A plea for the intelligibilization of international diplomatic language

[Guest blog by Fabian Van Langevelde ]

Yesterday, my girlfriend and her team had a workshop in our appartment. She works at an NGO as programme leader for nuclear disarmament (check them out at http://nonukes.nl, they’re pretty awesome and do great work). She and the team had worked on flipover sheets to collect notes and make an action roadmap.

At night, one of the flipover sheets was left on the living room door and on it, it said:”universalization of NWFZ flows from NPT article 7″

FYI: NWFZ stands for Nuclear Weapons Free Zone(s), NPT is the “nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty”, article 7 of the NPT reads: “Nothing in this Treaty affects the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.”

I see how a NWFZ could “flow” from that. Everything clear so far. Except for one thing. The word “universalization”.

First off I was convinced it wasn’t even a word, then a misappropriated one. I discussed with my girlfriend about what they had meant by it. It took a while, but eventually she agreed that they’d meant a nuclear weapons free world. Well, I said, then you mean globalization, because it’s really just the world we are talking about. For all we know the rest of the universe is already NWF, so to speak.

No no, I’ve always known the term universalization for this, even in UN documents.

Hardly a good argument! I bet it’s not even a word. So I reach for my trusty OED which promptly let me down and said that not only was “universalization” a word, so was “universalizability”. I still argued on, though. People who know me will not be surprised.

I claimed: do you mean the world’s NWFZ should all have the same rules? No, she said, universal. Like a universal law, it is applicable to all, to everybody.

This had me stumped for a bit. Not the fact that she was right. That happens a lot. Not the fact that I was wrong. That happens too. No, it was the fact that she was right and I knew I was not wrong. I knew 100% sure that what was written on the flipover sheet was not correct. It wouldn’t have jumped out at me if it had been.

I am ashamed to say it took me several minutes to figure out what was wrong. You cannot make zones universal. The sheer definition of a zone implies that there is something other than the zone. Something not in the zone, if you will. Trying to make a certain type of zone universal is utter nonsense. What you can make universal are the conditions that define the zone. In this particular case being free of nuclear weapons.

So, all in all, what I think they mean to say is: A nuclear weapons free world flows from NPT article 7.

I hope the UN agrees. In less elusory terms.

Dit bericht werd geplaatst in Blogs in English, Nucleaire Ontwapening en getagged met , . Maak dit favoriet permalink.

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