Five months from now, 53 world leaders will meet at the third of four planned biannual Nuclear Security Summits, this time in the Netherlands. Up until now, participant countries have focused on implementing existing treaties and recommendations and improving international cooperation. To further the summits’ goals, they should also think about embracing voluntary compliance regimes.
Voluntary systems encourage companies and governments to comply with standards not covered by legal mandates. They’ve been used in the healthcare and chemical industries; helped develop new norms in energy-efficient building design; and allowed organizations to track how extractive industries compensate developing countries. Right now, the Obama administration is gathering reports from various agencies on how to encourage industries to follow stricter cyber-security regulations. While these initiatives are often spurred by particular events, they have also been pushed by visionary leaders. The summits provide an opportunity for US President Barack Obama or others to pursue a similar strategy on nuclear security.