“Securing our Survival (SOS)”: non-state actors and the campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Convention through the prism of securitisation theory



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Tartu Ülikool


Largely ignored throughout the 1990s, nuclear disarmament is again a topic for mainstream debate. Starting from 2007, when influential political figures began to voice arguments in favour of a nuclear-weapon-free world, the anti-nuclear movement has experienced a modest revival. Through the prism of securitisation theory, this dissertation analyses the security practices of the anti-nuclear movement in the post-Cold War period. Exploring Buzan and Wæver’s new conceptual developments on macrosecuritisations, it was possible to interpret the practices involved in the struggle against the Bomb as securitising moves in which the anti-nuclear movement is the leading securitiser. In the capacity of the securitising actor, nuclear abolition activists argued that nuclear disarmament, under a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), would be the only way to protect humankind from the threat posed by the existence of nuclear weapons. In order to gain a deep understanding of this securitisation process, a strong, empirical analysis of these non-state actors and their campaign for a NWC was carried out. Blending the original work of Buzan and Wæver with more recent developments on the securitisation theory, it was possible to elaborate a sophisticated framework to guide the discourse analysis of the campaign for a NWC conducted in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the institutional bodies of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review process. The findings confirmed that the anti-nuclear movement follows the particular grammar of security, as it was identified by the Copenhagen School (existential threat, urgency, possible way out). It became clear that the nuclear abolition activists present the logic of zero as driven by a threat, arguing that disarmament under a NWC would put an end to the nuclear menace. Despite uttering security, the anti-nuclear movement has so far failed to achieve the proposed security measure. Nonetheless, securitisation has been instrumental for these non-state actors, as the alarmist tone of the discourse have provided them with a loud voice in international military affairs. Moreover, it is possible to see this securitisation process as a way of raising an issue on the agenda of decision-makers and urging them to take action. In addition to exploring the instrumentality of securitisation, the analysis here presented also aims at understanding major factors that are capable of empowering or disempowering the anti-nuclear macrosecuritising discourse.