Students simulated negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention


Students simulated negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention

UN Photo
UN Photo

On 11 and 12 May 2010 more than 30 students of all subjects, mainly from the universities in Darmstadt and Hamburg, Germany, came together in New York to negotiate articles IX (Nuclear Weapons) and X (Nuclear Material) of the model Nuclear Weapons Convention (mNWC, UN document A/62/650) as a side event to the 8th Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT RevCon).

Preparations in Germany

The simulation was a part of two university seminars offered by the universities of Darmstadt and Hamburg. The students formed delegations of 2-3 students, chose which of the 13 countries they would like to represent in New York, and researched their countries’ positions on the NPT and the mNWC.

In a seminar in Hamburg on 16 and 17 April, all delegations came together and presented their countries’ positions to each other. Several expert talks were held during those two days, which helped the students to gain a deeper knowledge of the history of the NPT and international regime-building. Three non-German students from the USA and Japan participated in the simulation; these students attended this part of the seminar live via the internet to save travel costs and green house gas emissions.

Preparations in the US

From 3 May on, all the students had the chance to attend the NPT RevCon as members of the INESAP delegation (International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation). In addition to the general debate and the wealth of NGO side events, the students took the chance to personally meet the real negotiators of ‘their’ country and discuss these countries’ positions on the NPT and a NWC. These meetings were organized together with BANg (Ban All Nukes generation) and the Pressehütte Mutlangen. In daily evening meetings, the students exchanged experiences and discussed the events of the day.

On 8 and 9 May, the preparations peaked in another block seminar at Princeton University. On the first day, some of the world’s experts in the field, like Frank von Hippel, enlarged the student’s knowledge on verification of nuclear disarmament, managing fissile material stocks, and nuclear energy. A group of Princeton students who had held simulated negotiations on a new START treaty shortly before came to the block seminar. The student groups each presented their projects and engaged in a stimulating discussion about nuclear topics.

On the second day, the students had time to finalize their countries’ positions and start lobbying and forming coalitions for the upcoming simulation conference. The delegations met in well known blocks like the EU, NATO, and NAM but also formed new alliances to settle and agree upon mutual positions. They prepared working papers and draft resolutions.


On 11 and 12 May, the simulation finally took place. The four sessions of three hours each were chaired by Dr. Sidhu from the East West Institute, Bill Kidd, a member of the Scottish parliament, and Ambassador Labbé from Chile. Observed by various members of NGOs and members of country delegations, the students slipped not only literally into their business dresses but behaved just like the real negotiators.

They were facing a hypothetical scenario: After Israel accidentally confirmed the possession of nuclear weapons, the 22 countries of the Arab League threaten to withdraw from the NPT. The imminent danger of the NPT losing its claim of near-universality and its credibility and thereby opening the door for uncontrolled proliferation led to negotiations on a NWC, as requested by the Arab League.

The students succeeded the negotiations of the preceding years, namely in Geneva at the PrepCom 2008 on Article I (Obligations) and in New York at the PrepCom 2009 on Article IV (Phases of Implementation).

The simulated delegations quickly filled their roles as representatives of countries as different as Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Libya, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, and the United States. They learned how not only to follow, but to use the adopted rules of procedures to influence the proceedings. They issued right of replies, inquiries, and informal caucuses and some contradictory opinions seemed to obstruct any progress. But using a lot of tact, the considerate guidance by the chairs and the informal caucuses and breaks between the sessions helped all clashes of interests to be solved and nearly all decisions were made by consensus. Therefore, the simulated conference revised not only both articles on Nuclear Weapons and Materials but also passed two additional resolutions on clandestine nuclear weapons and expressing the will to summon a working group on nuclear energy.


By playing the roles, the students got not only to know what it means to defend an opinion which they not necessarily share, but also realized the importance of speaking to each other and cooperating in order to achieve agreements. The students benefited a lot from the meetings and discussions with delegation members of different countries and the numerous NGOs. But it was more than just receiving information, they also gave an input on what their desire is: a nuclear weapons free future.

The simulation was organized by the Interdisciplinary Working Group on Science, Technology and Security (IANUS) at Technische Universität Darmstadt and the Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker-Centre for Science and Peace Research (ZNF) at Hamburg University and has been supported by INESAP (International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation), Princeton University, NWIP (Nuclear Weapons Inheritance Project) and CISP (Center for Interdisciplinary Study Programmes)

Frederik Postelt (University of Hamburg)

originally published in: NPT News in Review" No. 15/2010 by Reaching Critical Will

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