Science and Diplomacy from a Disarmament Perspective.
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Science and Diplomacy from a Disarmament Perspective.

Produced By Matthew Attard, Date: Sep 02, 2020
Science diplomacy is not new, but it is more important than ever due to the scientific dimension of the current global challenges. The most extended definition refers to science diplomacy as consisting of three linked strands: Firstly, Science in Diplomacy: where scientific know-how and evidence is used to inform and support foreign policy objectives. Secondly, Diplomacy for Science: where diplomatic efforts and resources are aimed at facilitating international scientific and technical cooperation. Lastly, Science for Diplomacy: where scientific cooperation is used as a source of soft power to strengthen or foster foreign relations. In terms of Malta’s efforts in Disarmament and Nuclear Non-Proliferation, the first two strands of the definition are most relevant. Indeed, Malta participates in the main Disarmament-related International Organizations which utilize science to inform policy and/or facilitate technical cooperation, and also monitors scientific and technological developments in weaponry.

The areas of Science and Diplomacy are at the heart of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which has created a global network of more than 300 monitoring stations. On the one hand, these stations make it possible to detect natural disasters such as earthquakes, and on the other hand they detect all types of artificial explosions. For example, all North Korea's nuclear tests in recent years have been detected by the seismic vibrations they have caused. Malta maintains excellent relations with CTBTO and Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo visited Malta twice in recent years.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is considered as the UN’s ‘’Nuclear Watchdog’’, however its functions are two-fold. The IAEA conducts verification checks ensuring States’ compliance with international legal (treaty) obligations to use nuclear material and technology only for peaceful purpose and serves to inhibit their use for military purposes. Moreover, through its Technical Cooperation Programme, it transfers nuclear technology to Member States and assists in improving radiation safety and nuclear security worldwide. Recently, Malta signed the Country Programme Framework 2018-2023 with the IAEA in 2018, under which, the proposed national projects will focus on the areas of a Regulatory Framework for Safety and Security, Human Health, Cultural Heritage and, Water and the Environment.
One of the functions of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is to carry out formal investigations should there be allegations of the use of chemical weapons. These investigations are scientific in nature and are designed to establish whether or not chemical weapons have been deployed within a specific territory. Notably, Malta formed part of the OPCW’s Executive Council between May 2018 and May 2020 and always supported the work of such investigative missions.
Lastly, Malta is monitoring developments in the area of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS). Diplomatic efforts towards arms control in terms of LAWS require a high degree of scientific knowledge and an overall interdisciplinary approach as these weapons bring together the domains of AI, biotechnologies, cyber, missile technologies, quantum computing and outer space. In this light, Malta recently participated in a LAWS forum which brought together diplomats, military officials, business leaders and expert scientists. A salient debate in this area concerns the degree of human control on the weapon and its implications for International Humanitarian Law.
Evidently, Science Diplomacy helps Malta achieve its objective of harnessing nuclear technology and its foreign policy goal of global disarmament and a world without Nuclear Weapons. However, Science Diplomacy is also crucial in battling other global challenges such as Ocean Governance, Cyber-Terrorism, and Climate Change, which has been termed ‘’ the mother of all security challenges.’’

Matthew Attard
Second Secretary
Global Issues – Disarmament, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, and Arms Export Controls