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Part II: The 1995 Decisions

Acronym Report No.13

The 1995 Review and Extension Conference

France and China joined the NPT as nuclear weapon states in 1992, and by the time of the Fifth Review Conference in 1995, there were 178 States Parties. The 1995 Conference had the dual task of reviewing the Treaty and deciding on the length of time by which it should be renewed. In advance of the Conference, four of the NWS, NATO and many Western allies and former Soviet States had publicly come out in favour of extending the Treaty indefinitely, which would, in effect, make it permanent. Just before the RevCon opened, there had been a flurry of activity designed to bring this about, including the four-power 'Joint Declaration' from Britain, France, Russia and the United States; the withdrawal by various NWS of unpopular requirements such as safety tests and the 10-year 'easy opt-out' in the CTBT negotiations; unilateral declarations on negative security assurances from each of the NWS, which were noted in a UN Security Council resolution which updated UNSC 255 from 1968 (UNSC 984, dated April 11, 1995, unanimously adopted); and further announcements of nuclear weapons withdrawals.(1)

The NPT was indefinitely extended as part of a 'politically binding package' of three decisions proposed by the Conference President, Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, and adopted without a vote by 174 States Parties.(2)

The package comprised:

1) Strengthening the Review Process for the Treaty

2) Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (P&O); and

3) Extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

At the same time the NPT Parties adopted a resolution on the Middle East, proposed by the depositary states (the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom). This was a watered-down version of a draft from 14 Arab states, and called for universal adherence to the Treaty and regional efforts to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. The resolution came about because the Arab States, led by Egypt, had made clear that any agreement on the extension decision would depend on commitments to make further progress on universality and on addressing Israel's nuclear weapons programme.

After adopting the decisions on indefinite extension and strengthening the review of the Treaty, the 1995 Conference failed to agree a final declaration on the review and implementation of the NPT since 1990. The reports from MC II and III, on safeguards and non-military uses, were almost completely accepted, so there was substantial agreement on security assurances, safeguards, cooperation, safety, transshipment and dumping of nuclear materials, and the lapsing of Article V on so-called 'peaceful' nuclear explosions. Although there had been fierce debate over the Middle East, export controls and security assurances, the obstacles to reaching a final declaration were the opposing positions on nuclear disarmament. The report from MC I was a mass of square brackets, reflecting the lack of consensus and, indeed, considerable acrimony, which had characterised the disarmament committee's proceedings.

The three decisions were adopted without a vote, but though some states therefore claimed that the Treaty was indefinitely extended by consensus, others insist this was not the case. Because of the inability of the NPT parties to agree a procedure for taking a vote on extension early in the Conference, Dhanapala came up with the ingenious device of gaining consensus for the fact that there was a majority in favour of indefinite extension. This was true, as Canada had been assiduously signing up states to its proposal for indefinite extension, and had reached at least 90 (more than half) by the third week of the Conference . As the decisions on strengthening the review process and the P&O were adopted first, many have also argued that the decision on indefinite extension was conditional upon the first two, while the NWS and their allies prefer to consider each decision to be independent of the others.

The concept for the P&O was put forward in the first week by South Africa, a new party to the NPT and member of the NAM. At an earlier PrepCom, South Africa had canvassed the case for a 25-year rolling extension, such as first put forward by George Bunn.(3) Failing to unite a significant number of NAM colleagues around this option, and under pressure from the United States and Western allies, South Africa took a position supporting indefinite extension, together with a mechanism to address the full implementation of the Treaty. South Africa identified eight broad areas for a set of 'principles' for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament which "would not be an amendment of the Treaty...[but] rather be a lodestar..." South Africa also proposed a 'review committee' to meet at fixed intervals between review conferences, with sub-committees to study specific issues, such as universality, disarmament issues beyond a CTBT and fissban, and so on.

During the Conference, Dhanapala had taken soundings with a wide range of delegations, which revealed i) there was a majority for indefinite extension; ii) that most of those also wanted 'a lot more', especially on nuclear disarmament; and iii) they wanted the decisions to be made by consensus and not through divisive voting. Dhanapala subsequently convened about 25 key states in 'President's Consultations'. Using the South African proposal as a basis, they negotiated a set of Principles and Objectives and a mechanism for meeting to review the Treaty between the quinquennial review conferences. The P&O consisted of a preamble and 20 paragraphs covering seven topics: universality; non-proliferation; nuclear disarmament; NWFZ; security assurances; safeguards and 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy.

Germany played a leading role in developing the ideas for strengthening the review process, including meetings in each of the three years prior to a review conference, lasting 10 working days. The NWS argued that to fit in with past practice, these meetings should be designated 'preparatory committee' (PrepCom) meetings, although it was clearly understood that their function would be much wider than previous PrepComs. Under the strengthened review process, the review conferences "should look forward as well as back...evaluate...and identify the areas in which, and the means through which, further progress should be sought in the future." The purpose of the PrepComs was "to consider principles, objectives and ways in order to promote the full implementation of the Treaty, as well as its universality, and to make recommendations thereon to the Review Conference."

