Speeches and Papers by Randy Rydell

Randy Rydell was Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs


  • April 2014 The Secretary General and the Secretariat The United Nations and Nuclear Orders, United Nations University Press, p. 73-107.

    The book chapter briefly outlines the origin and evolution of the disarmament mandate of the Secretariat and the Secretary-General, followed by a look at the UN machinery designed to fulfill this charge. It then turns its attention to various structural changes within the Secretariat for addressing nuclear weapons issues that reflect the different priorities of successive Secretaries-General. Following this examination of the Secretariat’s institutional change, the chapter focuses on some specific approaches to disarmament offered by each of the Secretaries-General.

  • December 2013 The Multilateral Dimension of the Middle East WMD-Free Zone: United Nations, IAEA and NPT
    Palestine-Israel Journal, vol. 19, no. 2 (2013), p. 70-76.

    All existing regional nuclear weapon-free zones (NWFZ) originated in their respective regions and all reflected local conditions. Their “regional” focus, however, has obscured the fact that all were developed as part of a family of “partial measures” related to global nuclear disarmament. Each of the treaties establishing these zones identifies both nuclear disarmament and “general and complete disarmament” (GCD) as goals, with the latter combining the elimination of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) with the limitation of conventional arms. A review of the Middle East initiative in three multilateral arenas – United Nations, IAEA and NPT – will help both in establishing the initiative’s broader multilateral context and in comprehending the various strategies adopted to advance it.

  • 22 October 2013 Nuclear Weapon State Transparency, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the United Nations

    Transparency is one of the five fundamental qualities of a good disarmament agreement, along with verification, irreversibility, universality, and bindingness. Yet the transparency of existing nuclear-weapons arsenals and their associated fissile materials is very uneven, in some cases virtually non-existent. This statement discusses how transparency has been addressed in both UN and NPT arenas and underscores the need to commence reporting on nuclear disarmament activities to the UN Repository of Information Provided by Nuclear-Weapon States

  • 15 February 2013 Explaining Hammarskjöld’s “Hardy Perennial” The Role of the United Nations in Nuclear Disarmament

    Speaking at a press conference on 19 May 1955, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld referred
    to nuclear disarmament as a “hardy perennial” at the United Nations, a term he often used on this subject.
    Fifty-eight years later, efforts are still underway at the UN to address several global challenges relating to nuclear weapons, specifically – nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear terrorism and the physical security of nuclear materials.

    This paper was cited in “Treading carefully: nuclear weapons in a multi-polar age”, a news piece at UNA-UK.org.uk.

  • 7 December 2012 Perspectives for a Comprehensive Approach to a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone — Multilateral Perspectives Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition
    — Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan

    …all the NWFZ treaties associate their respective zones with global nuclear disarmament. Thus these zones are far more significant than just a measure to strengthen regional peace and security. They have also helped to de-legitimize nuclear weapons per se, rather than just their spread, testing, or use—using some innovative approaches.

  • 30 August 2012 Remarks on Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament 2012 Assembly —
    Astana, Kazakhstan

    By virtually any measure, regional nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs) have been a success story in past international efforts to prevent the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons. But they have accomplished much more—they have also advanced global nuclear disarmament.

  • 29 August 2012 “On the way towards a nuclear-weapons-free world: Phasing out nuclear deterrence and the development of cooperative security” International Conference:
    From a Nuclear Test Ban to a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World
    Astana, Kazakhstan

    The universal declaration and reaffirmation of the goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world can provide a foundation for concrete actions needed to achieve it. It would not only state a goal, but also clarify why it is essential to achieve it. It can remind the world that while disagreements may persist over the means to achieve security in a world free of nuclear weapons, there is no disagreement over the goal itself. And affirming a consensus on this fundamental point can assist efforts to overcome such differences.

  • 30 March 2012 Through a Glass Darkly:
    Transparency, Nuclear Weapons, and the United Nations
     Workshop of the International Panel on Fissile Materials — Princeton University

    A fundamental purpose of “transparency” in disarmament is to address one of the most challenging criticisms found in the dirty dozen—namely, that there just never seems to be a sufficient level of “trust” or “confidence” to permit serious progress toward zero. This is ironic, since one of the whole purposes of transparency is to alleviate just such concerns: confidence-building could even be called the raison d’être of transparency. When the information derived from transparency arrangements is verified, confidence is enhanced all the more. When it is augmented by specific controls to eliminate the risk of reversibility of disarmament commitments, it is strengthened even further. And when such arrangements are implemented universally and pursuant to binding legal obligations, they become indisputable as a foundation for security and order in a world without nuclear weapons.

  • 27 March 2012 PEACE BOAT HORIZON 2012: Sailing in the Same Boat Toward a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East United Nations Programme in Athens, University of Indianapolis — Athens Office

    Disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the UN, and was a subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946 – disarmament efforts have now been pursued for 66 years at the UN. The specific goal of establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is currently being pursued in two multilateral diplomatic arenas: the United Nations (through official statements in the UN disarmament machinery and in annual resolutions of the General Assembly); and in an NPT-based arena, involving the convening of a conference in 2012 of states from the region (plus the four conference convenors—the UN Secretary-General and representatives of the Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States as the three NPT Depositary States), and continuing deliberations in the NPT Preparatory Committee sessions and Review Conferences. Each arena offers opportunities for states and civil society to promote progress in establishing the zone.

