The Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC)
Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC)
The Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC) curbs the proliferation of WMD-capable ballistic missiles.
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The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), formerly known as “The International Code of Conduct” (ICOC), was adopted at an international conference held on 25-26 November 2002 in The Hague. The HCOC, as a political initiative, is aimed at bolstering efforts to curb ballistic missile proliferation worldwide and to further delegitimize such proliferation. The HCOC is the only normative instrument to verify the spread of ballistic missiles. The Code does not call for the destruction of any missiles, it is simply an agreement between States on how they should “conduct” their trade in missiles.
The Code is meant to supplement the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) but its membership is not restricted. Under the Code, States make politically binding commitments to curb the proliferation of WMD-capable ballistic missiles and to exercise maximum restraint in developing, testing, and deploying such missiles. Given the similarities between the technologies used in ballistic missiles and civilian rockets, the Code also introduces transparency measures such as annual declarations and pre-launch notifications regarding ballistic missile and space launch programs.
At the conference, Austria was appointed as the administrative Central Contact of the Code, coordinating the information exchange under HCOC. Subscribing States also decided to have regular meetings starting in the spring of 2003.
Verification and Compliance
The Code does not represent an effective and verifiable regime against ballistic missiles. Rather, it is a politically binding document, encouraging States to undertake limited measures such as annually reporting on their ballistic missile programs and alerting all other signatories before conducting ballistic missile tests. There is no attempt to commit signatories to legal obligations, with the focus remaining on broad principles rather than detailed action plans. There is no inspection system to assure compliance with the Code or sanctions for violating it.
Point of Contact
Immediate Central Contact (Executive Secretariat):
Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe
Integration and Foreign Affairs Department for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Phone: +43 5 01150 3252/3691
Fax: +43 5 01159 3252/3691
Email: [email protected]
See also Austrian Foreign Ministry, Hague Code of Conduct Web Page.
November 26, 2022 marked the 20th anniversary of the Hague Code of Conduct.
On May 30-31, 2022, the 21st meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct took place in Vienna, chaired by Nigeria.
On July 7-8, 2021, the 20th meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct was held in Vienna, chaired by Argentina. The meeting highlighted the importance of the Code as a unique multilateral confidence building and transparency measure to address ballistic missile proliferation, and stressed the importance of achieving full implementation of the Code. As of July 2021, 143 States had subscribed to the Code.
On October 12th, the 19th meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct took place in Vienna with Switzerland serving as chair. Members reiterated their commitments to the Code and its importance in preventing the proliferation of ballistic missiles. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Equatorial Guinea, and Somalia became members to the Code. In addition, the members discussed developments in the DPRK missile program.
On 3-4 June, the eighteenth annual Regular Meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was held in Vienna. Sweden chaired the committee. Norway, which will chair the committee for 2019-2020, announced its primary objectives for the year, including the full implementation and universalization of the Hague Code. The committee welcomed Togo’s subscription to the Code shortly before the June 3-4th meeting. At the meeting, the Subscribing States stressed that while the threat of proliferation to international security is severe, states should retain the right to explore and use outer space for peaceful purposes.
On 28-29 May, the seventeenth annual Regular Meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was held in Vienna, Austria. The committee was chaired by Poland; Sweden will replace Poland as the chair of HCOC for 2018-2019. The committee affirmed the right for the peaceful use of outer space as outlined in the Outer Space Treaty, discussed recent developments regarding the DPRK missile program, and agreed on the importance of achieving universalization of the Code.
On 6-7 June, the sixteenth annual Regular Meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was held in Vienna. The committee, composed of 64 registered delegations, was chaired by Kazakhstan; Poland will replace Kazakhstan as the chair for 2017-2018. The committee stressed the importance of the Code and welcomed India’s subscription as a positive step towards the process of universalization. The committee also expressed concern over the continuation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missile tests.
On 2-3 June, the fifteenth Regular Meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was held in Vienna. The committee, composed of 72 delegates was chaired by Canada; Kazakhstan will replace Canada as the chair for 2016-2017. The committee reaffirmed the importance of the Code as a multilateral confidence building and transparency measure, and discussed efforts to universalize the Code.
On 28-29 May, the fourteenth Regular Meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was held in Vienna. Peru chaired the meeting and will be replaced by Canada for 2015-2016. The committee, composed of 63 registered delegations, discussed the importance and universalization of the Code, as well as regional concerns in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia.