MC I on Nuclear Disarmament

The core conflict in MC I was between the NWS, who wanted approval for their progress in nuclear arms control and reductions over the previous five years, and the non-aligned states, who wanted to bind the NWS into a programme for further nuclear disarmament. The NWS each said that they had fulfilled their obligations under the Treaty and all but China enumerated the reductions undertaken since 1990. China emphasised its 'defensive' doctrine and called for a five power agreement on mutual non-first use of nuclear weapons. While four of the NWS referred to nuclear disarmament as "an ultimate goal", China repeated its call for a convention prohibiting nuclear weapons along the lines of the conventions banning chemical and biological weapons (CWC and BWC). In their statements, the United States, Britain and France also tended to locate nuclear disarmament in the context of general and complete disarmament, appearing to make the link conditional, thereby distancing the achievability of nuclear disarmament as a step towards complete disarmament.

Among the issues raised by non-NWS in MCI were:

The P&O contained two paragraphs relating directly to nuclear disarmament. In para 3, the NWS reaffirmed "their commitment, as stated in article VI, to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament". In para 4, the P&O identified these three key objectives:

a) completion of the CTBT by 1996;

b) immediate commencement of the fissban negotiations, in accordance with the report to the CD by Ambassador Gerald Shannon, the Special Coordinator (CD/1299, March 24, 1995);

c) the determined pursuit by the NWS of "systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons..."

Para 8 addressed security assurances, noting UNSC 984 (1995), the updated UN Security Council resolution on security assurances, and the unilateral declarations from the NWS (made to the CD on April 6), and then calling for "further steps" which "could take the form of an internationally legally binding instrument".

MC II on Safeguards and NWFZ

Discussion on safeguards was clearly in the context of the discovery of non-compliance by two NPT parties: Iraq and North Korea (The Democratic People's Republic of Korea - DPRK). There was strong endorsement of efforts by the IAEA to increase the effectiveness of its safeguards by means of 'Programme 93+2", stressing the need to detect clandestine nuclear activities by widening and improving the scope of inspections and monitoring undeclared facilities.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones were also addressed in MC II. There were strong endorsements and little controversy around supporting the Treaties of Tlatelolco (Latin American and the Caribbean) and Rarotonga (South Pacific), with calls on the NWS to ratify all the relevant protocols. The main NWFZ issue raised was the Middle East, which will be addressed separately, below.

The principal MC II questions raised were:

Paras 5, 6 and 7 of the P&O endorsed nuclear weapon free zones "on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the states of the region concerned" and welcomed the establishment of additional NWFZ by 2000. There was specific encouragement of NWFZ, and also zones free of all weapons of mass destruction, being established in regions of tension, such as the Middle East. The NWS were called on to cooperate with NWFZ, and respect and support the protocols relevant to them.

Five paras addressed safeguards. The IAEA was described as the competent authority responsible to verify compliance, with the recognition that the IAEA safeguards regime needed to be strengthened, and regularly assessed and evaluated. All NPT parties who had not yet brought into force their comprehensive safeguards arrangements were encouraged to do so; non NPT parties were also urged to enter into comprehensive safeguards arrangements with the IAEA. Para 12 required full scope safeguards and internationally legally binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons "as a necessary precondition" for NPT parties to supply nuclear material or equipment. Para 13 urged that 'excess' fissile materials should be placed under voluntary safeguards.

MC III on 'Peaceful Uses'

Three types of non-military uses were foreseen when the NPT was negotiated: the production of nuclear energy for electricity; marine propulsion; mining and civil engineering. Although the production of electricity is still the major product, nuclear technology is also used in medicine, and in the fields of agriculture, biology and hydrology.

In attaching importance to the "inalienable right" of states to the 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy, the P&O devoted six paragraphs to the subject. These covered undertakings to facilitate cooperation and assistance, especially to developing states, the promotion of transparency in nuclear export controls, and more effective resourcing for the work of the IAEA in facilitating technical cooperation, safeguards and nuclear safety. Para 18 required NPT parties, through rigorous national measures and international cooperation, to "maintain the highest practicable levels of nuclear safety, including in waste management, and observe standards and guidelines in nuclear materials accounting, physical protection and transport of nuclear materials". Para 19 noted that attacks or threats of attacks on non-military nuclear facilities jeopardised safety and could warrant "appropriate action" under the UN Charter.

The Middle East

In 1995, the Middle East was addressed in plenary statements from the Arab states and in MC II. Some had publicly announced that they could not support indefinite extension as long as Israel remained outside the NPT, others (Libya and Syria) had said they could not support any extension without Israel's accession, while a number remained non-committal on the question of extension, but emphasised Middle East security concerns.