  • 13 February 2012 Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World: Conditions for Nuclear Stability at Low Numbers Remarks at Brainstorming Roundtable organized by Landau Network-Centro Volta,
    Italian Embassy, Washington, D.C.Session 2:
    What is the process for getting to a world with much lower numbers of nuclear weapons?

    This Session is focused on issues relating to “process”—the “how’s” of disarmament, or more precisely, the how’s of achieving stability at low numbers. A fully comprehensive disarmament approach would have to explore how to achieve the next step of stability at zero nuclear weapons. Such an approach would have to examine a full range of relevant actors in this process, beyond the narrow focus on the nuclear-weapons states. This approach would finally have to ensure that the pursuit of “stability at low numbers” is in fact a “step” toward disarmament rather than a nuclear arms control plateau or end-state—there is a need to avoid conflating the old goal of nuclear disarmament with nuclear arms control.

  • 21 October 2011 Is the Current Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation Machinery Fit for Purpose? Remarks delivered at the UNA/UK High-Level Round-Table “Reassuring, Securing, and Disarming:  Forging Consensus on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation”,
    Royal Society, London

    The basic framework for the current UN disarmament machinery was agreed at SSOD-I. A metaphor might help explain its function: it works like an assembly line for multilateral norms for disarmament. Different parts of this “machinery” perform different functions, and the ensemble of these parts work best when they are oriented to common purposes and maintained by participants who view this machinery as serving such common purposes.

    The norms that are developed in this machinery are intended to be “legitimate” in two senses:
    procedural (they allow for opportunities for participation by all States) and substantive (fairness, equity
    and the avoidance of double-standards). The political function of “collective legitimization” of the UN
    has long been recognized by scholars.

  • October 2011 The United Nations and a Humanitarian Approach to Nuclear Disarmament (PDF) From the Nuclear Abolition Forum · Issue No.1 – INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Examining the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament

    A humanitarian approach based on non-use therefore would probably best be pursued not in isolation but as a clause in a nuclear weapons convention, as non-use was handled by the Chemical Weapons Convention and, indirectly, by the Biological Weapons Convention. The successful efforts to negotiate treaties (though still not universal in membership) on anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions did not seek merely to limit the use of such weapons – non-use was explicitly incorporated as a part of a disarmament (or nonarmament) commitment, and this seems a sensible approach for nuclear weapons as well. Based on humanitarian law principles, and the evolving rule of law in disarmament, the only legitimate ―sole purpose‖ of nuclear weapons (and other WMD) that merits global support is the purpose served by their elimination.

  • 23 June 2011 Concept Paper for Session IV: What would be the processes, conditions, and stages for a humanitarian approach “to achieve and to maintain a world free of nuclear weapons?” (PDF) From the Workshop on Humanitarian-based Approaches for Nuclear Weapons Abolition Glion, Switzerland

    In light of the deep attachment that remains in over 40 countries to security based on nuclear deterrence, the challenges of establishing a “universal norm” against the use of nuclear weapons, or by derivation, against the existence of such weapons are formidable. This situation has dangerous implications for the future of nuclear weapons proliferation, as additional States could well echo claims made by existing possessors as to the legality of possession and use of such weapons. If “nuclear deterrence” has in fact become an accepted, even customary practice of States, the world may well be witnessing the emergence of a pernicious new norm or “general principle” of possession and acceptable use, thereby overturning longstanding efforts to limit the use of force by [international humanitarian law].

  • 22 March 2011 Toward a Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (PDF) Aboard Peace Boat

    Today, 113 States belong to such regional nuclear-weapon-free zones. These treaties not only ban the possession/production of nuclear weapons. They also ban the stationing/basing of such weapons in the region. In addition, and unlike the NPT, these treaty regimes also provide for legally binding security guarantees from the nuclear-weapon States—who, through the various treaty Protocols, promise never to threaten the use of nuclear weapons against any party to such a zone.

    It is clear therefore that progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East would strengthen the NPT, by finally implementing the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and the Action Plan adopted by the NPT States parties in 2010 concerning the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the region.

    It would also help to promote global nuclear disarmament, by further demonstrating the illegitimacy of the very existence of nuclear weapons—as well as their lack of value in providing genuine security.

  • 10 February 2011 Bringing Democracy and the Rule of Law to Disarmament (PDF) From Humanitarian Law, Human Security:
    The Emerging Paradigm for Non-Use and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
    , A Conference co-hosted by The Simons Foundation
    and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA)
    Vancouver, British Columbia,

    … the achievement of nuclear disarmament will require both the sail of a dynamic political process with a significant democratic component, and the anchor of legal commitments that will provide the necessary permanence and stability. The concept of “human security” and the incrementally expanding province of international humanitarian law will both help to promote this wider process of bringing both democracy and the rule of law to disarmament.

  • 30 November 2010 Chapter 16: Nuclear Disarmament and General and Complete Disarmament by Randy Rydell (PDF) From The Challenge of Abolishing Nuclear Weapons by David Krieger (Editor), Transaction Publishers

    The contributors to this volume provide historical perspective on nuclear weapons policy; explore the role of international law in furthering the prospects of nuclear weapons abolition; consider the obstacles to abolition; present a path to achieving a nuclear weapons-free world; and look beyond abolition to consider issues of post-abolition sovereignty and general and complete disarmament. The goal of a nuclear weapons-free world can be awakened by an engaged citizenry bringing pressure from below in demanding action from political leaders. This book contributes to this awakening and engagement.