Nuclear Weapons | Analysis and New Insights

Planning for Success at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit

William Tobey | June 2011


The 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit offers both procedural and substantive lessons for making the most of the follow-on meeting scheduled for Seoul in 2012. Placing the issue of nuclear security on the agenda of world leaders should offer leverage in overcoming bureaucratic obstacles to tangible progress. Yet the 2010 summit had weaknesses, which the 2012 meeting presents an opportunity to correct.

The procedural aspects of the Washington summit generally went well, although the requirement for consensus defined as unanimity diluted the strength of the communiqué and work plan. National commitments offered at the Washington summit recorded actions that are making substantial improvements to nuclear security, but are only the beginning of actions that could be taken. Substantively, the Seoul summit offers many opportunities to improve nuclear security practices. The extent to which the Seoul summit establishes a vision that advances excellence in nuclear security, underpinned by specific actions, is the primary metric for judging the success of the meeting.

In this Stanley Center policy analysis brief, William Tobey, senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, offers specific suggestions for how to improve the chances for effective action resulting from next year’s summit.