In Remembrance of Ben Sanders

April 8, 2024

Ben Sanders

Benjamin Sanders passed away at the age of 97 on March 31, 2024. He was perhaps the last of the original nonproliferation titans, whose number included George Bunn, Therese Delpech, Jayantha Dhanapala, David Fischer, Mohamed Shaker, and Roland Timerbaev.

Born in Amsterdam, Ben had a distinguished career as a Dutch diplomat and UN official, work that included serving as Secretary General of the 1985 NPT Review Conference. Arguably of even greater importance was his foresight in collaborating with Professor John Simpson of the University of Southampton in 1986 to establish the Program for Promoting Nuclear Nonproliferation (PPNN). The PPNN provided two invaluable services in support of the NPT. Its diverse core group of senior diplomats constituted a network of key individuals who developed close personal relationships and anticipated many of the issues that had to be addressed at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference (The Conference’s president, Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala, was one of those individuals). The PPNN also produced an extraordinary array of publications, including a quarterly Newsbrief edited by Ben, which assisted NPT diplomats to prepare for the historic Review and Extension Conference. He continued his work on the PPNN until 2002.

I am frequently reminded today how prescient Ben’s analysis was on issues such as the need to strengthen the NPT review process, the perils of consensus decision making, and the challenges of negotiating a NWFZ in the Middle East. We sorely need his wisdom today.

William Potter

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