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The Spirit of Wiesbaden: Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction 

Wiesbaden Conference: Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

Wiesbaden Conference: Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction , © Auswärtiges Amt

24.11.2017 - Article

Attempts are made time and again to acquire normal industrial goods with the aim of producing weapons of mass destruction. Germany hosts a global dialogue in Wiesbaden to discuss what measures can be taken to better prevent this.

What does a German mechanical engineering firm have to do with nuclear weapons? Attempts are made time and again to acquire normal industrial goods with the aim of producing weapons of mass destruction. Germany hosts a global dialogue in Wiesbaden to discuss what measures can be taken to better prevent this.


The order looks like any other. But then the company notices that the telephone numbers on the form come from different countries. And they want to pay in cash? German companies are sometimes targeted by procurement networks for parts to manufacture weapons of mass destruction or missiles. The items in question are dual use goods: for example, the machine which can not only be used to produce parts of tin cans but also nuclear weapons..

Greater security through export controls

Participants in the Wiesbaden Conference
Participants in the Wiesbaden Conference © Auswärtiges Amt

In order to prevent this, such exports are subject to control in Germany. A thorough check is carried out to ensure that the machine really is – as claimed – only being supplied to a tinning factory. The Federal Foreign Office is closely involved alongside the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control and the Federal Intelligence Service. However, it is not enough if only Germany pays such close attention. All states must control sensitive exports. Otherwise proliferation sensitive goods will simply be ordered from the weakest link.

Close cooperation with companies

To ensure that no one is left behind and that terrorists and other non state players do not gain access to weapons of mass destruction, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1540 in 2004, thus placing all UN member states under an obligation to control exports, to punish contraventions and to secure stocks of sensitive goods. The Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control help other states to implement the resolution through efficient export controls. Germany believes that a close exchange between state agencies and the affected companies is very important. No one knows the buyers better or knows better which goods are on the shopping lists of the procurement networks than the manufacturers themselves. Furthermore, companies can most easily be introduced to the often complex processes through dialogue.

„The spirit of Wiesbaden“

On 23 and 24 November, the Federal Foreign Office therefore invited representatives from industry, governments and civil society in 17 countries to Wiesbaden for the fifth time. Within the framework of the Wiesbaden Process, there were discussions on how global export controls can be strengthened through cooperation. There was also an opportunity for an exchange of experiences in this sphere. 

The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control are partners in the organisation of these conferences. What is special about them is the much invoked Spirit of Wiesbaden: rather than a rigid format, the conferences provide a stage for an open dialogue between business and governments without any obligations. Controllers and those subject to controls can thus pull in the same direction and share their experiences with each other and with less experienced states. The results are subsequently made available to all UN member states. 

South Korea and Mexico have already adapted the format and organised regional Wiesbaden Conferences in 2016 and 2017. India has announced that it will be hosting a regional conference for South Asia in 2018. 

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