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From COCOM to Wassenaar: Is It Still Our Way Ahead?


A multilateral partnership and a product of the Cold War, COCOM has long been superseded by the successor body, the Wassenaar Arrangement, supposedly to be a non-ideological alternative endeavoring to prompt its member nations to pursue cases of export control for conventional arms and dual-use items. But similar to COCOM, the Wassenaar Arrangement has shortcomings. The Wassenaar Arrangement is merely able to provide a platform of coordination and raise awareness among its member nations of suggested benchmarks and best practices, lacking the authority to enforce compliance. Also, some other noteworthy multilateral export control regimes are currently standing side by side with the Wassenaar Arrangement, equally short of enforcement power, but perhaps having some similarities. Moreover, while the Cold War, in name, only appears to be no longer there, geopolitical tensions around the world show little signs of tapering off at present. Under such conditions, the United Nations has yet to exert an authoritative influence over all United Nations member countries in that very aspect which the Wassenaar Arrangement is concerned with. This Article argues that to ensure that export control compliance and enforcement is available and consistent across the board, conceiving a new United Nations agency at a certain point in time may be necessary. As such, having the Wassenaar Arrangement appropriately subsumed thus enables that new agency to play an exclusively United Nations-mandated, authoritative role in terms of effectuating global export control, and eventually ought to be the way ahead.