As Alan Cottey points out, in ‘the confused and angry conditions of today’ conflict resolution is vitally important work and – in ‘a wisdom scenario’ – conflicts of interest occurring would generally be admitted and addressed in a constructive manner (Barash and Webel, 2018) – Journal of Global Responsibility (2019).
At the 2019 Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparative Committee in April 2019, the Swedish Government launched a promising initiative which seeks to unlock disarmament diplomacy using the Stepping Stones Approach. Paul Ingram, executive director of The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) at the time, outlined some of the thinking that supports the approach in this report.
Early incremental stepping stones in the direction of achieving progress on the established disarmament agenda would possess the following characteristics:
Dynamic flow. Each would be seen by some or all of the international community as contributing to an incremental move in support of nuclear disarmament by building trust and confidence, or capacity, or by reducing nuclear salience or risk . . ..
No strategic security sacrifice. All states involved would be able to deliver the stepping stone without requiring them to accept any significant shift in their strategic situation in relation to another state with whom they are in strategic competition . . .
No conditions necessary. Similar to the previous criterion, each step would be possible without requiring a prior improvement in the international security context.
Value. The value of each step therefore is in its signalling credible intent towards agreeing further (undefined or adaptive) stepping stones on the journey as much as its direct contribution to lowering nuclear salience, risk or tensions . . .
Flexible. Steps could be unilateral, bilateral or multilateral, involve formal or informal agreement, or indeed no agreement at all.
In December Paul made his way back from SIPRI and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm, where the “Stepping Stones Approach” was being developed.
He wrote that this had been an exploration in applying much of his personal development journey to nuclear diplomacy. It felt like the right decision for him.
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was nominated for the 2019 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year for its leadership in launching the “Stepping Stones Approach” initiative to jump-start support for nuclear disarmament in the #NPT2020.
The Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament reported that on 25 February, representatives from 16 countries gathered in Berlin to elaborate proposals on nuclear disarmament within the context of the Stockholm Initiative.
The 50th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The Swedish Mission reported that ministers of Argentina, Canada, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the NPT and its three mutually reinforcing pillars: nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
They underlined that past NPT commitments remain valid and form the basis for making further progress in fully implementing the treaty and achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and pledged to take responsibility in promoting, including, but not exclusively, these stepping stones on the way to implementing nuclear disarmament, inviting all states to consider, support and implement them.