Origins and Development of the Hague Code of Conduct
HCOC RESEARCH PAPERS NO. 11
The Hague Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation (HCoC) is a multilateral instrument which aims at curbing the proliferation of ballistic missiles able to carry weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
The HCoC was adopted in 2002 in the Hague and therefore completed 20 years of existence in 2022. This atypical component of the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture was developed in the framework of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
However, its drafting borrowed from various reflections and propositions that emerged at the time to address the security threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles linked to WMD programs.
This paper recalls the state of ballistic missile proliferation at the time of the adoption of the Code, before delving into the genesis of the Code and especially the various reports and meetings that promoted the adoption of a supply-side multilateral instrument. It describes the conferences and diplomatic efforts that led to the Code in 2002. It also explains why the Code ended up the way it is today with modest ambitions but concrete outcomes.
Vann H. Van Diepen
“The origins of the HCoC go back farther than commonly assumed, starting in 1987 with the initial consideration of globalizing the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, followed by a broad consideration in 1993 within the United States and MTCR of the future of missile nonproliferation…”
The 20th anniversary of the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) is an appropriate time to recall what led to the effort to craft this global nonproliferation instrument and how it came into being. This paper will cover the status of ballistic missile proliferation in the years leading up to the HCoC; the history behind the effort to create what became the HCoC; how the Code was developed; and why the Code ended up as it did. In short:
- After successfully eliminating ballistic missiles from some 13 countries through the late 1990s, the remaining programs of proliferation concern increasingly were working around the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and missile-related export controls, seeking missiles and missile technology from non-member suppliers and seeking their own indigenous capability to produce missiles and key missile production inputs.
- The origins of the HCoC go back farther than commonly assumed, starting in 1987 with the initial consideration of globalizing the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, followed by a broad consideration in 1993 within the United States and MTCR of the future of missile nonproliferation, and then a series of real-world proliferation events and policy developments in 1998 and 1999 that crystallized the formulation of the first draft of the Code.
- That first draft was formulated from 1999-2001 in the MTCR. In 2001, the Code effort was separated from the Regime under the auspices of successive European countries, who hosted two multilateral meetings in the spring and summer of 2002. All countries prepared to subscribe to the Code attended a ‘launching conference’ in The Hague in November 2002, where the HCoC came into existence with 93 Subscribing States.
- The content and development process of the HCoC were very strongly determined by four key objectives of the most active developers of the Code: (1) an outcome implementable by all countries; (2) an outcome that did not inadvertently contribute to missile proliferation or ‘legitimize’ missile programs of proliferation concern; (3) an outcome that did not undermine the effectiveness of the MTCR and missile-related export controls; and (4) an outcome yielding definitive results in a relatively short time.
Central to achieving these objectives was the founders’ decision to pursue a politically-binding arrangement rather than a legally-binding treaty, and to use a non-traditional negotiating process that incubated the arrangement within the MTCR.