Monday, July 28, 2008

The value of WMD research in Africa

Recently, a friend of mine questioned the relevance of my research on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in Africa. After our conversation, I felt the need to defend myself in writing (being told that your work isn't really making a difference was quite difficult to hear).

So why focus on NBC issues when people are being killed by small arms, are starving or are dying of HIV/AIDS and malaria? Granted, the issues mentioned above are amongst the greatest challenges for the African continent, however, if Africa wants to move beyond a system of day-to-day survival to a system of inclusive long-term development, African leaders must start thinking about the impact nuclear energy and the uranium mining industry, for example, will have in their respective countries. The African continent is also not immune to the debates surrounding global nuclear security, and yet, we remain silent in international meetings, with South Africa and Egypt being notable exceptions. Again, valid arguments can be made about lack of resources, technical expertise and under-representation on the continent, but surely we can address these challenges by using the organisations and systems we currently have in place (like the AU for example). I am not making the argument that aid set aside for development projects should be used for NBC research, I am arguing that the money currently used to develop nuclear weapons and technology could be put to better use. In addition, the impact of a nuclear explosion anywhere in the world will affect the entire globe. As citizens of this world we should be doing everything in our power to ensure that such an event never happens. This means educating our local populations on why NBC issues are relevant for us, preparing our diplomats and representatives at various international bodies, such as the UN, to engage constructively with nuclear weapon states and other non-nuclear weapon states. The African continent can certainly make a contribution to ensuring global security, through the entry into force of the Pelindaba Treaty, for example.

I hope my friend reads this entry - I certainly feel better after putting some of my many jumbled thoughts in writing. Please let me know if you agree or disagree with the things I have written.

Amelia du Rand, Junior Research, Weapons of Mass Destruction Project, ISS

1 comment:

Noel Stott said...

Dear Amelia

I think your friend should get real. When last has she been to Europe to get a sense of how the threat of a nuclear, chemical or biological incident (whether intentional or not) is one of the most serious factors causing insecurity? When last has she been to a forum where such issues are discussed? And how as Africans we feel inadequate not only to discuss solutions but how we are going to either prevent such an event or cope if such an event occurs. Your work on WMD issues is of immense importance!