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This subject examines the progress towards disarmament, a fundamental pillar of the UN Charter order said to underpin the peaceful settlement of disputes and the avoidance of military conflict. Throughout the UN Charter era the scope, definition, and goals of disarmament have been the subject of perpetual struggle with a range of relevant actors – including states, international organisations, companies, and ‘civil society’ groups – influencing the process and ambitions of weapons regulation and disarmament.
Yet despite this wide range of diverse actors, legal doctrine and orthodox accounts continue to focus attention on inter-state initiatives and, in particular, ‘great power’ actions. This subject offers a broader analysis, taking a theoretically and historically engaged approach to assessing the development and prospects of progress towards disarmament.
Principal topics will include:
- Introduction to issues of weapons, disarmament and international law. How is disarmament defined? What are the goals of disarmament? What threats is disarmament meant to address, and how?
- Histories of weapons regulation and disarmament in international law charting late 19th century efforts, the League of Nations, and the early UN Charter and revolutionary decolonisation era.
- Legal frameworks in disarmament law including weapons prohibitions, regulation, and non-proliferation.
- Major milestones. How were they achieved, who were the relevant actors, and what have been the effects? eg test bans, Nuclear Free Zones, etc.
- WMD focus: the non-proliferation regime (NPT) as case study. How is proliferation risk policed/managed? What are the features of this form of disarmament? How are the goals of disarmament served by the NPT regime?
- WMD focus: the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). What is the history of the TPNW? How does it seek to achieve the goals of disarmament? Who are the relevant actors? How does it relate to the NPT regime?
- The future of disarmament for international law. Where to now? How and by whom?
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should be able to:
- Define disarmament, its goals in addressing threats through international law and critically analyse and discuss disarmament measures,
- Explain the history of weapons regulation and disarmament in international law from the late 19th century to the present,
- Compare and contrast legal frameworks in disarmament law, including weapons prohibitions, regulation, and non-proliferation measures,
- Interpret major milestones in disarmament, their achievers, and their effects (e.g., test bans, Nuclear Free Zones),
- Examine and analyse the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), its history, actors involved, and its relationship with the NPT regime,
- Analyse the future of disarmament in international law, including the challenges, paths forward, and the roles of different stakeholders.
- Develop a comprehensive understanding of the evolving knowledge in the specific area(s) of law.,
- Demonstrate the ability to conduct thorough investigations, evaluate information, synthesize findings, and apply existing knowledge creatively and independently in the relevant area(s) of law,
- Effectively communicate complex legal ideas and theories, both orally and in writing, to diverse audiences,
- Recognise the role of knowledge as a foundation for effective leadership in the legal field,
- Appreciate the significance and value of knowledge in contributing to the broader community,
- Engage with and critically analyse contemporary societal issues within the context of the law,
- Utilise and apply new technologies for legal research and work purposes.
Last updated: 10 November 2023