The idea of an independent commission on weapons of mass destruction was initially put forward in 2002 by Jayantha Dhanapala, then UN Under- Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs. Concerned that in the post 9/11 geostrategic environment, weapons of mass destruction were acquiring a revived and dangerous attraction not only for states, but also for nonstate actors, such as terrorists, the idea arose from the need to find fresh and comprehensive approaches to addressing these threats from the perspectives of non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as preventing terrorism. The initiative was taken up in 2003 by the late Swedish Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, who asked Dr Blix to set up and chair the WMD Commission.
Whether or not the threats have actually grown more serious, it must be acknowledged that fears of a nuclear or radiological weapon being detonated in a major city or of anthrax or other lethal, infective or toxic agents being released on public transport or covertly distributed among the population are more acute today than ten years ago. The existing agreements and domestic and international efforts, although relatively successful in some areas, have been unable effectively and comprehensively to address evolving threats or allay growing fears about the acquisition and use of such weapons of mass destruction.
The WMD Commission followed in the steps of earlier independent commissions in seeking fresh ways to approach these challenges. Of particular note are the 1996 Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and the 1999 Tokyo Forum for Nuclear Non- Proliferation and Disarmament, which both focused on nuclear weapons. While their results and the proposals remain of great value, the political and international security context has since changed considerably, and the options had to be revisited.
The Commission also benefited from the examples set by earlier international commissions, such as the Brandt Commission, the Brundtland Commission or the Commission on Human Security. In addition to commissioning research and meeting three to four times a year, the WMD Commission arranged seminars, hearings and conferences in different countries, in cooperation with relevant institutes and research institutions. The Commission also undertook various outreach activities and involved civil society and non-governmental organisations through presentations, hearings, conferences, website and e-mail.
The ambition was that the work of the Commission to assess the real threats and available responses, raise public awareness and stimulate new thinking on the major security challenges posed by nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons.
After several years of thorough research, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC) released its report entitled WEAPONS OF TERROR: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms on 1 June 2006. Commission Chairman Dr. Hans Blix presented it to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the UN Headquarters in New York, and thereafter to the President of the United Nations General Assembly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Mr. Jan Eliasson, to whom Dr. Blix expressed his and the Commission s gratitude to the Swedish Government for having established and assumed the main financial responsibility of the WMDC.
The launch of the report was the starting point for several years of activities and events worldwide. The Report has since been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. The Commission concluded its collective work with a final meeting in Washington DC on 1 May 2009.
Members of the Commission
Hans Blix, CHAIRMAN
Dewi Fortuna Anwar
Alexei G. Arbatov
Marcos de Azambuja
William J. Perry
Prince El Hassan bin Talal