On 29-30 May, the thirteenth Regular Meeting of the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation was held in Vienna. The committee, composed of 67 delegations, discussed universalization of the Code, Pre-Launch-Notifications and other implementation measures. Japan was the outgoing Chair, and will be taken over by Peru for 2014 to 2015.
On 16 October, the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation submitted a working paper to the UN General Assembly.
On 4 January the General Assembly adopted Resolution 67/42 “The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation” which recognized the HCOC’s contribution to nonproliferation and decided to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-ninth session an item entitled “General and complete disarmament,” with the sub-item “The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.”
On 30-31 May the 12th regular meeting of the HCOC took place. The Republic of Korea chaired the meeting and will be replaced by Japan for 2013-2014. Next year’s objectives will look at the full and comprehensive implementation of the Code in all its aspects and strengthening the outreach activities of the HCOC. Subscribing States reaffirmed their commitment to international peace. The DPRK’s ballistic missile test on 12 December 2012 was noted with worry, and as such the HCOC would like to encourage more subscriptions in such regions.
On 31 May-1 June in Vienna, the Subscribing States to the HCOC held their 11th plenary meeting.
Subscribing states noted the importance of the HCOC as a unique multilateral confidence-building and transparency instrument and agreed to promote a resolution on the HCOC at the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly. They noted recent developments in the implementation of the HCOC, particularly in pre-launch notifications. Japan was selected as the Chair for 2013-2014 and Azerbaijan announced its candidacy for 2014-2015. The Republic of Congo and Singapore were welcomed as new members of the HCOC.
On 2-3 June in Vienna, the Subscribing States to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC) held their 10th plenary meeting.
France, an outgoing Chair of the HCOC, reviewed the efforts made during the last year to reinforce the implementation of the Code among the Subscribing States and to gain more support and interest from the non-subscribing countries. During the meeting, Romania, elected Chair for 2011-2012, stated that it aims to accomplish a complete implementation of HCOC as well as to promote universalization of the Code during the time of its presidency. Republic of Korea was selected as the next Chair for 2012-2013.
During the meeting, the participants welcomed Iraq and Central African Republic as new members of HCOC.
The Subscribing States underlined the significance of UN General Assembly resolution 65/73 in support of the HCOC adoption by the UN at the last UN general Assembly.
Several Subscribing and Non-Subscribing States were invited in May to visit Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou in French Guyana.
In May 2010, U.S. officials reportedly sent a confidential letter to the HCOC secretariat, announcing the U.S. agreement to provide pre-launch notifications for most of its missile and satellite launches. No further information was available from open sources.
The 9th Regular Meeting of the HCOC took place in Vienna on 31 May-1 June under the chairmanship of France. At the meeting, Romania formally announced its candidacy for the HCOC chairmanship for 2011-2012.
On 29 October, the United Nations Disarmament and International Security Committee (First Committee) adopted Resolution A/C.1/65/L.45 on HCOC by a vote of 149-1-18. Among other measures, it welcomes progress made, invites all States that have not yet done so to subscribe to the HCOC, and encourages the exploration of further ways and means to deal effectively with the problem of the proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. The only State to vote against this resolution was Iran and of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, only China abstained from voting.
On 8 December, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution 65/73 on The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. Resolution 65/73 encourages all states not yet implementing the Code of Conduct to do so. The Resolution also decided to include in the provisional agenda for the sixty-seventh session of the UNGA the item entitled “The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.”
The 8th Regular Meeting of the HCOC was held in Vienna from 28-29 May under the chairmanship of Costa Rica.
The 7th Regular Meeting of the HCOC was held in Vienna from 29-30 May under Hungarian chairmanship. On 28 October, the UN First Committee voted on draft Resolution L.38 (GA/63/64) which noted that 130 states have subscribed to the HCOC and invited states that had not yet subscribed to do so. The vote was 146-1-19 with only the Islamic Republic of Iran voting against the resolution. The Iranian vote served to protest that the HCOC was negotiated outside of the United Nations and did not involve all interested countries in the process. On 15 December, the European Council adopted a decision in support of the HCOC in the framework of the implementation of the EU strategy against the proliferation of WMD.
