THE CASE FOR A UNITED NATIONS VERIFICATION AGENCY:
Disarmament Under Effective International Control
A. Walter Dorn
Originally published as Working Paper 26, Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security,
July 1990. (The proposal remains as relevant as ever …)
It is now universally recognized that arms control treaties should be effectively verified. The most objective, flexible and cost-effective means to verify the majority of multilateral treaties would be through a new agency under the United Nations. As a cooperative international effort to develop both the technology and the political framework for arms control verification, a United Nations verification agency (UNVA) would speed up and help secure the disarmament process by (i) verifying a number of existing and future treaties, (ii) investigating alleged breaches of treaties and (iii) certifying, upon request, that voluntary arms control and confidence-building measures have been carried out. This paper presents the case for such a proposal, outlines a possible institutional configuration, considers the possibilities for growth and discusses the challenges facing the establishment of such an agency.
Tous conviennent désormais que les traités de limitation des armements doivent faire l’objet d’une vérification efficace. La façon la plus objective, la plus souple et la plus rentable de vérifier l’observance de la majorité des traités multilatéraux consisterait à constituer pour cela un nouvel organisme qui relèverait des Nations-Unies. En tant que réalisation internationale issue de la coopération et mandatée pour mettre au point les régimes technologiques et politiques de vérification, un organisme des Nations-Unies chargé de la vérification (ONUV) accélérerait le processus de désarmement et contribuerait à le renforcer.
Le principal rôle de l’ONUV serait de promouvoir et d’améliorer les mécanismes de vérification des traités sur la limitation des armements, y compris les accords multilatéraux de désarmement et de limitation des armements ainsi que les mesures de confiance et les moyens unilatéraux adoptés par les pays. L’organisme propose s’occuperait surtout des traités négociés sous l’égide des Nations-Unies (y compris la Conférence du désarmement, a Genève), mais il ne lui serait pas interdit d’intervenir dans les pourparlers sur des traités régionaux et bilatéraux, si les parties le lui demandaient (p. ex., les superpuissances).
L’ONUV pourrait aussi faire à titre spécial la vérification d’activités à la demande de la partie inspectée (ou avec sa permission), si les traités en question ne contenaient aucune disposition à cet effet. Ainsi, pendant qu’un traité de désarmement serait négocié, les États pourraient inviter l’organisme à effectuer des inspections spéciales en guise de mesures de confiance. Une fois le traité signé, le nombre des inspections pourraient s’accroître, et la collectivité internationale acquerrait ainsi de précieuses connaissances. Enfin, quand le traité entrerait en vigueur (après avoir été ratifié par un nombre approprié de pays), l’organisme pourrait s’acquitter de toutes les activités prévues dans le traité (c’est-à-dire appliquer les clauses du traité intéressant la vérification).
L’organisme pourrait aussi servir d’instance-cadre qui regrouperait diverses agences existantes ou en devenir, chargées de vérifier un seul traité. Selon les besoins, on pourrait élargir le rôle de l’ONUV pour y inclure la vérification des dispositions sur la limitation des armements contenues dans les traités de paix, les accords de cessez-le-feu et les déclarations unilatérales (concernant, par exemple, le retrait de troupes). L’ONUV pourrait, en fin de compte, devenir un service d’enquête pour les Nations Unies.
Le présent document fair valoir l’à-propos d’une telle proposition, il présente une structure institutionnelle possible, il examine les perspectives de croissance, et il analyse les défis que comporterait la mise sur pied d’un tel organisme.
II. PROPOSED FUNCTIONS AND BACKGROUND
1. What is the history of the idea?
2. What are the current governmental positions?
3. Why establish a UN Verification Agency?
4. Under what authority could the UNVA operate?
5. Doesn’t verification have to be treaty specific?
V. AGENCY ADMINISTRATION
6. What could be the relationship between the UNVA and other international bodies?
7. Who will “watch the watchmen”?
8. How would the UNVA gather its information?
VI. OTHER ISSUES
9. What are possible objections to such an Agency?
VII. ACTION AGENDA
10. What are some immediate steps that can be taken?
FIGURES AND TABLES
Figure 1. Relationship between the proposed UN verification agency and other international bodies
Table 1. The verification provisions in multilateral arms control treaties and the UN role in treaty implementation
Table 2. Governmental proposals, since World War II, for international verification organizations
Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.
— John F. Kennedy, 1961
It seems to us that it could be possible to set up under the aegis of the United Nations a mechanism for extensive international verification of compliance with agreements to lessen international tension, limit weapons, and to monitor the military situation in conflict areas.
— Mikhail Gorbachev, 1987
Disarmament under effective international control has been a goal of the international community for decades. Each year, the UN General Assembly reaffirms it in resolutions, and the ultimate objective of “general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” is cited in most multilateral arms control treaties. Although almost all governments support the development of international control of disarmament in principle, there has been little opportunity, until recently, to carry it out.
Table 1. Multilateral arms control treaties, their verification provisions and the UN role in implementation.
Verification provisions in agreement
U.N. role in implementationa
Use of chemical and biological weapons
Under General Assembly resolutions (incl. 42/37 C of 1987)b Secretary-General is given mandate to conduct investigations in response to allegations made by any Member State
Any measures of a military nature in Antarctica
Qualified parties may carry out on-site inspections and aerial observation any time, anywhere in Antarctica
Parties encouraged to develop cooperative working relations with U. N. specialized agencies having interest in Antarctica
Partial Test Ban Treaty
Nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water
Outer Space Treaty
Nuclear weapons in outer space. Military use of celestial bodies
Parties may request to observe flights of space objects and may carry out on-site inspections on the Moon and other celestial bodies on basis of reciprocity
Parties to inform Secretary-General of their activities in outer space
Treaty of Tlatelolco
Nuclear weapons in Latin America
Special regional organs created. IAEAc safeguards applied to nuclear activities. Special inspections may be carried out by IAEA or by regional organs
Reports may be submitted to Security Council and General Assembly through Secretary-General, in connection with inspections and in the event of violations
Wider dissemination of nuclear weapons
IAEA safeguards applied to non-nuclear-weapons state parties
IAEA reports regularly to General Assembly, and is to report to Security Council and General Assembly in case of violations re. safeguardsd
|1971||Sea-Bed Treaty||Nuclear weapons on ocean floor||Parties may observe activities on the sea-bed using own means or with the assistance of another party of “through international procedures within the framework of the United Nations”||
Any party may refer matters of non-compliance to Security Council. In review conference declarations, nations are requested to provide to provide
U .N. Secretariat with information, incl. On the regulatory measures taken i.e., legislation.
