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By John Borrie, Vanessa Martin Randin

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Additional resources for Alternative Approaches in Multilateral Decision Making: Disarmament As Humanitarian Action

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In particular, the ICRC stresses the need to contextualize efforts to prevent poisoning and deliberate spreading of disease within the context of broader public health and development efforts rather than simply in terms of fighting “bioterrorism”. Rather than predicated solely on a national security approach, which elicits suspicion among many individuals in the professional life sciences, the ICRC web of prevention concept can be characterized as a distinctively humanitarian response to a proliferation challenge.

Another theme of this article is that increasing complexity and interconnectedness are creating new challenges for traditional ways of looking at the world and responses in international security terms. Multilateral negotiators are used to thinking of “progress” or deeper-seated changes in technology, geopolitics, socio-economic conditions or the environment as the backdrop to their play. But, as examples used here indicate (including small arms and light weapons and developments in the life sciences), complex feedback processes involving individual and other non-state 29 behaviour make risks and responses increasingly tricky to frame adequately for the purposes of problem-solving.

For multilateral effectiveness of disarmament and arms control processes to improve, practitioners must be more willing to be critical of their working methods and behaviours—not all of which persist for sound reasons—and to discard or modify them more readily. The most painful part of such a process may be the point at which respective governments and their negotiating representatives realize that abandoning or transforming old postures or practices will concede a specific advantage. But there is more to be gained than lost from this in the longer run; that is, if falling back on crutch explanations like “that’s the way it’s always been done” or “lack of political will” can be avoided.

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