This working group (formerly called the De-alerting Working Group) promotes measures to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons being used and to lower the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines. These include de-alerting, eliminating launch on warning, lowering threat postures and adopting policies of no-first-use and/or sole purpose.
These are incremental measures, to be advanced along with simultaneous efforts to eliminate the role of nuclear weapons entirely and to achieve the global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Such incremental measures are vital to prevent nuclear weapons being used, and to build confidence amongst those currently relying on nuclear weapons that the phased prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons will increase – not decrease – their security.
Recent activity – NoFirstUse Global
The working group is a co-founder of NoFirstUse Global, a coalition of organizations, academics, policy makers and civil society advocates working cooperatively for the adoption of no-first-use policies by nuclear-armed States, support for such policies from nuclear allied countries, and implementation of such policies to help achieve broader nuclear risk-reduction, non-proliferation and disarmament measures.
Actions by the Global campaign include:
- Open Letter on No-First-Use to Presidents Putin and Biden in advance of their June 16, 2021 Summit. The Open Letter has been endorsed by over 1200 political, military and religious leaders, as well as legislators, academics and scientists and other representatives of civil society.
- Fulfil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security, an Open Letter to the States Parties of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (open for endorsement);
- NATO parliamentarians support nuclear No-First-Use policies, a joint letter sent to President Biden and leaders of the US Congress.
Reports and papers
- Nuclear Risk reduction working group report 2021
- Reflections on the activities of the Nuclear Risk Reduction WG by John Hallam, Working Group co-convenor
- New Technologies and Nuclear Strategy, by Initiatives pour le Désarment Nucléaire, in French and English.
Join the working group
If you would like to be active in building nuclear risk-reduction campaigns and cooperation, we invite you to join the working group. Contact one of the conveners: John Hallam, Alyn Ware or Aaron Tovish.
Subscribe to the email network: Initiatives to ensure that no-one starts a nuclear war
The working group has recently established an email network on Initiatives to ensure that no-one starts a nuclear war. The network is for activists, policy analysts, legislators and government representatives to share analysis and information on relevant actions and events, with a primary focus on moving all nuclear-armed States to renounce the option of initiating a nuclear war or any other use of nuclear weapons. This includes renouncing the threat to use nuclear weapons first in any conflict. To subscribe, contact Aaron Tovish.
Back-ground: Nuclear risks and responses
There are approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons possessed by nine-nuclear armed States, with 10% of these weapons on high operational readiness to use (high alert) on launch-on-warning policies. These weapons provide an existential threat to human civilization, even if only a small portion of the nuclear arsenal is used.
Of the nine nuclear-armed States, six have not ruled out the first-use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict. They are France, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, UK and USA.
Another 29 countries (NATO members, South Korea, Japan and Australia) also rely on nuclear weapons and threaten their use against adversaries through extended nuclear deterrence relationships with the United States. These nuclear-reliant States have also not ruled out the possibility of nuclear weapons being used first in a conflict on their behalf.
These policies and practices elevate the risk of nuclear weapons being used by accident, miscalculation or even by intent, especially when tensions between nuclear-armed States are high and conflicts between them remain unresolved.
On January 25, 2018, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 2 Minutes to Midnight, highlighting the increased risks from nuclear policies and practices.
The elevated nuclear threats made between North Korea and the USA, and between Russia and the West (USA and NATO), have also given rise to increased attention to nuclear risk reduction in parliaments, media and among think tanks and non-governmental organisations.
This has included the launch by Global Zero of a Nuclear Crisis Group, the holding of hearings in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Presidential authority to launch a nuclear war, resolutions on nuclear-risk reduction adopted by the US Conference of Mayors and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (see below), the launch of a US campaign Back from the Brink, and a number of actions on this issue by members of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. Many of these actions/initiatives have come from members or affiliated networks of Abolition 2000.
US congressional actions initiated by PNND members
- Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act, introduced in the senate by PNND Co-President Senator Ed Markey;
- Joint letter to President Trump from 20 senators on reducing nuclear risks and supporting nuclear disarmament, initiated by Senator Ed Markey, July 2017;
- Joint appeal of 62 Members of Congress to President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opposing a pre-emptive strike against North Korea and calling for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis, organised by PNND members Barbara Lee and John Conyers;
- Joint letter by nine senators calling on the USA to rescind launch-on-warning, adopt a no-first-use policy and scale back the nuclear modernisation program, initiated by Senator Markey.