|1972||Biological Weapons Convention||Production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons||Security Council may initiate an investigation and each state party is obliged to cooperate||Any party may lodge a complaint with Security Councild|
|1977||ENMOD Convention||Military or any other hostile use of environmental modification (ENMOD) techniques||Security Council may initiate an investigation and each state party is obliged to cooperate||Any party may lodge complaints with Security Council. Secretary-General must distribute summary of Committee’s “findings of fact” and expert views to all parties d,e|
|1979||Agreement on the Moon Other Celestial Bodies||Any hostile act on, or using, the moon. Placing nuclear weapons on, or in orbit around, the moon||Any party may carry out on-site inspections on its own or with assistance of another party or through “international procedures within the framework of the United Nations”||Secretary-General to receive information from parties carrying out relevant activities. Secretary-General to assist in settlement of certain disputes d,e|
|1981||Excessively Injurious Weapons Convention||Uses of certain conventional weapons e.g., mines, booby traps and incendiary weapons against civilians)||No provisions||Under certain circumstances, parties must make available to Secretary-General or to a UN mission all information concerning minefields, mines and booby-traps.e|
|1985||Treaty of Rarotonga||Nuclear explosive devices in the South Pacific||IAEA safeguards applied to parties Consultative Committee may initiate||No provision|
a Every international agreement entered into by a Member State of the United Nations must be registered with the U. N. Secretariat in accordance with Article 102 of the U. N. Charter.
b See also General Assembly resolutions 35/144 C, 36/96 C, 37/98 D, 38/187 C, 39/65 E, 42/37 C, 43/74 A and Security Council Resolutions 582 (1986), 612 (1988) and 620 (1988).
c The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an autonomous organization having a relationship agreement with the United Nations
d The United Nations has a role in connection with review conferences.
e The Secretary-General is depositary of the agreement.
Sources: United Nations Disarmament Yearbook 1988, Chapter 5, United Nations, New York, 1989; and Status of Multilateral Arms Regulation and Disarmament Agreements, Third Edition, United Nations, New York, 1988.
During the first two decades, UN disarmament negotiations were deadlocked because the West charged that the East wanted “disarmament without control” and the East charged that the West wanted “control without disarmament.” In the early sixties, both sides began to display some flexibility and minimal arms control measures have been possible, accompanied by weak verification provisions and strong reliance on limited surveillance by the superpowers. Table 1 lists the existing multilateral treaties, summarizes their verification provisions and describes the UN role in their implementation.
More recently, under the leadership of President Gorbachev, there has been a momentous shift in Soviet policy. The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies are now willing to accept far-ranging international inspections — in certain cases even before negotiations are completed. Furthermore, in 1989 the Soviet Union and the United States, for the first time, jointly co-sponsored a resolution in the General Assembly aimed at strengthening “the role and effectiveness of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security.” Because of these and other fundamental changes, it is now possible for the international community to embark on a path of progressive disarmament “under effective international control” that heretofore could only have been dreamed of.
Thus the question arises anew: What international mechanisms are necessary to develop “strict and effective international control”? In today’s context, control means treaty verification, compliance promotion and elements of treaty enforcement. Verification is the first and critical element of arms control implementation. Many proposals for international verification have been suggested in the past and several are currently on the table but few, if any, have been formulated in sufficient detail. For instance, the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement recently adopted the proposal for “the establishment of an integrated multilateral verification system” [Non-Aligned Movement, 1989], but a description in any detail of such a system has not yet been put forward. The present work is an attempt to formulate possible structures and functions for a UN verification agency to facilitate global and regional disarmament, suitable for the new international climate.1
The primary function of the proposed UN verification agency (UNVA) would be to promote and enhance verification and compliance with arms control initiatives — including multilateral disarmament and arms limitation treaties, as well as confidence-building and unilateral measures undertaken by countries. The proposed agency would deal mostly with treaties being negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations (including the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament), but it would not be prohibited from playing a role in regional and bilateral treaties, if requested by the parties (e.g., the superpowers) to do so.
The UNVA could also carry out ad hoc verification of activities at the request of the inspected party (or with its permission) where no provisions exist within treaties to cover such a request. For instance, as a disarmament treaty is being negotiated states might invite the agency to carry out special inspections as a confidence-building measure. Once the treaty is signed, increased inspection activities could begin and valuable international expertise could be gained. Finally, when the treaty enters into force (after a given number of ratifications), the agency could carry out full activities as provided for in the treaty (i.e., treaty-specified verification).
The agency could also serve as an umbrella organization to tie together various existing and planned “single-treaty” verification organizations. As the need arises, the tasks of the agency could be broadened to include verification of the arms control provisions within peace treaties, cease-fire accords and unilateral declarations (such as troop withdrawals). The agency could eventually serve as an investigative arm of the United Nations.
The powers of the agency would vary from agreement to agreement and might include measures for data collection, data evaluation and possibly responding to violations. In order to explore some possibilities for the structure and function of the agency, several questions are posed and discussed in this paper.
1. What is the History of the Idea?
Proposals for an international verification body have been made by numerous governments, groups and individuals.
In the two decades prior to and following World War II, there was strong agreement among most nations on the need to establish an international control agency with substantial powers of inspection and enforcement. In 1930, a draft disarmament convention was approved which made provision for the establishment of a Permanent Disarmament Commission with powers of intrusive inspection. This idea was expanded at the World Disarmament Conference in the MacDonald Plan of 1933 (proposed by the UK and supported by US President Roosevelt). The Plan went so far as to provide a mechanism for the Commission to call upon witnesses to testify regarding their nation’s compliance. However, Germany announced its intention to leave the Conference and the proposals were not further developed.
After the war, the nations of the world envisaged a strong international mechanism for disarmament verification and enforcement. The UN Charter called upon the Security Council to formulate “plans to be submitted to the Members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments” (Article 26). Various commissions were set up by the Security Council but the members were not able to reach consensus, and the plans called for under the Charter have yet to be submitted to Member States.
Many proposals for control systems were made by governments at UN meetings since World War II. Table 2 lists the proposals for various international bodies to verify multiple treaties or the disarmament of more than one class of weapons.
Table 2. Governmental proposals, since World War II, for international verification organizations or systems (Year; Nation(s) proposing; Name of proposed system/org; UN Doc.)