Fourteen Arab states submitted the initial draft of a resolution on the Middle East, which noted various UN Security Council resolutions and statements, the provisions in the NPT for NWFZs and the dangers to security from nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction. They expressed deep concern over Israel's unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, and then:

This was unacceptable to the United States, which was determined to prevent Israel being singled out and condemned. Negotiations proceeded among the Arab states and interested parties, including the NWS. The resolution got diluted to the extent that some Arab states refused to sponsor it. Nevertheless, they wanted a decision of the Conference on this issue. Hitting stalemate half way through the final week, the Arab states requested Dhanapala to take over the negotiations. The compromise that was achieved was to accept a much milder resolution but give it greater authority and weight through sponsorship by the three depositary states, Russia, Britain and the United States. Russia had some difficulties, but with time running out, was persuaded of the necessity to meet the Arab states' concerns in this way. The modified resolution added to the original resolution's preamble an endorsement of the aims of the Middle East peace process, including efforts to establish a NWFZ there. Stigmatising Israel by name was avoided by means of referencing the relevant sections of the report of Main Committee III and calling on 'all states of the Middle East that have not yet done so, without exception, to accede to the Treaty as soon as possible...'. Apart from a last minute flutter on the morning of May 11 when Iran held up proceedings over language supporting the Middle East peace process, the resolution was then adopted by all.

The Arab states had won a significant victory by having this separate resolution on the Middle East sponsored by the depositary states and accepted by the Conference without a vote. The device of quoting the relevant section of a Main Committee report set a precedent, all the more interesting because the Committee reports were not incorporated in an agreed Final Declaration, although the sections concerned had the consensus of MC III.

The Review Process 1995-2000

The First PrepCom 1997: establishing some precedents

From April 7 to 18, 149 NPT Parties met in New York for the first session of the PrepCom for the 2000 Review Conference.(4) Chaired by Ambassador Pasi Patokallio of Finland, this was the first meeting under the strengthened review process established in May 1995. The PrepCom applied the rules of procedure of the 1995 Review Conference, intending to "make every effort" to take decisions by consensus, with a fallback provision for majority voting. Patokallio structured the meeting with an initial one-day general debate, followed by further discussion in closed plenary sessions on 'clusters' based on the three Main Committees of disarmament, safeguards and nuclear energy. Meeting in 'Chair's consultations' of around 20-25 states, similar to Dhanapala's consultations in 1995, Patokallio began the process of negotiating a rolling text of recommendations to be transmitted to the 2000 Conference.

The First PrepCom issued its report in three parts. Part I was a technical and descriptive summary of the meeting, covering participants, papers and procedural agreements. This was followed by recommendations to the next PrepCom and to the Review Conference. These were intended to include recommendations to the Second PrepCom to allocate special time to specific discussion of security assurances (proposed by South Africa, backed by the NAM), the Resolution on the Middle East (proposed by Egypt on behalf of 14 Arab states, with NAM backing), and the fissban (proposed by Canada and Germany, with Western backing). Owing to confusions in the final hours of the PrepCom, Mexico refused to support this recommendation unless nuclear disarmament were included. To avoid losing the report altogether, the recommendations were deleted from the report and read into the record in a formal statement from the Chair. As it turned out, the 1998 PrepCom acted on them, allocating a special session for focussed discussion of each of the three named issues.

A further recommendation noted the Chair's paper, which was annexed to the report. The Chair's paper, structured along the lines of the 1995 P&O, addressed the main themes discussed at the PrepCom and negotiated during the Chair's consultations. Formal consensus was not sought, as the paper was put out in Patokallio's name, representing "the highest common factor of agreement" existing among NPT parties at the time. Finally all the proposals which had been formally submitted were annexed to the report, as a useful means of indicating to future PrepComs what had been put forward, without prejudging or recommending future action.

The Second PrepCom 1998: deadlocked

The second session of the PrepCom for the 2000 Review Conference was held in Geneva from April 27 to May 8, 1998. It was chaired by Ambassador Eugeniusz Wyzner of Poland and attended by 96 delegations from States Parties, with Brazil and Israel as non-party observers. The meeting closed shortly after midnight on May 9, after failing to come to agreement on anything but a bare skeleton of procedural decisions to enable the next PrepCom to take place. The Second PrepCom was unable to take decisions on the rules of procedure or background documentation, or any substance or recommendations for the 1999 PrepCom or the 2000 Review Conference.(5)

The Second PrepCom had followed Patokallio's precedent of a short general debate followed by 'cluster' debates in closed plenaries on nuclear disarmament, the non-military uses of nuclear energy and safeguards. Within these broad 'clusters', the meeting gave special attention to security assurances, fissban and the Middle East, as recommended in the Chair's statement from the First PrepCom. These three special sessions were more useful than many delegations had expected, enabling a more focussed discussion on the specific subject areas than possible in the broader cluster debates, which tended to be little more than the reading of national or group position papers. Nothing concrete emerged from the special sessions, however; nor were practical action or proposals apparently expected.

