Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Issues of Paramount Importance for the Achievement of International Peace and Security
Austria considers disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of paramount importance for the achievement of international peace and security. The growing threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological) by sub-state or non-state actors necessitates a new commitment by the international community to effectively discourage the development and spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Strong presence within the UN
Austria participates in various disarmament bodies under the United Nations system, in disarmament and arms control treaty negotiations, and in almost all arms control and disarmament agreements both at global and European level. The maintenance of strategic balance, progress in the reduction of strategic, tactical, and conventional weapons, arms control by verification mechanisms under international treaties, and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction are important contributions to international peace.
Recently, Austria has taken over the function of immediate central contact under the newly adopted Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was signed in 1996, represents another important step in this direction because it not only bans nuclear tests and their harmful consequences to the environment, but also limits the possibilities for development of new nuclear weapons. The PrepCom (Preparatory Commission) of the organization controlling compliance with this treaty was set up in Vienna in 1997 (CTBTO). The Provisional Technical Secretariat assists the PrepCom and coordinates and supervises the provisional operation of the International Monitoring System and the International Data Centre.
Austria encourages all states to speed up their ratification process to enable early enactment of the CTBT.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Vienna is also the home to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which, through its controls over the use of all nuclear material, plays an important role in the prevention of secret nuclear weapons programs. Concluded in 1968, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is regarded as a cornerstone of international arms control policy. With the adoption by Cuba in 2002, the NPT now stands at 188 contracting states and has thus almost reached the status of universality.
Austria supported the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), prohibiting the development and transfer of nuclear weapons to non nuclear weapon states as well as obliging the five nuclear weapon states to disarm with the ultimate goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons. In order to assess compliance with the treaty, review conferences are being held every 5 years.
The states possessing nuclear weapons committed themselves to further disarmament steps which should lead to a total elimination of their nuclear arsenals (Article 6 NPT). Austria wishes to strengthen the IAEO safeguards system to improve export controls and to increase efforts in fighting the trafficking of fissile material.
Small Arms and Light Weapons
The illicit trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) is an important factor in fuelling numerous conflicts worldwide. It is estimated that at least 500.000 people are killed each year by these weapons. There is a close connection between destabilising accumulations and transfers of SALW and the increasing number of internal conflicts and the high rate of violence and crime in post-conflict situations.
More than 90 percent of the victims of acts of violence associated with SALW are civilians, of whom 80 percent are women and children.
Against this backdrop, governmental and non-governmental efforts have been galvanized in recent years to counter the proliferation and destabilizing accumulation of SALW. Austria fully supports all efforts in this respect and welcomes the Programme of Action adopted at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in SALW in July 2001 as a first step towards tackling this problem on a global scale.
African countries, especially in the Sub-Saharan region, are particularly affected by SALW through various armed conflicts and other instances of armed violence. It is estimated that in 2006 as many as 38 percent of all armed conflicts took place in Africa. In Western Africa, more than 8 million SALW are circulated. The widespread access to these weapons poses a major threat to peace and stability. This devastating situation contributes significantly to the continent’s development difficulties.
International Conference "Peace and Security in West Africa"
As a sign of its commitment, Austria supported and co-organized an international conference in Ouagadougou in November 2007 on "Peace and Security in West Africa" together with Burkina-Faso. The closing document of the conference made clear that only the development of long-lasting structures in Africa can guarantee peace and development. Austria’s Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik who presided the conference was deeply impressed by the magnitude of the problems and has made a strong commitment to assist African countries in the fight against the scourge of SALW.
As a result of this commitment Austria has contributed more than 700.000 Euro to projects in support of the UN process against SALW, placing a major focus on projects in Africa. These projects aim inter alia at supporting disarmament in West Africa, bolstering the fight against illicit brokering and at elaborating a legal instrument to control SALW in Central Africa.
In particular, Austria currently supports the following projects
- UNODA: Implementing of Practical Disarmament Measures in West Africa, Technical Support to ECOWAS Small Arms Unit and ECOSAP (200.000 Euro)
- UNODA: Regulating Small Arms Brokering in Africa (100.000 Euro)
- UNODA: Elaboration of a Legal Instrument for the Control of SALW in Central Africa (230.000 Euro)
- UNODA: Enhancing international and regional cooperation to prevent, combat and eradicate illicit brokering in SALW in Asia and the Pacific (100.000 Euro), and
- Support to UNDP Sponsorship Programme for the participation of African countries at the Third Biannual Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the UN-Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALW in all its Aspects (76.000 Euro) from 14-18 July 2008.
Destruction of SALW
In addition, over the past three years Austria has supported the destruction of SALW and ammunition through various NATO Trust Fund projects in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Albania.
Austria is also engaged in the development and administration of training courses in the field of stockpile management in order to convey our high standards and expert knowledge to participants. Austria has participated through an instructor in a seminar on stockpile security in March 2008 in Africa, and in another seminar in the Balkans. In 2008, Austria will also be actively involved in the development and administration of a course at the NATO school in Oberammergau, Germany.
See also: Small Arms and Light Weapons - Austria contributes 630,000 Euro to projects in Africa, Asia and the Pacific
Multilateral Arms Control
There are five multilateral export control regimes in place which coordinate national export control mechanisms and prevent the proliferation of technology of possible military use to states interested in acquiring weapons.
- Zangger Committee (ZC) – nuclear technology
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
- Australia Group (AG) – chemical and biological agents
- Missile Technology Control Regime(MTCR)
- Wassenaar Arrangement – conventional weapons and dual-use goods.
Austria participates in all five export control regimes and implements its commitments through the Foreign Trade Act.