1945 United Nations: System for the regulation of armaments UN Charter, Art. 26
1946 USA (Baruch Plan): International Atomic Development Authority AEC, First Yr., No.1
1946 Canada: Permanent International Commission of Control A/C.1/81
1946 General Assembly: International system of control and inspection, Res. A/1/41
1947 USSR: International Control Commission1, AEC/24
1949 France: Central control authority, S/1372
1950 USA: Conventional Armaments Administration, S/1690
1951 France, UK, USA: International organ of control, A/1287
1953 USA: UN Disarmament and Atomic Development Authority, DC/SC.1/5 (DC/53)
1953 USA: International atomic energy agency (IAEA)1, A/PV.470
1954 WEU member states: Armaments Control Agency CD/37
1955 USSR International Control Organ1, DC/SC.1/26/Rev.2
1955 France: International Disarmament Organization, DC/SC.1/32
1960 Canada, France, Italy, UK, USA: International Disarmament Organization (IDO) TNDC/3
1961 USA, USSR: International Disarmament Organization, A/4879, ENDC/2
1962 Poland (Rapacki Plan): Special control body, ENDC/C.1/1
1972 Netherlands: International Disarmament Organization, CCD/PV.560, A/S-12/22
1973 Sweden: International Disarmament Organization, CCD/PV.601 & PV.610
1978 France: International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA), A/S-10/AC.1/7
1978 Italy: Permanent international verification organ, CCD/568
1978 Sri Lanka: World Disarmament Authority, A/S-10/AC.1/9/Rev.1
1982 Italy: Centre for the Verification of Disarmament Agreements, A/S-12/AC.1/19
1982 Japan: International verification unit, A/S-12/AC.1/43
1986 Canada: General international verification organization, A/41/422
1988 Six Nation Initiative: Integrated multilateral verification system, A/40/825
1988 USSR: International monitoring and verification agency, A/S-15/PV.12
1988 Bulgaria, Czech., USSR: International verification agency, A/S-15/AC.1/15
1989 Non-Aligned Nations: Integrated multilateral verification system, A/44/551
One of the most famous, the 1946 Baruch Plan, called for the creation of an International Atomic Development Authority to control all atomic energy activities potentially dangerous to the world. The Authority was to license all nuclear activities and would lease, under safeguards, fissionable materials.
In 1960, the United States proposed “the establishment of a United Nations verification body to be available to any nation which seeks to prove its own peaceful intention in times of crisis and to set at rest the anxieties of other nations” [United States, 1961].
The Soviet Union maintained, until the mid-1980s, several major objections to the control agencies as they were being proposed by the West. It was opposed to any control mechanisms which begin operating before disarmament takes place. It was opposed to monitoring of any armaments that were not being disarmed, as it felt this would be a form of legalized espionage. The Soviet Union also would not forfeit its veto power in the Security Council on matters relating to punishment for violations. The United States, on the other hand, saw these functions as necessary for effective verification and enforcement of treaties.
Because of these East/West differences, almost all of the governmental proposals presented at the UN and elsewhere were never developed in detail. Often the written description of a proposal amounted to a few lines or paragraphs. There were three notable exceptions: the International Atomic Energy Agency (which was proposed by President Eisenhower in 1953 and which came into being in 1957), the International Disarmament Organization proposal and the International Satellite Monitoring Agency proposal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) promotes the peaceful uses of atomic energy and implements safeguards to verify that materials used by participating states are not diverted for military purposes. Eisenhower’s primary concern at the time of his initial proposal was to begin creating some mechanisms of international inspections for arms control and that objective has been achieved in part. But it was not until ten years after the IAEA was created that it actually acquired a role in the implementation of an arms control treaty: the Treaty of Tlatelolco. As indicated in Table 1, the agency was subsequently employed to help verify two other arms control treaties the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga).
The establishment of an International Disarmament Organization (IDO) was called for in the 1961 Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations (McCloy-Zorin Agreement). The agency was to be created “within the framework of the United Nations” in order to monitor “all disarmament measures from beginning to end under such strict and effective international control as would provide assurance that all parties are honouring their obligations.” The agreement was negotiated between the US and the USSR and endorsed unanimously by the UN General Assembly on December 13, 1961. Over the next two years, the US and the USSR both submitted substantial draft treaties for general and complete disarmament, including detailed but different provisions for an IDO. Although the East/West differences of opinion described above were never resolved, the principles themselves have not been repudiated.
An International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA) was proposed by the President of France in 1978. The idea was examined in a UN study [United Nations, 1981] which concluded, among other things, that ISMA could make a valuable contribution to arms control verification, and that nothing in international law would prohibit it from carrying out a large range of proposed monitoring functions. At the time, both superpowers expressed opposition to the idea of an ISMA because it represented an encroachment on their monopoly of satellite reconnaissance. However, the Soviet Union has since come out in favour of the idea and has even suggested that ISMA become a part of a larger UN monitoring and verification agency.
Many proposals for international control organizations have been made by individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, but it is beyond the scope of this article to review all of these individually.2 The majority of these proposals were not detailed and merely expressed support for a UN organ for monitoring and verification. There were a few notable exceptions. In the 1960s, Wainhouse prepared studies for the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency which proposed the creation of a UN Peace Observation Corps [Wainhouse, 1966] and an international verification agency [Wainhouse, 1968]. Alva Myrdal, the former Swedish Ambassador to the Geneva Disarmament Conference, tirelessly advocated the creation of an International Disarmament Control Organization [Myrdal, 1974]. One of the earliest advocates for an expanded UN role in monitoring and verification was Howard Kurtz, whose vision of a technologically developed United Nations is described by Dorn . Recently a proposal for an International Monitoring Centre, similar to the agency proposed here, was advanced by Tirman . Many NGOs, including the Center for War/Peace Studies [Hudson, 1989], Parliamentarians Global Action, World Association for World Federation, the Markland Policy Group  and Science for Peace are now actively promoting the creation of a UN verification body. In fact, at the Third UN Special Session on Disarmament, over one third of the 120 NGOs invited to make oral statements, specifically made such a recommendation [United Nations, 1988].
2. What are the Current Governmental Positions?
Both superpowers have now dramatically and substantially reversed their former positions regarding the establishment of a UN control/verification agency. The Soviet Union has stated that it is now willing to accept wide-ranging and intrusive inspections and is in favour of a strong verification role for the United Nations. At the Third UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1988, Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze  proposed the creation of an “international monitoring and verification agency” under the auspices of the United Nations. As well, he suggested that a “multilateral centre to assist in verification” could be set up under the Secretary-General to “perform such functions as promptly sending, on instructions from the Secretary-General, missions to areas of international conflict and rendering assistance in verification matters to the parties of bilateral and regional agreements.” In the 1988 regular session, he cited “the acute need for new mechanisms of verification and control” and proposed that a world-wide seismic monitoring system and an International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA) could become part of the agency. Other socialist states have submitted similar proposals.
The United States, on the other hand, strongly opposes proposals to create a UN verification agency. It cast the single negative vote against the 1988 verification resolution which initiated a study by the Secretary-General on the UN role in verification. In explaining its vote, the United States expressed the view that any verification arrangement must be developed and agreed upon by the negotiating parties. The United States “did not see how the Secretary-General could undertake an in-depth study of the role of the United Nations in the field of verification in the abstract, in the absence of any parameters that specific agreements might provide for such a role in individual cases” [United Nations, 1989]. The United Kingdom expressed a similar view, but voted for the resolution because it felt a study on various aspects of verification would be useful.