Recent actions, reports and appeals
- Basel Appeal on Disarmament and Sustainable Security: An Open Letter on the INF & START treaties, nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament measures to preserve peace and achieve sustainable security, January 15, 2019.
- Memo to UN First Committee on nuclear risk reduction and disarmament, People for Nuclear Disarmament, Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction, Oct 10, 2018;
- 12-Point Proposal to Prevent a Nuclear Catastrophe, Marc Finaud, Initiatives pour le Desarmement Nucleare, Feb 2018 (English, Francais);
- Leading by Example: Reforming UK Declaratory Policy, Maxwell Downman & Sebastian Brixey-Williams, BASIC. April 2018;
- Towards a Nuclear Restraint Regime From a Normative Ban Treaty to a Substantive Agenda, Manpreet Sethi, March 2018;
- Trump’s Threat of Total Destruction Is Unlawful & Extremely Dangerous, , IPS News, Sep 25, 2017;
No First Use and Credible Deterrence, Steve Fetter & Jon Wolfsthal (2018): Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, April 2018;
- Appeal from Abolition 2000 members for a diplomatic solution in North East Asia, 7 September 2017;
- Joint letter to US Congress/Trump/Kim Jong Un re DPRK Nuke Crisis, 8 September 2017;
- European parliamentarians’ joint letter to NATO and OSCE to reduce nuclear threats and support disarmament, 14 July 2017
- De-alerting Working Group report to the 2017 Abolition 2000 AGM;
- ON THE BRINK: ORGANISATIONS, GENERALS, URGE MEASURES TO DECREASE LIKELIHOOD OF AN APOCALYPSE, joint letter from 40 organizations and individuals to the US and Russian governments and to the NATO governments, 10 Dec 2016;
- Joint letter to POTUS and the US Congressional subcommittees on strategic forces on De-Alerting and No First Use, 4 August 2016
Resolutions of the UN, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and US Conference of Mayors
- Tbilisi Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly supporting no-first-use, de-alerting and reducing nuclear threat postures (adopted by consensus);
- UN General Assembly resolution on decreasing the operational readiness to use nuclear weapons. Adopted October 27, 2016. Click here for the voting record (174 in favour, 4 against and 4 abstentions);
- 2017 US Conference of Mayors resolution calling on President Trump to reduce nuclear tensions and redirect nuclear weapons spending to meet human needs and environmental challenges;
- UN General Assembly resolution on a convention prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons. Adopted annually. Click here for the voting record for 2017 (123 in favour, 50 against and 10 abstaining).
- UN resolution on reducing nuclear dangers. Adopted annually. Click here for the voting record for 2017 (124 in favour, 49 against and 11 abstentions).
Statements to UN and NPT meetings
- Joint statement on nuclear perils, delivered to the UN First Committee by Mr. John Burroughs of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, 10 October 2017;
- Measures to reduce nuclear risks, delivered to the UN First Committee by Mr. John Hallam, 12 October 2016;
- Measures to Reduce Nuclear Risks and Pave the way for Nuclear Disarmament, delivered to the 2017 NPT Prep Com by John Hallam, 3 May 2017;
- Nuclear Risks – Accidental Nuclear War, delivered by John Hallam to the 2016 UN Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament;
- Nuclear Risks – Accidental Nuclear War, delivered by John Hallam to the 2015 NPT Review Conference;
Going nuclear not an option
The working group is considering a proposal to launch a new international campaign ‘Going nuclear not an option’ or ‘Initiating nuclear war, not an option‘ (working titles for the campaign). The campaign would call on all nuclear-armed States to commit to never launch a nuclear war – in essence a no-first-use policy. By rescinding the option of escalating from conventional armed conflict to nuclear war, the nuclear-armed States would reduce the threat of nuclear war, generate confidence in nuclear weapons restraint, and pave the way for negotiations on nuclear disarmament. Click here for Going nuclear not an option a back-ground, food-for-thought paper on the proposal. Also relevant is the recent US Council on Foreign Relations paper No-first-use and nuclear weapons which looks at the arguments for and against a no-first-use policy.
- 100 Seconds to Midnight Nuclear risk reduction in light of COVID-19, John Hallam, July 30, 2020
- Nuclear risk reduction, Twelve Propositions, Aaron Tovish, July 30, 2020
Abolition 2000 De-alerting Group archive
Click here for the archived page of the Abolition 2000 De-alerting working group.