Three proposals were focal to the conduct of the Second PrepCom: arguments from the NAM, the Arab States and Egypt regarding implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East; South Africa's proposal for addressing nuclear disarmament; and Canada's proposal for current or contemporaneous issues to be reflected in agreed statements or documents from the PrepComs as well as from review conferences.

Ostensibly, the 1998 PrepCom failed because of irreconcilable differences between the United States and Egypt over the role and status of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. Though partly true, that explanation is not sufficient. The PrepCom fell apart because of an intractable combination of political, substantive and procedural factors. Even without the Middle East issue, which was largely dictated by external events and political calculations in Washington and Cairo, it is unlikely that the second PrepCom would have been able to agree on nuclear disarmament or any of the procedural proposals for developing the new review process. In particular, the PrepCom exposed a broad gulf of perception and approach between the NWS, acting more and more as a (stumbling) bloc, and a few leading non-nuclear weapon countries, including South Africa, Canada, Indonesia, Egypt and Mexico, with varying degrees of support from other States.

Underlying the debates over procedures and text was a more fundamental division of interests over the purpose and objectives of the review process. The NWS seemed to regret having agreed to so much in 1995. They appeared to be trying to roll back the process and resisting any further mechanisms which might be used as levers for making more effective progress on implementing the Treaty, especially with respect to nuclear disarmament.

The Third PrepCom, 1999: procedure before substance

The third PrepCom, which took place in New York May 10-21, 1999 was both success and failure. Around 107 States Parties participated, managing to adopt a report which contained the essential procedural decisions for the 2000 Review Conference. But this pragmatic success was obtained at the price of shunting a number of political disagreements and contentious issues to be dealt with in 2000.(6)

The meeting took place in the context of a serious deterioration in relations between the United States and Russia, and the United States and China, largely due to NATO air action over Kosovo and Yugoslavia and concerns over US missile defence plans.

Eschewing the unadopted working paper from the gridlocked second PrepCom in 1998, the Chair, Ambassador Camilo Reyes of Colombia, put forward his own draft paper, based on the general and cluster debates in the first week. After lengthy discussions, the draft was revised. Since objections were registered on at least half of the revised paragraphs, principally in the sections on nuclear disarmament and the Middle East, the working paper was not adopted into the report, which dealt only with technical issues and descriptions of participants and decisions. Instead, both the earlier (May 14) and revised (May 20) versions of the Chair's working paper were annexed to the report together with 38 amendments or proposals made by delegations during the consultations.

Adoption of the final report of the PrepCom was possible for two principal reasons: a common desire not to bear the blame for another debilitating failure after the deadlocks at the 1998 PrepCom, and skilful management and mediation by the Chair, who had prepared carefully and consulted widely in advance. There were indications part way through that some of the delegations which had predicted in 1995 that the review process was nothing more than a tool to facilitate the indefinite extension decision might not be averse to another PrepCom failure, which could be portrayed as proving their point. The NWS, in their different ways, likewise showed a marked reluctance to have the strengthened review process utilised for better progress on nuclear disarmament issues, although four out of the five provided greater detail on the steps they have taken to comply with their Treaty obligations, particularly Article VI. In the end, however, the ultimate importance of the non-proliferation regime to the security of all its parties persuaded both the minimalists and maximalists not to risk harming the credibility of the NPT and its review process by blocking on single issues. Just enough flexibility was shown by all sides to enable the essential procedural decisions of the Third PrepCom to be taken.


(1) For a fuller account of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, see Rebecca Johnson, Indefinite Extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Risks and Reckonings, ACRONYM 7, September 1995.

(2) The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) withdrew from the Conference decisions on May 9, 1995.

(3) George Bunn and Charles N. Van Doren, 'Options for Extension of the NPT: the Intention of the Drafters of Article X.2' in PPNN pamphlet Options & Opportunities: The NPT Extension Conference of 1995, PPNN Study Two, 1991.

(4) For fuller accounts of the 1997 PrepCom, see Rebecca Johnson, Reviewing the NPT: the 1997 PrepCom, Disarmament Diplomacy 14, April 1997 and R. Johnson, Reviewing the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Preparing for the Future, ACRONYM 11, April 1998.

(5) Rebecca Johnson, Reviewing the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Problems and Processes, ACRONYM 12, September 1998.

(6) Rebecca Johnson, 'The NPT Third PrepCom: What Happened and How' in Disarmament Diplomacy 37, May 1999, pp 8-26.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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