Canada, the main driving force behind the development of verification resolutions in the General Assembly, has consistently taken a progressive but cautious approach in an effort to achieve consensus. Canada has been seeking the development of UN verification measures short of a comprehensive agency and has expressed the view that separate verification organizations created under different treaties could serve as stepping-stones to the development of a general international verification organization (UN document A/41/422). Most other NATO allies, as well as Japan, maintain similarly cautious views.
Almost all other nations support the development of a UN verification system. As mentioned above, the heads of state or government of the 102-nation Non-Aligned Movement recently endorsed the proposal for a verification system within the United Nations. The members of the Six-Nation Initiative (Argentina, Greece, India, Mexico, Sweden, Tanzania), led by Sweden, spearheaded the effort to promote the establishment of a UN verification system. They submitted a draft resolution in 1988 to endorse this goal, but it was subsequently merged with one drafted by Canada, France and the Netherlands. In the final resolution (A/43/81B), the General Assembly recognized that “the United Nations can make a significant contribution in the field of verification”, but left it to the Secretary-General’s expert group to consider the nature of the UN role. The study is due in the fall of 1990.
3. Why Establish a UN Verification Agency?
There are many reasons to establish a UN verification agency. The most important are:
i. To speed up and help secure the arms control process. By developing a nucleus of international expertise before treaties are signed, verification will be available when it is most needed: at the beginning of the treaty implementation. Just as the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was in existence before the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed and could quickly be extended to cover the treaty, so too a UNVA could be in place and have acquired expertise before treaties are signed. If the IAEA safeguards system had not been already in existence, the completion of the Non-Proliferation Treaty might have been indefinitely delayed. The safeguards system also facilitated the conclusion of the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco and the IAEA was given a verification role in connection with the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga (see Table 1). Similarly, an embryonic UN verification capability will be available for expansion when required under new treaties. This could greatly facilitate progress in arms control.
The UNVA experts could work closely with treaty negotiators to provide technical information and, if so requested, to design certain elements of the verification system. The agency could perform trial inspections in order to test the verification provisions and methods being developed for the treaty.
Before and during disarmament negotiations, the UNVA could, as already mentioned, perform preliminary inspections within states which request them. For instance, the UNVA could verify the size of certain declared arms stocks. This might serve as a welcome boost to negotiations, especially in situations where current military capabilities are a point of contention (e.g., as was the case for the chemical weapons stocks held by the superpowers). Serving as an invited observer, the UN agency would help promote military transparency and openness.
Most existing arms control treaties lack effective verification provisions (see Table 1). Efforts are now being made by governments, as well as many non-governmental groups, to strengthen verification of many of these treaties. In some cases, like the Biological Weapons Convention, the matter is quite urgent because of immediate proliferation concerns and because of scientific developments (like the genetic engineering of novel and ever more dangerous bio-warfare agents). To develop verification mechanisms in the shortest possible time, the UNVA could be assigned verification roles for a number of these treaties. This would help solidify progress already achieved in multilateral arms control.
ii. To reduce the costs and improve tile efficiency of verification. The monetary cost of verification can be very high: for some treaties, many million dollars annually. Since a UNVA would be verifying a number of treaties, many scientific, technical and administrative resources could be shared. For example, satellite data might prove useful for verification of several treaties so a team of expert image- and photo-interpreters could be established within the agency. Also a common communications system between the agency headquarters and inspectors acting under different treaties could be employed. The international community could avoid substantial duplication of time, personnel and institutional machinery, as well as of cost, which would accompany the establishment of a new verification organization and a new system for each new treaty. The early establishment of a UNVA would flatten the suggested “funding bubble” (which occurs at the beginning of disarmament) by distributing the cost of verification over a longer time period. Even if a few treaties were verified by dedicated (single-treaty) verification organizations, it would be desirable to have an umbrella organization to coordinate and improve their activities.
iii. To provide a true control mechanism over the international arms race — one in which all nations could have confidence. Unless effective and objective international control mechanisms are developed, there can be neither large-scale permanent disarmament nor a lasting world peace. The United Nations, which has the “central role and primary responsibility in the sphere of disarmament” [UNSSOD I, 1978], is ideally suited to acquire such authority and provides the only logical framework for a multilateral verification agency. Currently, the UN role in arms control and disarmament is largely confined to discussion and to assisting in the negotiation of treaties. The UNVA would allow the United Nations to take an active and important role in the implementation of these treaties. As is evident from the many peace-keeping and peace-making functions entrusted to the United Nations, the nations of the world are gaining increasing confidence in the impartiality and objectivity of the Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat.
Former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was adamant that an international disarmament control organization, as was being proposed by the West in 1960, be placed under the United Nations and not be set up as a specialized agency. Hammarskjold felt that the creation of an independent disarmament organization would be “a hollowing out of the UN of one of its main fields of activity” [Urquhart, 1972]. He elaborates:
If the disarmament control were to be lifted out of the United Nations. the result would be a weakening of international cooperation all around as the UN would be robbed of a main part of its substantive content without new and really viable substitutes being created.
Most nations would prefer inspection by UN personnel rather than by agents of other states or from many different verification organizations. Even the superpowers, who have accused each other of many treaty violations, may see benefits in giving the UNVA certain responsibilities (be it ad hoc or treaty-specified) in bilateral areas, once the efficiency and impartiality of the agency is demonstrated.
The UNVA would allow nations which have little or no technical expertise of their own to participate in the verification process. Each nation party has a right and a need to be fully knowledgeable about all other nations’ compliance with agreements they have all signed. The most universal and non-discriminatory verification mechanisms are the most desirable because they would inspire the greatest confidence and trust. Since most nations cannot afford independent monitoring, the verification of most current multilateral treaties, including both data collection and interpretation, is left largely to the superpowers. With the greater world-wide military and political interests and involvement of the superpowers, many countries are not sure whether to accept or reject the charges and counter-charges that have been made or how much credence to give to them.
It is important that leading nations, especially the superpowers, set an example for others. By submitting themselves to various forms of international verification, they would help create a standard of increased transparency and openness in arms control areas. International verification is also an area where middle powers can show effective leadership. There is considerable expertise and experience in remote sensing, monitoring and verification in a number of middle power nations. Canada, for instance, has an extensive verification research program [Canada, 1988] and a great deal of expertise in satellite [Buckingham, 1986], airborne, seismic, and chemical/biological agent [Canada, 1985] sensing.