The 6th Regular Conference of Subscribing States of the HCOC was held in Vienna from 31 May to 1 June. Chairperson Ivica Dronjic of Bosnia and Herzegovina noted that in addition to the confidence building measures and the outreach activities, he would promote the Code in the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement. Hungary was elected as the new Chair. The next regular meeting would be held between 29-30 May 2008 in Vienna.
The 5th Regular Conference was held from 22 – 23 June 2006 in Vienna. As outgoing Chair of the HCOC, Philippine Ambassador to Vienna, Austria Linglingay F. Lacanlale opened the 5th Regular Meeting of the Subscribing States to the Code with a brief overview of the highlights of the two-year Philippine Chairmanship (details in 2005 developments). The conference considered various confidence building measures and deliberated the outreach activities that would support the universalization of the Code of Conduct. Morocco was elected as the new Chair. The new chairperson, Omar Zniber, noted that he would promote HCOC in the Middle East and Africa.
The 4th Regular Conference of Subscribing States of the HCOC was held in Vienna in 2-3 June. The main topics discussed were the strengthening of confidence building measures, including annual declarations of ballistic missile and space-launch vehicle politics, and the universalization of the code through outreach activities. Subscribing states also agreed on a draft text resolution for the UN General Assembly in the hopes of building upon the previous resolution passed on 2 December 2004. The Philippines was elected to continue as Chair of HCOC.
The United Nations General Assembly at its 60th session (2005) adopted resolution 60/62 which cited the HCOC as “a practical step against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery,” and invited non-subscribing states to subscribe to the code
An HCOC outreach seminar was held in Manila on September 10, 2005, seeking to heighten awareness of the HCOC and to encourage more Asian States to subscribe to the Code.
Vienna held the 2nd Intersessional Meeting 23-25 June, at which the Philippines was elected Chair.
The 3rd Regular Conference took place in Vienna in November. It was decided at this meeting that the International Code of Conduct would be called the Hague Code of Conduct.
The Second Annual Meeting was held 1-3 October in New York, and was chaired by Chile. Members agreed to continue working on universalization of the Code, as well as implementation issues. Annual declarations on space and ballistic missile policies were also discussed.
In Vienna on 23 June, an ad-hoc technical intercessional meeting held by the Subscribing States reported on issues relating to the implementation of the Code, specifically annual declarations on ballistic missile and space programs.
At the February 2002 meeting in Paris, more than 80 States agreed on a slightly revised draft International Code of Conduct (as was agreed to at the 2001 MTCR Plenary meeting), with the hope of completing it by the end of 2002. Among the significant changes were fewer and less explicit references to existing disarmament and nonproliferation treaties, as well as the introduction of looser language with respect to the Code’s “obligations” (now referred to as “general measures”) and “incentives” (replaced by “cooperation” and “cooperative measures”). Outstanding issues included calls to delegitimize missiles and promote missile disarmament, the question of how to preserve the peaceful use of ballistic missile technology in space (space launch vehicles) without promoting ballistic missile proliferation, and the issue of long-range cruise missiles.
On 17-19 June 2002, delegations from nearly 100 countries met in Madrid to continue negotiations on the drafting of the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. At the Madrid conference, countries provided additional comments and suggestions on the revised text transmitted by France. The number of countries attending the meeting surpassed that of the Paris meeting and included states with well-developed missile programs such as China, India, Israel, and Pakistan. However, Iran, which actively participated at the Paris meeting, decided not to attend at the last minute.
At the Ottawa Plenary in September, the draft HCOC was adopted and the partners of MTCR decided that France would host a meeting to be attended by member and non-member countries early in 2002 to further discuss and finalize the draft Code of Conduct.
At its plenary session in Helsinki in October, MTCR partners issued a draft International Code of Conduct, under which subscribing States would commit themselves to exercising maximum possible restraint in the development, testing, and deployment of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. The draft Code contains principles, obligations, incentives, and confidence-building measures, including the announcement of planned missile launches, and transparency measures relating to missile policy and stockpiles. The subscribing States to the draft Code agreed to make an annual declaration with respect to ballistic missile programs, including an outline of their ballistic missile and space launch vehicle policies. The draft Code offers all countries outside the MTCR an opportunity to engage in a broader common effort to agree on an internationally binding Code of Conduct. According to the Code, cooperative measures would be arranged on a case-by-case basis between the countries requesting cooperation and those subscribing countries willing and able to provide it.