g. the United Arab Emirates and Jordan). Third, potential limitations of NGO efforts will be assessed, including the “autonomy dilemma” and its possible impacts on a WMDFZME.