The nuclear security summit (NSS), born out of President Obama’s Prague speech delivered in April 2009 aimed at preventing threats associated with nuclear terrorism. During his speech President Obama has called the nuclear terrorism threat as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.” The NSS is a world bi-annual summit that has three summits so far; initially President Obama hosted the very first summit in Washington D.C., on 12-13 April 2010 that set the process in motion. The second summit held in South Korea on 26-27 March 2012, and third NSS held in The Hague on 24-25 March 2014. The fourth NSS is going to be held in 2016 in Washington which would likely be the last one.
All the three summits were anchored around issues such as security of nuclear materials, IAEA’s role in securing unsafe nuclear materials, illegal trafficking of nuclear materials, nuclear forensics, and on measures that can prevent threat associated with terrorist access to nuclear material as well as use of nuclear weapons. The increased number of the participant countries from 30 in 2010 to 58 in 2014 illustrates the significance of the nuclear security variable in the contemporary fragile security apprehensive environment.
Although, the summit process has achieved some success in lessening the nuclear security challenge and one example of it can be the fallen number of countries from 39 to 25 that have enough material to build a nuclear weapon. However, the mission has not been accomplished and beyond 2016, the options for successor to pursuit the nuclear security mission are yet not clear.
After 2016 NSS the first question would be arising; has the NSS succeeded to strengthen the global nuclear security system. Admittedly, NSS has succeeded in raising awareness and profile of nuclear security issue but due to the non-binding nature, the future of NSS would be uncertain and indistinct even after the next projected summit in Washington 2016. The countries outside of the purview of the NSS limit the summits efficacy. Russia also firmly announced that they will not join the 2016 NSS and the reason they elaborated is that Russia is doubted the value of the summit. The Initial high expectations are not fulfilled. We are going to
have the last session of NSS but unfortunately some major countries still continue to have an inadequate record in nuclear security.
Realistically to attain the objective of securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four sessions turned out to be improbable. In the concluding session of 2014 NSS President Obama stated that the 2016 NSS will seek to develop “a more sustainable model” for reducing and safeguarding materials needed to make nuclear weapons. Early indications are that the 2016 session will lead to the announcement of additional voluntary proposals.
Beyond 2016 NSS, there are greater prospects that the responsibility for further work on nuclear security issues will revert to the patchwork of institutions and mostly voluntary arrangements that predate the summit process, such as Interpol, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the G-8 Global Partnership and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
There is no doubt that the three summits have provided an invaluable start in defining the parameters but the question is how long will we continue to take the initiatives. All the need is to strengthen the existing bodies and efforts should make to get desired results from the existing bodies otherwise the gaps in global nuclear security governance will remain. The nuclear security is a global concern which should have a global binding solution. The NSS like exercises can smoothen the way for achieving the ultimate goal of nuclear security. Likely exercises cannot turn out the enduring way out.
*Sidra Ajaib Kayani as research associate works for Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad, also can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org