The action of a UNVA would also help ensure a strong civil, as well as international, contribution to verification. It would help build common security based on common verification among nations. The alternative, an adversarial verification system operated exclusively by the military establishments of nation states, would incur a degree of bias unacceptable for multilateral treaties. After data have been collected and the facts established, there must be a decision on treaty compliance. This requires, according to specific treaty provisions, interpretation of both the data and the treaty. Questions of compliance often become extremely politicized. Under certain treaties, the agency could be given powers of interpretation. Under all treaties, facts presented by a proven, objective and impartial agency would be helpful in depoliticizing the interpretation process, however it is carried out. In several other areas of international affairs there are already examples of impartial international organizations or panels which make decisions about treaty obligations and violations. Examples include the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATE) panels and various human rights bodies.
Once a decision has been made that a violation has occurred, the international community has a responsibility to respond in such a way as to stop the illegal behaviour and deter further violations. However, there is at the present time no system of international sanctions for violators of arms control agreements. A large part of the problem has been the lack of an international body other than the Security Council which could pronounce the occurrence of such a violation with authority. In practice the Security Council has rarely been resorted to in such cases. A speedy determination about the facts of non-compliance will assist nations (through the Security Council or through treaty-specific provisions or otherwise) to develop and implement appropriate responses. Sanctions imposed at an early stage may be sufficient to prevent further non-compliance, whereas a delayed determination may be too late. Again, it would be worthwhile to examine the developing sanctions systems in the trade and human rights areas.
If in the future, a nation were to adopt military or warlike ambitions, the UNVA could help identify, at an early date, improper activities or treaty violations (including violations of the UN Charter). Any nation’s refusal to participate in a UNVA programme would send a strong warning signal. The verification safeguards implemented after the First World War (i.e., the control commissions of the Treaty of Versailles) were not enforced after 1925 [Noel-Baker, 1960]. An early response to Nazi militarism was impeded in part because of monitoring uncertainties. Sir Winston Churchill later remarked:
The strict enforcement at any time till 1934 of the disarmament clauses of the Peace Treaty would have guarded indefinitely, without violence or bloodshed, the peace and safety of mankind. But this was neglected while the infringements remained petty, and shunned as they assumed serious proportion. Thus the final safeguard of a long peace was cast away.
iv. To allow “national technical means” to remain classified. If one of the superpowers, or any other nation, obtains evidence of non-compliance or suspicious activity, it may not wish to reveal its sources of information, but it may wish to see the matter investigated. In requesting a UNVA investigation, the state would not have to reveal the details of either its secret intelligence sources or its “national technical means of verification” (for instance, ultra-secret satellite monitoring methods).
Under an expanded mandate the agency could also provide other valuable services, including:
Enhancing speedy responses by the Secretary-General and the international community to urgent needs other than disarmament verification. The international group of scientists and other experts employed and trained by the UNVA would possess a range of expertise in various fields. They could be called upon by the Secretary-General to provide flexible monitoring for crisis management. The agency and its personnel, being already in existence, could be quickly set into motion, expanded and deployed as required by new agreements and circumstances. By providing valuable information, experience and reliable technical expertise, the agency could allow the Secretary-General to engage in preventive diplomacy before a crisis point is reached.
The agency could assist UN peace-keeping and peace observation missions on short notice. The United Nations has not yet been able to incorporate advanced technology into its peace-keeping and peace-making activities. The UNVA and the UN’s peace-keeping and peace-making activities could mutually reinforce each other.
4. Under What Authority Could the UNVA Operate?
The UNVA could operate under authority from arms control agreements, from special invitations by nations, and under authority entrusted to United Nations organs by the UN Charter. The current roles of the United Nations in the implementation of existing arms control agreements, as summarized in Table 1, are largely passive ones. These arise both from provisions in the treaties and from subsequent agreements (or resolutions) by governments. The possible types of authority for a future agency are now examined in more detail:
– Authority from existing treaties which provide for reporting to the UN. Two types of reporting are applicable here: reporting of non-compliance by one state against another and reporting by nations on aspects of their own military activities. As indicated in Table 1, several existing treaties allow for reporting of suspected non-compliance to either the Security Council or the Secretary-General. These include the Sea-Bed Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the ENMOD Convention and the Excessively Injurious Weapons Convention. Agreements which request reporting of national activities to the Secretary-General include the Outer Space Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Excessively Injurious Weapons Convention. The United Nations Secretariat does not currently employ scientists who could evaluate or certify any such reports. If the Secretary-General or the Security Council is called upon to investigate a reported violation, they must request assistance from outside the UN Secretariat. The use in part of outside experts, whose names would be supplied by governments, would probably be desirable for the near future. But the Secretary-General should have within the organization at least a few scientists or technical staff who could make preliminary evaluations of reports and be capable of organizing verification teams from the roster of national experts at short notice.
– Authority from additional protocols and amendments to existing arms control treaties. Since many arms control agreements lack satisfactory, objective provisions for verification, there is a desire amongst many parties to find ways to enhance verification. For example, at review conferences for the Biological Weapons Convention, substantial efforts have been and will continue to be devoted to enhancing verification mechanisms. To allow for treaty verification, as opposed to the ad hoc investigation of allegations, additional protocols could be signed. These could confer authority upon the UNVA for certain, if not all, verification functions.
– Authority from future arms control agreements. While the inclusion of UNVA verification provisions in future treaties would not be mandatory, it would be highly desirable for almost all treaties. Verification clauses could specify the scope of the UNVA mandate, as well as the role of other types of verification (e.g., national technical means). Examples of possible future arms control measures include: a nuclear test ban, conventional disarmament (which may come region by region), ballistic missile non-proliferation and non-testing, a radiological weapons ban, the cessation of production of fissionable materials (and some fusionable materials), the prohibition of attacks on nuclear facilities, naval arms control, the reduction of military budgets and the limitation of research in certain technologies (moving toward “open science”).
The UNVA could also play a role in the verification of various types of regional treaties (e.g., zones of peace, demilitarized zones or nuclear weapon-free zones), for example in the Indian Ocean, the Arctic, outer space, Europe and elsewhere. Furthermore, if in the next century, there is progress toward “general and complete disarmament” as envisioned in the 1961 Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations, the UNVA would be in an excellent position to exercise the responsibilities envisaged for the International Disarmament Organization (IDO). IDO inspectors were to be “assured unrestricted access without veto to all places as necessary for the purpose of effective verification.”
Confidence-building measures of the unilateral, bilateral and multilateral kind can also be supported by the UNVA. There is a vast range of possibilities, including measures covering almost all of types of military activities. Recently there have been several significant unilateral disarmament measures in Europe; others are bound to follow and these might benefit from UNVA verification. A multilateral system of military data interchange (similar to that performed by the superpowers through the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers) could be handled by the UNVA. The agency could also administer an arms trade register.
