Ms. Kerstin Bihlmaier, a specialist for NBC weapons, who works as a young professional in the weapons of mass destruction branch of the Department for Disarmament Affairs, started her presentation with some disturbing facts: every year, US $ 960 billion are spent for military purposes, whereas all states together only provide US $ 21 billion for health care. Evidently, many of the most pressing problems could be solved if states spent some of this money on welfare instead of warfare.
Weapons of mass destruction (WMD), i.e. biological, chemical and nuclear weapons pose a threat that the United Nations continuously deals with through various agencies and instruments. In this context, Ms. Bihlmaier mentioned treaties like the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as some of the most important tools in the fight against WMD. Because of the ongoing conflict concerning the Iranian nuclear programme, Ms. Bihlmaier then concentrated on the NPT and international efforts to reduce nuclear weapons.
The Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons came into force in 1970 and has been signed by no less than 188 states including the five official nuclear weapon states (i.e. USA, China, Russian Federation, France and the United Kingdom). It is meant to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapon technology (article II and III), to promote cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy (article IV) and to promote disarmament (article VI). All non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the treaty are obliged to prove that they use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. In order to meet this requirement they regularly submit reports to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Unfortunately, the treaty itself is not a sufficient tool for disarmament, as the case of North Korea shows: when the IAEA found contradictions in North Korea’s report, the state withdrew from the treaty and in this way circumvented being controlled by the international community.
We then discussed the conflict regarding the Iranian nuclear programme and possible parallels to the North Korea case and whether India and Pakistan should be recognized as ‘official’ nuclear weapon states. Understandably, Ms Bihlmaier could not provide solutions to all these problems, but her balanced briefing was very helpful in order to get a broader picture of the problems of nuclear disarmament.
However interesting her report, admittedly most exciting for us was to find out that Kerstin Bihlmaier was a graduate of the Freie Universität Berlin and that she had been a member of our university’s delegation to the National Model United Nations (NMUN) in 2002. Maybe in a few years from now, one of us will have followed her example…