Paul Ingram has written a new report for BASIC explaining the Stepping Stones Approach to Disarmament from a personal perspective as one of its designers. The report provides his in depth account of the background to the philosophy underlying the Stepping Stones Approach, and he details the five-step process of the Approach itself and responds to some common questions and criticisms around the SSA.
The Approach is a pragmatic and adaptable political strategy. It has been formulated to raise the chances of successful implementation of policy in highly contested environments by actively involving diverse perspectives in the design, evolution and execution of policy. It puts the search for common ground across the international community at the heart of disarmament diplomacy. It involves an attempt to understand and empathise with others holding very different perspectives, seeing one’s own within the broader ecosystem of viewpoints, and accepting that outcomes could look somewhat different to the original ideas we may have when starting the process.
By establishing room for incremental improvement without demanding drastic change in the early stages, it builds trust and confidence, and changes the understanding and calculus of all parties over time. It does not need all stakeholders in the system to be signed up to the approach for it to achieve progress, but does require a cohesive and aligned core group to follow its adaptive method.