An Open Skies agreement is now being considered by NATO/Warsaw Pact countries. A global open skies regime under the United Nations could be implemented in parallel. In 1989, the Soviet Union proposed the establishment of a common pool of planes under the aegis of the United Nations or some other group for the Open Skies agreement (but this was rejected by the United States). It is interesting to note that subsequent to his 1955 proposal for reciprocal US-USSR overflights, President Eisenhower proposed the creation of a United Nations aerial reconnaissance system [Eisenhower, 1961]3, but this proposal was again immediately rejected by the Soviet Union.
While treaties are being negotiated, the negotiating parties could request the UNVA to develop expertise and could invite the agency to carry out trial inspections on their territories. For negotiations almost completed (e.g., for the Chemical Weapons Convention), mechanisms can be established to foresee a future link between the operations of the verification authority (e.g., the International Inspectorate) and a future UNVA.
– Authority from a request by one or more nation(s). A nation may wish to submit itself to UNVA inspections as a kind of “contractual” verification. Countries may do this to clear their name of allegations or as a confidence-building measure. Alternatively, a country might also request an inspection on its territory to demonstrate treaty violations by another state. For instance, at the invitation of Iran, the Secretary-General sent teams during the period 1984-87 to inspect the locations of the alleged (and subsequently confirmed) use of chemical weapons by Iraq. Or if two countries are in disagreement about their mutual compliance with a treaty, one or both of them may wish to submit themselves to UNVA inspections. For example, Pakistan and India might at some future date, request UNVA and/or IAEA inspections, in order to “clear the air” for various negotiations concerning nuclear non-proliferation. If a country were to declare itself a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, it might wish to ask the UNVA to conduct inspections alone or in cooperation with the IAEA. It is even possible that, once the credibility of the UNVA has been established, the superpowers might wish to refer some bilateral disputes to the agency. The Standing Consultative Commission (SCC), established under the SALT and Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaties, could possibly recommend the assistance of the UNVA under certain circumstances.
– Authority from the UN Security Council or the General Assembly. All UN members confer upon the Security Council the “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” (UN Charter, Article 24) and many questions of verification and compliance fall within this domain. Since the Security Council will likely be more active and effective in the future given the greater chance of major power unanimity, it might also provide the UNVA with authoritative and speedy direction. The UN General Assembly has a responsibility to make every effort to facilitate the implementation of disarmament measures, according to the Final Document of the First Special Session on Disarmament. (It also has certain powers under the 1950 Uniting for Peace resolution.)
Various Security Council and General Assembly resolutions have conferred upon the Secretary-General specific monitoring and verification tasks. In resolution 42/37C, adopted unanimously, the General Assembly “requests the Secretary-General to carry out investigations in response to reports that may be brought to his attention by any Member State concerning the possible use of chemical and bacteriological (biological) or toxin weapons that may constitute a violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.” It is significant that the Secretary-General may carry out investigations even if the allegations are made by a state which is not party to the Protocol.
The General Assembly and Security Council could similarly create roles for the UNVA. In a case before the International Court of Justice, the UNVA might be called upon to investigate certain facts.4 A UNVA mandate could also be contained in an agreement between the United Nations and the states where peace-keeping or peace-observer forces are stationed.
– Authority from the Secretary-General acting under Article 99 of the United Nations Charter, which states that “the Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.” For example, in the early 1980s the Secretary-General used the authority from Article 99 to carry out investigations in connection with alleged violations of the Geneva Protocol in the Iran/Iraq war.5 Former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold noted that the Article obliges the Secretary-General to notify the Security Council if parties to a conflict do not do so, in order to prevent the machinery of the UN Charter from being put out of action [Urquhart, 1972]. To investigate matters which may constitute a potential breach of an international agreement or a threat to the peace, the Secretary-General could find the assistance of the UNVA invaluable.
In short, there would be plenty of work for the UNVA and the number of tasks could grow greatly over time, particularly if the disarmament possibilities now apparent come to fruition.
5. Doesn’t Verification Have to be Treaty Specific?
Verification by the UNVA would be treaty specific. The agency would establish a new division according to the provisions of each treaty it is authorized to verify, as requested and specified by the negotiating parties. Each division would then develop appropriate expertise in its field, although many personnel would likely be cross-appointed between divisions. On a political level, each treaty would still be overseen by its own Conference of States Parties or other designated body, which might meet regularly with UNVA officials to discuss compliance matters. The parties to the treaty would be able to reserve the final word regarding the assessment of verification data and compliance reports obtained in part or in whole from the UNVA.
6. What Could be the Relationship Between the UNVA and Other International Bodies?
Figure 1 presents a possible relationship between the UNVA and other international bodies. The agency could fulfill requests by the Security Council, the General Assembly as well as the Secretary-General. The head of the UNVA could be a Director-General, who could be responsible to the Secretary-General. According to the treaty, regular reports from the UNVA could be presented to all the treaty parties or to an Executive Council which has been elected by the state parties and/or to the United Nations.
In the current draft treaty of the Chemical Weapons Convention, there is provision for the creation of an International Inspectorate that will be supervised by an Executive Council, which in turn will be elected by the Conference of State Parties. If the UNVA has not been created by the time of the Chemical Weapons Convention is ready for signature, the Convention should provide for the eventual incorporation of the International Inspectorate directly into the agency or under its umbrella. An example of such a provision can be found in Article 19 of the Treaty of Tlatelolco (the treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons in Latin America), which stipulates that the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL) can “enter into relations with any international organization or body, especially any which may be established in the future to supervise disarmament.”
In order to establish an umbrella over most, if not all, multilateral verification activities, the United Nations could sign relationship agreements for the UNVA with the other bodies such as the IAEA.
Rather than have an independent Board of Governors (as found in the IAEA and in some verification agency proposals), the UNVA should be under the administration of the Secretary-General and accountable to the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, as well as to the various treaty parties. However, a small Board of Governors could be regularly elected by the General Assembly to supervise the general operations of the agency.
A UNVA Statute, approved by the General Assembly, could describe the structure and the mandate of the agency. The Director-General could be appointed by the General Assembly upon recommendation of the UN Secretary-General or appointed directly by the latter. The Director-General or the Secretary-General could report periodically to the Executive Councils of the treaties which are being verified.
The agency could also include non-governmental organizations as observers, as non-voting members and as active participants. This role could be examined in the context of the present NGO role in various international organizations (e.g., the UN, Economic and Social Council, the International Labour Organization) and their responsibility under various international agreements (the International Committee of the Red Cross under the Geneva Conventions, Amnesty International in relation to human rights agreements).
There are several models for the possible organizational status of the UNVA under the United Nations. The relationship status of autonomous agencies (such as the IAEA) is not a good model, as pointed out by Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in 1959. He also said [Urquhart, 1972]:
I suppose that it has been thought that disarmament control would be too much for and would surpass the capacity of the United Nations Secretariat. If so, the answer is a UN organ of the type we already have used for other major operations within the framework of the UN proper. The same argument could well have been put forward in the case of Technical Assistance. Fortunately, that was not done [and technical assistance continues be carried out under the United Nations through UNDP].
