The Asia-Pacific Leadership Network [APLN] comprises forty three former senior political, diplomatic, military and scientific leaders from fourteen countries around the region including nuclear weapons possessing states China, India and Pakistan.

The objective of the group, convened by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, is to inform and energize public opinion, and especially high-level policymakers, to take seriously the very real threats posed by nuclear weapons, and do everything possible to achieve a world in which they are contained, diminished and ultimately eliminated. The Network is modelled on a recently established European counterpart (the ELN), convened by former UK Defence Minister Des Browne, which has already been active and visible in calling for urgent changes to NATO nuclear policy. The concept of such advocacy networks was strongly supported by the Australia and Japan-sponsored International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (co-chaired by Professor Evans and former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi) in its final 2010 communique.

A common inspiration for the both the ELN and now the APLN has been the highly influential series of articles published since 2007 supporting a nuclear free world by former senior US officials Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn (emulated by similar groups in a number of other countries, including Russia), and the strong commitment articulated by President Obama in Prague in April 2009. The creation of both networks has been made possible by seed grants from the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, co-chaired by former Senator Nunn and CNN founder Ted Turner.

APLN members will contribute to the nuclear debate by making public statements from time to time, engaging in direct advocacy with regional governments as both public and private opportunities arise, commissioning research and hosting regional seminars and conferences as resources permit, and maintaining an active website (www.a-pln.org ) through its secretariat based at the Australian National University in Canberra. Working groups are in the process of being established to address specific issues such as nuclear deterrence, nuclear transparency and the potential for multilateralising the most sensitive stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.

Efforts to achieve a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons are at a critical stage. Serious threats persist from the use or misuse of weapons by existing nuclear armed states, newly nuclear-armed states and terrorist actors, and from the misuse of the civil fuel cycle.

Last year saw some important developments, including agreement by the United States and Russia to make significant cuts in their nuclear arsenals and the modest success of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. But that momentum is in danger of stalling. It badly needs re-energizing, both globally and regionally. There is little sign of progress on bringing into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, on breaking the negotiation stalemate on a treaty to prohibit further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, on meeting future proliferation risks associated with the civil nuclear sector, or on measures to significantly strengthen the non-proliferation treaty regime. And there are few if any signs of willingness by the established nuclear weapons powers to embark on serious multilateral arms reduction negotiations of a kind which could eventually lead to a nuclear weapons free world.

The Asia Pacific region impacts every dimension of the global nuclear agenda, with acute tensions and risks remaining in North East Asia and South Asia in particular. With the world’s economic, political and security centres of gravity shifting inexorably to this region, its stake in a secure world order – and its responsibility to contribute with ideas, policy proposals and vision to that end – have grown commensurately.

"The quest to eliminate nuclear weapons cannot begin to succeed without the determined engagement of policy-makers in the Asia Pacific region. And this stellar group of senior, respected and extraordinarily individuals can really help make that happen."

Convenor
Gareth Evans