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About the Event: Why and how do small and medium states create multilateral agreements to regulate or ban weapons, especially when they lack the support of great powers? This presentation develops a theory of why and how small and medium states pursue multilateral weapons governance and demonstrates it through the case of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It contends that multilateral weapons governance is a strategic tool for small and medium states in their efforts to reshape international relations. Specifically, these states develop these agreements to reduce their vulnerability to great powers and to exercise greater agency and influence in world politics. To create agreements that reflect their objectives, they frame weapons in humanitarian terms, build broad coalitions of support, and carefully choose institutional formats that deny great powers special rights and privileges. In doing so, they seek to challenge great powers' privileged position in world politics. The case study examines these dynamics drawing on elite interviews conducted with diplomats, international bureaucrats, and members of civil society in Geneva, Switzerland. In examining how relatively weak actors use weapons governance—an area in which relations among states are particularly asymmetric—to advance their goals, this article contributes to scholarship focused on small states’ contributions to other areas of global governance. Understanding why and how small and medium states pursue multilateral weapons governance is central to understanding how they seek to order relations among states and who benefits from these agreements.

About the Speaker: Naomi Egel is a MacArthur Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at CISAC. Her research examines the politics of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements, including why and how such agreements vary in their design, lessons from past agreements for future arms control, the implications of framing weapons in different ways, and public opinion regarding nuclear weapons. Her research has been published in the Journal of Politics, the European Journal of International Relations, and Research & Politics. Her commentaries have been published in War on the Rocks, Just Security, the Washington Post, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and Foreign Affairs

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