Director’s reflections

This is edition No. 130 of Trust & Verify. We published the first edition of the bulletin on 1 June 1989. In it, Patricia Lewis, one of the centre’s first Executive Directors, wrote ‘verification has become one of the key issues in arms control negotiations’. She added that ‘having worked in the field of verification research for more than three years, VERTIC has come to realize that there is a need for a regular bulletin dealing solely with verification. In particular, there is a need for an up-to-date analysis of current developments in arms control and the related verification issues.’ We believe that this conclusion is as valid today as it was more than 20 years ago.

Louis Henkin once famously wrote that ‘almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time’. This is undeniably still true. However, making international law practicable is a complex undertaking. Once a treaty has been agreed, it often needs to be implemented into national law. This is the focus of our NIM Programme. And of course, an undertaking will be virtually worthless if confidence in it is eroded by suspicions that the other party is not doing what it pledged to do. History has repeatedly proven the value of effective verification of compliance, and often showed how dangerous it can be when this important information stops flowing.

In 2011, VERTIC will be 25 years old. We will be celebrating this through the launch of a new website, a conference at Wilton Park, and a number of receptions in most, if not all, cities where international verification agencies work tirelessly to make this world a safer place. But above all, we will celebrate our continued assertion that verification builds trust amongst nations and confidence in international law. Without it, we are all a little bit less secure.

Andreas Persbo.