Nuclear Weapons and International Law: ABA Conference with Former Gov. Jerry Brown, Jonathan Granoff, Amb. Thomas Graham and others

On November 12, 2020, the International Section of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA Int’l), Lawyers Committee On Nuclear Policy (LCNP), and Global Security Institute (GSI) hosted an all-day virtual conference on nuclear weapons and international law. An exceptional group of experts in law, policy, diplomacy, and advocacy joined high-level officials from the United Nations and the United States to examine the application of international law to nuclear weapons and policy and advocacy strategies for control and elimination of the weapons and for ensuring their non-use. Speakers examined national nuclear weapons postures, international humanitarian law, human rights law, the UN system, the non-proliferation regime, and civil society advocacy, including religious approaches.

  • A report on the conference is hereincluding summaries of the sessions with video links.
  • The agenda with video links, speakers’ biographies, texts of remarks, and a bibliography are available here.
  • Video of the conference is also available here.

Speakers included Prof. Osamu Arakaki of International Christian University, Japan; Hans Kristensen of Federation of American Scientists; Prof. Scott Sagan of Stanford University; UN Under-Secretary-General Izumi NakamitsuAriana Smith and Dr. John Burroughs of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Allison Pytlak of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF; American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo; Global Security Institute President Jonathan Granoff; Governor Jerry Brown, Executive Chairman, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Ambassador Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation; Ambassador Thomas Graham, former Special Representative for Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament; Dr. Gloria Duffy, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; Prof. Charles Moxley of Fordham Law; Prof. David Koplow of Georgetown Law; Kathleen Lawand of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Laurie Ashton, counsel for the Marshall Islands in its nuclear disarmament cases; Jacqueline Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation; Rev. Drew Christiansen of Georgetown University; Tom Collina of Ploughshares Fund; and Audrey Kitigawa of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

LCNP and GSI co-sponsored and co-organized the conference with NYSBA Int’l and its incoming Chair, Edward K. Lenci. Additional co-sponsors were Fordham Law School, Center on National Security; Georgetown University, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs; New York City Bar Association, Committees on International Law, Military and Veteran Affairs, the United Nations, and Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice; New York County Lawyers Association, Committee on Foreign & International Law; and ABA International Law section.

Coursebook for the conference is available here.


Panel 1:

0:32:22 to 2:09:07
Overview: Nuclear Weapons Risks, Consequences and Responses Addresses the facts, policies, and history as to nuclear weapons and the consequent risks.

Prof. Charles J. Moxley, Jr., Adjunct Professor of Law, Fordham University


  • Prof. Osamu Arakaki, Professor of Law, International Christian University, Japan
  • Hans M. Kristensen, Director, Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists
  • Prof. Scott Sagan
  • Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, and Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Keynote Address:

2:15:31 to   2:35:11
Hon. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. Introduction by Ariana N. Smith

Panel 2: The Role of the United Nations

2:36 to 3:34:50
Addresses the multi-faceted role of the United Nations in relation to nuclear
weapons, including the Secretary-General’s 2018 disarmament agenda, Securing
Our Common Future; International Court of Justice cases; the 2017 adoption of
the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; a 2018 comment of the UN
Human Rights Committee; and functions of the UN General Assembly and the
Conference on Disarmament.

Ariana N. Smith


  • Hon. Izumi Nakamitsu
  • Dr. John Burroughs, Senior Analyst, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
  • Allison Pytlak, Programme Manager, Reaching Critical Will, Women’s
    International League for Peace and Freedom

Session 2

A Special Conversation on Responding to the Greatest Threats to Humanity

0:58 – 41:29

  • Hon. Jerry Brown, Former Governor, State of California; Executive Chairman, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
  • Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute

Panel 3:

42:30 – 1:56:25

The International Treaty Regime Applicable to Nuclear Weapons and Further Treaties That Have Been Proposed Addresses treaties, norms, policies, and practices concerning nuclear weapons.
MODERATOR: Jonathan Granoff

  • Hon. Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford, U.S. Ambassador, Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State
  • Hon. Thomas Graham, Jr., Former Special Representative for Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament; Former General Counsel, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Dr. Gloria C. Duffy, President and CEO, The Commonwealth Club of California; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

Session 3:

Opening Remarks

  • Patricia Lee Refo, President, American Bar Association

00:06:48 – 10:30

Panel 4:

International Law and Threat and Use of Nuclear Weapons

0:10:46 to 01:33:48

Addresses the legal status of use and threat of use of nuclear weapons under the international law of armed conflict (international humanitarian law) and the UN Charter, with reference to law of war manuals of the U.S. armed services, commentaries of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other sources.

Dr. John Burroughs, Senior Analyst and former Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy


  • Prof. David A. Koplow, Professor, Georgetown University Law Center; Former
    Special Counsel for Arms Control to the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense 
  • Kathleen Lawand, Strategic Adviser to Director of International Law and Policy,
    International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Former Head of Arms Unit, ICRC 
  • Prof. Charles J. Moxley, Jr.

Panel 5: 

Approaches for Advancing the Rule of Law and Morality as Concerns Nuclear Weapons

01:34:21 to 03:40:23

Addresses approaches for advancing the rule of law and morality as concerns nuclear weapons, including considerations as to litigation, defense of protesters, shareholders litigation, shareholders resolutions, FOIA requests, civic advocacy, universal jurisdiction, election of proactive prosecutors, civil engagement, the work of major faith groups, and other approaches.

Prof. Charles J. Moxley, Jr.

SPEAKERS:Laurie Ashton, Of Counsel, Keller Rohrback; Member of Legal Team for the Marshall Islands in Its Nuclear Disarmament Cases in the International Court of Justice; Counsel for Marshall Islands in Its Nuclear Disarmament Case in the Ninth Circuit Court of AppealsJacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation; North American Coordinator, Mayors for PeaceRev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., Ph. D., Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Human Development, Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Senior Fellow, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University, Tom Z. Collina, Director of Policy, Ploughshares Fund, and Co-author, withWilliam J. Perry, The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump (BenBella Books, 2020)Audrey Kitagawa, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.


Speaker biographies

Speaker bibliographies


Presentations in text format.

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