Hammarskjold cited the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as an example of a major operation which was within the framework of the UN proper. Other examples include: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), various UN centres (e.g., the Centre for Human Rights), and various offices (e.g., Office for Special Political Affairs, which handles peace-keeping, and the Office for Research and the Collection of Information).
The most politically sensitive decisions in arms control verification are those concerning compliance; that is, whether a nation has violated a treaty or not. Decisions based on UNVA fact-finding could potentially be made at any of the levels shown in Figure 1: by the United Nations organs, by the UN Secretary-General, by the Executive Councils, by the conferences of state parties or by the UNVA Director-General. These matters should be resolved under each specific arms control agreement and, where applicable, under the UNVA Statute.
There is good reason to give the UNVA itself maximum powers in data analysis and interpretation. At the very least, the UNVA should be able to state clearly the facts revealed during an investigation, in such a way as to make a decision on compliance or non-compliance as easy as possible. The Director-General may also be granted the right to express an opinion or make recommendations which would automatically be highly regarded. In most cases, the scientists and staff within the agency will be in the best (most objective) position to judge the facts when a clear violation is suspected. The Director-General could then inform the UN Secretary General, who might try to rectify the situation through direct talks with the suspected party. Under expedient circumstances a public announcement could be made immediately and reported simultaneously to the Security Council and the General Assembly. Response measures should also be incorporated into treaties.
7. Who Will “Watch The Watchmen”?
In the UNVA, there will be employees from many nations. What is to prevent some of them from taking a biased attitude towards their own nation or region? This is a potential problem in all international organizations. Experience has shown that the international civil service is remarkably objective, certainly more objective than national authorities. Since the service is composed of persons of many nationalities, they tend to make sure that colleagues do not exhibit bias. As a further assurance against bias, in certain disputes between countries, UNVA employees who are nationals from those countries could be excluded from the verification procedures.
8. How Would the UNVA Gather its Information?
Depending on the treaty, the agency could receive and integrate information from numerous sources including national, international and possibly non-governmental bodies and individuals. The agency could analyze periodic statements submitted by treaty parties, as is done by the IAEA under its safeguards system and by OPANAL under the Treaty of Tlatelolco. According to the provisions of each treaty, the agency could be given required technologies and monitoring equipment thereby creating “international technical means of verification.”
The existing nuclear safeguards regime has been faulted because the IAEA, under its current mandate, is unable to make effective use of technological innovations to improve its monitoring activities [see N. Kyriakopoulos in Schiefer and Keeley, 1989]. The IAEA must rely on the national support programs of member states to generate new technologies, and these programs often lack coordination, duplicate efforts and are generally designed to satisfy national interests rather than the needs of the IAEA. This mistake need not be repeated in the case of the UNVA.
A coordinated and centralized research unit within the UNVA could allow the agency to keep abreast of monitoring technologies. The agency could easily develop mechanisms for the interpretation of commercially available satellite imagery [Dorn, 1987]. Eventually the agency could have its own range of monitoring devices (seismic devices, satellites and other remote sensors, chemical sensors, as required) and its own inspection teams.
Non-governmental organizations could assist in various ways to collect verification data. A potentially very significant, but very controversial, method of detecting non-compliance is to allow NGOs and individuals working at or near military sites to submit (anonymously or in strict confidence) any relevant information they may have. This has been called citizen reporting or inspection by the people. NGOs could also assist by supplying various types of supplementary data to the verification agency. The skill and usefulness of an NGO in monitoring and verification have already been demonstrated by the Natural Resources Defense Council (a US organization) which has, in conjunction with the Soviet Academy of Sciences, undertaken monitoring of nuclear test sites in the USSR.
9. What Are Possible Objections to the UNVA?
i. There is a feeling that in the UN system there are too many agencies with their own general conferences, budgets and Directors-General. Response: well over a dozen United Nations agencies have been created since 1945 to meet a variety of needs in a changing world and all of them are rendering invaluable service, albeit not always without difficulties. Ironically, not one new agency has been established under the United Nations to enhance or promote international peace and security, which is the United Nations’ primary function under its Charter. Since verification will be a key component of all future arms control treaties, there will be a growing need for new international verification mechanisms.
ii. In the restrictive financial atmosphere of the UN, many people and governments (including the US) feel that almost any project involving large amounts of expenditure are prohibitive. Response: the UNVA need not begin in a costly or grandiose way. It could be created in a planned step-by-step process as an integral part of the UN. In the end, the UNVA will save money because resources can be used more effectively given the economies of scale that come with a multi-treaty organization. Especially in the field of monitoring and verification, where technologically-advanced monitoring equipment is a necessity, there will be great benefits from a pooling of expertise and resources among the various functions. In addition, there will be considerable funds released through arms control. Some of the expertise that has been developed in the military sector could be converted to the service of international verification through the UNVA. In comparison with the trillion dollars now spent annually on military expenditures, the world could easily and wisely afford to pay for institutions for promoting peace and building confidence.
iii. There are many details that must be worked out, such as: Who will fund the agency? Who will design the agency? None of these problems is insurmountable. In fact, they have arisen and been solved during the creation of all international agencies. These are matters that can be solved by members of the United Nations and by the parties to each treaty. One possibility is that the overhead operations of the agency be funded by United Nations members and the treaty-specified divisions be financed by the parties to each treaty.
iv. The United Nations already has some monitoring capabilities for peacekeeping, why get more? The United Nations currently has no expertise or in-house capabilities for carrying out disarmament verification. Even the technologies currently used in peace-keeping are not sufficient in a technologically developing world. UN peace observation forces, which are created on an ad hoc basis from national contingents, would be enhanced by UNVA expertise. By developing a new agency, new versatility and new functions could be developed to serve a changing world. In peace-keeping and crisis management, it is often important that the UN observers/mediators have at least as much information as the conflicting parties do. The peace observation functions which the United Nations is increasingly called upon to carry out, could be done better and more efficiently.
v. Would the agency be spying? Monitoring would be done only in accordance with international law under the Charter of the United Nations and under each negotiated treaty.
vi. Would the UNVA information be used by wrongdoers, for example, by terrorists? The UN has a great deal of experience in handling sensitive data and special levels of classification could be established within the agency to safeguard against undesirable disclosures.
Most other arguments against the UNVA are identical to those used against the ideal of internationalism itself and against international organizations in general. The most common examples are based on the notion held by some states of absolute national sovereignty. These views have decreasing validity in the modern interdependent world. Moreover, with the development of the Soviet Union’s new policies of glasnost and perestroika, old arguments have lost validity. What is required is the active development of concepts of international glasnost and international perestroika. These latter notions are, in the long run, in the best interest of all nations.
