The Challenges to Trust-Building in Nuclear Worlds

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: POLSIS


Professor Nicholas Wheeler in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University will undertake a multidisciplinary project focusing on the concept of trust-building in relation to nuclear-armed and arming states. 

The project's multidisciplinary core research group will promote conceptual development by investigating the contribution that theorising about trust in different disciplines can make to international nuclear trust-building. 

Professor Wheeler's work will include comparative case studies of nuclear rivalries that will seek to identify the ideas and beliefs that promoted trust in some cases but not in others, with a view to applying the 'best practice' identified to cases of nuclear mistrust.

The project will involve a series of regional workshops where scholars and practitioners will come together to explore lessons from history (eg missed opportunities for trust-building) with a view to developing new ideas for building trust in regions like South Asia and the Middle East.

The purpose of these theoretical and applied activities is to develop new policy agendas aimed at creating opportunities for promoting trust in relation to one of the most significant issues of global security, namely the future of nuclear weapons. 

To find out more about the project, please visit the project website.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/G034176/1 01/10/2009 01/02/2012 £387,740
ES/G034176/2 Transfer ES/G034176/1 02/02/2012 30/09/2013 £56,095
Description The first major impact of the project has been on the activities of specific NGOs in the security field who have incorporated the project's research on trust into their work, namely: Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House The research that I have conducted on the ideas and beliefs that inhibit trust, and those that can promote it, was influential in Sir Richard Dalton's Chatham House paper on the Iran nuclear negotiations in February 2013. The paper grew out of a closed meeting at Chatham House where I delivered the only paper (testimonial on file from Dalton - see also Baker, Lucas and Wheeler 2012; Nedal and Wheeler 2012; Wheeler 2013; Baker and Wheeler 2014). The European Leadership Network Dr Ian Kearns (Director of the European Leadership Network) has acknowledged the impact of my research on the ELN's work on NATO-Russia trust-building (see Durkelac, Kulesa, and Kearns 2013; testimony on file from Kearns). Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace My research has had a valuable impact on the Indian-based NGO, WISCOMP. I delivered training on the theory and practice of trust building in 2010 (using a variant of Herbert Kelman's 'interactive problem-solving' method) to Indian early-career scholars, government officials, and representatives from industry, the Media, and the Arts. My research has had an important impact on how WISCOMP has framed its own trust-building and conflict transformation activities (Sewak 2011; testimonial on file from the Director of WISCOMP; Wheeler 2011, 2012). All these activities have the potential for generating further, longer-term impact in the years ahead. In addition, the new project that Wheeler is leading on 'Nuclear Ethics and Global Nuclear Governance' under the ESRC/AHRC's Ethics, Rights and Security programme will provide further opportunities for impact with regard to this project on trust. The second major impact of the project has been in relation to the work on Argentine-Brazilian nuclear cooperation that was conducted in partnership with Dr Matias Spektor's team at FGV, Rio. The centre-piece of this effort has been the Critical Oral History (COH) conference that was held in Rio in February 2012. The publication of the conference transcript and associated commentary in the form of an edited book produced by the project team will provide a unique record, as seen from the perspective of the key officials who were central to the process of cooperation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The book, published in English, Portuguese, and Spanish will be accessible from June 2015 on the website of The Wilson Centre's Cold War International History Project. In addition to the conference transcript, which provides new insights into how these two regional rivals de-escalated their nuclear competition, a film of the making of the Rio COH meeting will also be available on the Wilson Centre website. Two of the research fellows on the joint ICCS-FGV project, Dr. Carlo Patti and Ms. Renata Dalaqua, have used materials from the COH transcript to critically engage officials from The Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) in technical meetings over the course of 2013 and 2014. In addition, Spektor is actively engaged in conversations on Brazil's nuclear history, and the implications for future policy, with key decision makers such as Brazil's Defence Minister, Celso Amorim, and Foreign Minister Antônio Patriota. Spektor and Wheeler plan, in conjunction with Professor John Tirman at MIT and Malcolm Byrne at the US National Security Archive, to develop a new project exploring Amorim's role in the 2010 Tehran Declaration, bringing together Iranian, Brazilian, US, and Turkish officials in a future COH meeting. The third impact of the project has been capacity development. This has taken two related forms: first, the project has played a pivotal role in the development in the UK of a new, cross-disciplinary research grouping that is investigating the role of trust in world politics. In particular, the project has become a magnet for the following early career researchers: Laura Considine (the linked PhD Studentship on the project), Naomi Head (Glasgow); Vincent Keating (formerly Durham and now University of Southern Denmark); Jan Ruzicka (Aberystwyth); Kate Sullivan (Oxford); Heather Williams (King's College London); and Ben Zala (Leicester). The second aspect of capacity building has been the project's institutionalization through the creation of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS) at the University of Birmingham in February 2012, of which Wheeler is the first director. The Institute will, with the appointments currently being made, boast the largest concentration of research expertise in Europe, and perhaps the world, focused on the challenge of how to build trust in adversarial relationships, both within and between states. The grouping includes four PhD students working on trust and empathy with Wheeler and colleagues at the University of Birmingham: Joshua Baker and Ana Alecsandru are ESRC DTC students, whilst Scott Edwards and Sumedh Rao are funded by the University of Birmingham. The research taking place in the ICCS retains a strong nuclear focus with Wheeler's continuing research into the cases of US-Iran and India-Pakistan relations, the work of Baker on US-Iran nuclear relations, and Alecsandru on the role of trust in the Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition, the new ESRC funded project led by Wheeler on Nuclear Ethics and Global Nuclear Governance has a key focus on the future role of the NPT (a member of the project team is currently representing the ICCS at the 2015 NPT Review Conference). More broadly, the ICCS delivers an annual training programme in 'Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation', as well as offering a Master's degree in Global Cooperation and Security. The training programme and Master's degree provide important platforms for long-term impact.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal

Description Diplomatic Transformations in International Anarchy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Martin Wight Memorial Lecture given at Chatham House, London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Researching the 2003-2006 Nuclear Negotiations Between Iran and the West 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Lecture given at 'Challenges of Security Cooperation in Europe' conference at Aberystwyth University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013