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  • Nawathas Thasanabanchong

Recap: The Nuclear Future - An Agenda for Disarmament?


STEAR hosted its latest Guest Speaker Series event on Monday September 6th on the topic of “The Nuclear Future: An Agenda for Disarmament”. For decades nuclear proliferation has been a looming threat with significant influence over international relations, despite continuous efforts since the 1940s to prevent accelerated nuclear proliferation. The risk of nuclear weapons proliferation among countries has been limited in the past by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which was signed in 1968. However, some countries maintain ambitions to expand their stock of nuclear weapons. As a result, the NPT is a complex bargain that discriminates between have and have-not countries. Our speakers offered their unique insights and experience to an audience of nearly 40 participants about the alternative ambitions to prevent nuclear proliferation, the impact of these ambitions in Europe-Asia relations, and what the future of nuclear power will look like for the next generation.


Our Vice President of External Affairs Daniel Tafelski began the session by introducing the event topic and addressing the importance of understanding different global perspectives towards nuclear proliferation and its impact on Europe-Asia relations. The floor was given to our stellar panellists: His Excellency Ambassador Stephen Klement, currently Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the International Organisations in Vienna and Special Advisor in charge of the nuclear implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the European External Action Service (EEAS), and Professor Ramesh Thakur, Emeritus Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy and Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. His last post was Director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the ANU.


The speakers discussed efforts from the international community to diminish the use of weapons of mass destruction based on safeguard, security, and non-proliferation standards conducted by regional dialogues and international organizations. They also shared the intricate context of the non-proliferation policy field and the complexity of collaboration among parties, drawing from their years of experience in the field. Since there are uncertainties among states, finding common ground for consensus is challenging. While the role of culture became crucial in negotiating or approaching each player since each of them is different and requires different ways to talk and negotiate. They also highlighted the role of NPT as a security pillar for decades to limit the risks of nuclear weapon proliferation. Lastly, our guests gave advice to participating students and young professionals in the non-nuclear proliferation landscape, stating that it is a very challenging field of work but young people should consider it because it involves numerous branches of knowledge covering political, cultural, and scientific understandings to provide concrete and applicable solutions. And while the nuclear future is uncertain, we cannot allow nuclear weapons to ever be used again.


Following these informative speaker presentations by our panellists, we had a Q&A session for our audience members, which was moderated by Vice President for External Affairs Daniel Tafelski. These included the extensive discussion on China’s role in North Korea’s nuclear threat while China’s relationship with Iran as part of the JCPOA has been less prevalent in the media. Other issues included best practices to encourage countries to join the non-nuclear proliferation program, the irrelevance of NPT for managing the nuclear situation, and how concerned young people should be regarding the threat of nuclear proliferation.

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About the speakers:

Ambassador Stephan Klement:

Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the International Organisations in Vienna

Dr. Stephan Klement is the new Permanent Representative of the European Union to the United Nations in Vienna and Special Advisor in charge of the nuclear implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the European External Action Service (EEAS). He has been involved in the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue since 2004. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the nuclear policy and nuclear non-proliferation field, working in different European Institutions, as well as in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He is the holder of a doctoral degree in physics as well as in international law.

Professor Ramesh Thakur:

Emeritus Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy and Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Ramesh Thakur is Emeritus Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University, Senior Research Fellow, the Toda Peace Institute, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. His last post was Director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the ANU. He was formerly Senior Vice Rector of the United Nations University and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. Educated in India and Canada, he has held full time academic appointments in Fiji, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia and been a consultant to the Australian, New Zealand and Norwegian governments on arms control, disarmament and international security issues. Professor Thakur was a Commissioner and one of the principal authors of The Responsibility to Protect doctrine and Co-Convenor of the Asia–Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament amongst other notable roles.


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