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Vienna Center for Disarmament
and Non-Proliferation

International platform for disarmament and non-proliferation dialogue, research, and education

VCDNP and CNS Conduct First Course on Nonproliferation and Disarmament for Diplomats in Vienna

An intensive course for junior diplomats focused on nuclear nonproliferation policy issues held in Vienna, Austria on September 26-30, 2011.
Posted: 11 October 2011

On September 26-30, 2011, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) conducted their first intensive course on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament for diplomats in Vienna. Twenty-three course participants, selected on a competitive basis, represented twenty-two countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Central and South America. The majority of the participants were officials from various diplomatic missions based in Vienna; others came from foreign affairs ministries in their respective capitals, including some travelling from as far away as Lesotho and Vietnam.

Course participants
Course participants

The course program covered key issue areas related to the nuclear nonproliferation regime. These included:

  • the history and current status of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as well as the NPT review process;
  • an overview of the history and activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
  • international nuclear safeguards; multilateral export control regimes; nuclear-weapons-free zones;
  • nuclear security and nuclear terrorism;
  • nuclear disarmament;
  • and other topics.

The lectures were delivered by CNS and VCDNP staff members, senior experts from international nonproliferation organization like the IAEA and the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and other well-known experts in the field. The list of speakers included: William Potter, Patricia Lewis, Leonard Spector, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, Elena Sokova, Nikolai Sokov from CNS and VCDNP; Tariq Rauf, Laura Rockwood, Jill Cooley from the IAEA; Jean du Preez from the CTBTO; Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and William Walker from the University of St. Andrews.

The course included a half-day simulation of the 2012 Conference on the Middle East WMD-Free Zone. Each participant took on a role representing a country (different from their own) and engaged in heated discussions and negotiations on the final declaration for the conference. Participants also toured the non-operational Zwentendorf nuclear power plant outside Vienna, which was the first experience visiting a nuclear facility for many participants. The course participants also had an opportunity to interact with a number of senior diplomats serving in Vienna and with members of the VCDNP Advisory Board, including: Sunder Ramaswamy, President of the Monterey Institute of International Studies; Patrick Norton, Vice-President of Middlebury College; Chilean Ambassador Alfredo Labbè Villa; and Siew Fei Chin, Counselor from the Singapore mission and Alternate to the IAEA Board of Governors.

At the end of the course, participants completed an anonymous survey aimed at assessing the success of the event. The following are some of the assessments given by participants:

"At the ministry, I used to work on disarmament looking at the matter only from a political point of view. My vision was limited and I thought that nonproliferation solely constituted a problem to a limited number of countries. Now, I know that it is a global problem which requires global commitment to be better dealt with."
"The course is even of great value for diplomats who are already engaged in work on nonproliferation and disarmament as it allows us to reflect on aspects that we have not been considering in our work in the IAEA."
"The lectures were very comprehensive and provided us with a clear understanding of topics such as nonproliferation, disarmament and safeguards. These high-level lectures were given by members of the IAEA, CTBTO as well as by country representatives involved in NPT RevCon negotiations. Excellent."

CNS and VCNPD plan to offer this short-course on an annual basis. Those interested in more information on the short-course should contact VCDNP at

Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, William Potter, Elena Sokova
Speakers left to right: Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, William Potter, and Elena Sokova
Presentation by Patricia Lewis
Presentation by Patricia Lewis
Course attendees
Course attendees