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Welcome to the new Youth Fusion podcast series on nuclear weapons in international
law. As an advocate in the field of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, one often
comes across legal references such as the obligation for disarmament in Art. 6 of the
NPT, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Sometimes it can be
challenging to understand how the treaties and agreements on nuclear weapons work
together in the system of international law and why it is so difficult to enforce them,
especially, as someone without a background in law. Therefore, this podcast series was
established to help anyone interested in finding out more about nuclear weapons issues
and how they are regulated in international law by providing an overview of the status of
international law connected to nuclear weapons. We invited a number of experts on
these questions to share their knowledge with us and we hope that what you learn here
will help you to become better at using relevant and applicable international law in your
work and thus make you more effective in your nuclear non-proliferation and
disarmament activism.

In this first episode, Gabriela Maier Tolic, a program assistant at Youth Fusion, talks
about the fundamental principles of international law with Prof. Nick Grief, who is an
Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Kent, with a specialization in international law and human rights. In 2016 he was a member of the legal team which represented the Marshall Islands before the ICJ in cases against India, Pakistan and the UK concerning the obligation to negotiate in good faith towards nuclear disarmament. His domestic practice is also centered on nuclear weapons. Besides defending protesters accused of public order offences at AWE Aldermaston where the warheads for the UK’s Trident nuclear missiles are built and maintained, he has given evidence to English courts on the legality of nuclear weapons and to the House of Commons Defence Committee on the legal implications of the White Paper on ‘The future of the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent’. In the 1990s he was closely involved in the World Court Project (notably as the author of a legal memorandum entitled ‘The World Court Project on Nuclear Weapons and International Law’) which led to the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons in July 1996.

This episode provides foundational knowledge about international law, such as, what
the difference between international law and domestic law is, how we can understand
the legal sovereignty of states and whether there are exceptions to it. Providing
examples from international law regulating nuclear weapons, Prof. Grief answers
questions such as whether it can be the case that a state is obligated to adhere to
norms that are included in a treaty which it never signed, explains what is meant by a
positive and negative obligation in international law and which different areas of law
constitute the system of international law.

In the concluding section of the podcast, Prof. Grief shares how his motivation for his
work on disarmament issues started in the early 1980s when he was a young lecturer of
international law, during the time of the Falklands War, which prompted him to think
about his Christian faith and war and just war theory in particular. Back then, he started
to study and reflect on the law of armed conflict more deeply for the first time, and as he
became invested in the topic and started to write about it, he was given the chance to
give evidence in English courts about the illegality of nuclear weapons use. In the early
1990s, he felt inclined to start representing cases in court regarding nuclear weapons
issues, as a next step following his role as an expert witness on these issues. Prof. Nick
Grief recently retired as an academic, but he says that after more than forty years, his
motivation is no less strong than it was in those early years. In fact, he says that the war
between Russia and the West only served to convince him that we have to rid the world
of nuclear weapons and it has hardened his resolve to do what he can to achieve this.
Lastly, Prof. Grief gives the following advice to young activist in the field: “We may not
be able to fix the world but let us do what we can to fix things in the world.” And
as we do this, let us keep our eyes on that distant horizon, while also being realistic
about what international law can achieve, keeping in mind its limitations, but also its

By: Gabriela Maier Tolic

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