10. What Are Some Steps That Can Be Taken?
There are a number of modest initiatives that could be undertaken immediately to enhance the UN contribution to verification and build the base for a UN verification agency.
Finland has proposed the development of a UN verification data base. The data base could contain technical, political and organizational information, including lists of specific expertise and resources (e.g., experts, laboratories and useful equipment) that nations would potentially be willing to offer on a temporary or prolonged basis to aid UN missions. For instance, the names already submitted to the Secretary-General in connection with the verification of the Geneva Protocol could be included in the data base. The project is immediately feasible because it requires little financing and could be done within present resources. It could grow with the increased need for its services and as the amount of available information increases.
To compile and manage the data base, a Verification Information Centre could be established within the Dept. of Disarmament Affairs (or as a separate body within the UN Secretariat). In conjunction with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the centre could also coordinate and spearhead a research effort on verification. It could sponsor seminars and assist in the exchange and education of experts and scientists from states, especially from the developing world. Knowledge gathered by this Centre could eventually be transferred to the UNVA.
The Centre could also develop its own in-house expertise. It could then respond to requests for information made by negotiators. Experts at the Centre could be invited to participate in certain negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament with a view to assisting the development of verification provisions.
More substantial measures would require that a mandate be supplied by the General Assembly or the Security Council. For instance, the Secretary-General could be asked to expand his capabilities to investigate allegations made under any number of specified multilateral arms control treaties (see Part IV). The resolution could also permit the Secretary-General to respond to requests by countries for verification or certification of unilateral disarmament measures. These measures would, in effect, be giving the Secretary-General authority to develop the ad hoc verification section of the agency.
To establish a UN verification agency, more bold actions would be needed on the part of nations. A group of nations could take it upon themselves, or act under a General Assembly mandate, to develop plans for an agency. The General Assembly could then call for a conference to negotiate and adopt a Statute for the agency based on these plans. Small operations could begin immediately. The agency could expand incrementally as the needs arise.
Some nations may be opposed to this approach, but the initiative could proceed nonetheless. In an historical example, the Soviet Union was at first opposed to the creation of the IAEA, and it refused to participate in early discussions. After the drafting of the Agency’s Statute had begun, however, the Soviet Union reversed its position and it has been an ardent supporter of the IAEA safeguards system ever since.
Pursuant to a resolution of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General has appointed an expert group to explore the present and potential role of the UN in verification. The group’s recommendations should advance both the near-term and long-term needs for verification, and allow for the eventual, if not immediate, creation of a verification agency.
On a national level many activities could also be carried out. In many countries, officials in the foreign affairs, defence and other departments, as well as parliamentarians, will now be examining the best way to re-allocate or redirect sections of national military resources and expenditures, now that the military role in many nations is changing. One positive avenue is international cooperation, through the UNVA or otherwise, on research and development of the monitoring and verification technologies, including chemical sensing, airborne and satellite remote sensing, and other areas.
On another front, research groups, think-tanks and NGOs in various regions of the world could perform in-depth studies of the technical, financial and legal implications of establishing UN and other verification mechanisms.
These are some possible avenues to breathe life into an old concept whose time has finally come.
This paper is an attempt to formulate some possible features of a UN verification agency, which has heretofore only been proposed in general terms. The structure presented here is not the only one possible. It is hoped that the paper will stimulate further research on academic and political levels that will lead to action. In view of the new arms control environment and the wide-ranging acceptance of verification, the time is ripe for new progress.
The main point is that the UNVA is necessary to meet the demand for effective multilateral arms control verification in coming decades and to help build global security as we enter the twenty-first century. The urgency and the utility cannot be overemphasized. Verification is often the last and technically the most difficult element of a treaty to be negotiated. Unless tried and proven methods of verification are available, verification could once again become a stumbling block as it was in the first few decades of UN disarmament negotiations. With the new openness in the East, the opportunity to achieve a United Nations verification regime, however embryonic, must be seized by the United Nations as soon as possible. Bilateral agreements between the superpowers will, for the time being, continue to be based on adversarial inspection and surveillance, but regional and global treaties require a strong multilateral framework. Without this framework there will be unacceptably slow progress in multilateral, global disarmament. With this framework, the opportunities for progressive disarmament will be vastly greater as we enter the 21st century. An appropriate maxim is: arms control through international control—there is no other way.
1. A shortened version of this paper was presented at the Bellerive Colloquium in Geneva, Switzerland on “Non-Proliferation in a Disarming World: Prospects for the 1990’s,” June 20-21, 1990. Sections of this paper will be published in an article to appear in the Fall, 1990 Special Issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine on “Inspection and Verification for Disarmament.” The ideas in this paper have also been used in an article which appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. [See below for excepts from the Bellerive paper.]
2. Most, but not all, of these proposals are summarized in Chapter P of the “Compendium of Arms Control Verification Proposals” [Crawford et at., 1987]. Others can be found in the monograph by Baratta .
3. Furthermore, President Eisenhower stated on May 16, 1960: “For its part, the United States is prepared not only to accept United Nations aerial surveillance, but to do everything in its power to contribute to the rapid organization and successful operation of such international surveillance.”
4. Article 50 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice States: “The Court may, at any time, entrust any individual, body, bureau, commission, or other organization that it may select, with the task of carrying out an enquiry or giving an expert opinion.”
5. Based on conversations with officials in the UN Secretary-General’s office.
With grateful acknowledgements to William Epstein, for his meticulous review of earlier drafts and wise advice. I also thank others who reviewed drafts and provided invaluable suggestions: Johan Nordenfelt, Brian MacDonald, Anatol Rapoport as well as Doug Scott and other members of the Markland Policy Group.
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Source: This paper was originally published as Working Paper 26 of the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, Ottawa, July 1990. A modified version of the paper was published under a similar title, “The Case For A United Nations Verification Agency: Arms Control Through International Control”, by Walter Dorn and William Epstein in Khan, Sadruddin Aga, ed., Non-Proliferation in a Disarming World: Prospects for the 1990’s, Appendix V, (Geneva: Bellerive Foundation, 1990), pp. 268-311. The abstract of that paper is provided below.
The international framework required for nuclear, chemical and missile non-proliferation, as well as for progressive multilateral disarmament, must include an effective system of international verification. As the critical element of any arms control measure, verification must be carried out in an objective manner. The most objective, flexible and cost-effective option to verify almost all multilateral treaties would be an agency under the United Nations Secretary-General. As a cooperative international effort to develop both the technology and the political framework for arms control verification, a United Nations verification agency (UNVA) would speed up and help secure the disarmament process. This paper presents the case for such a proposal, outlines a possible institutional configuration, considers a broad range of possible functions and discusses the challenges facing the establishment of such an agency.