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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 14, April 1997

Reviewing the NPT: the 1997 PrepCom
By Rebecca Johnson

From 7 to 18 April, 148 States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) met in New York for the first session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2000 Review Conference. This was the first meeting under the strengthened review process established in May 1995, which required that PrepComs be held in each of three years leading up to the five-yearly Review Conferences. 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.' 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.' By implication, the PrepComs have a similar brief, since they were charged with making recommendations, including recommendations for subsidiary bodies to be established. This article reports on the 1997 PrepCom and analyses its effectiveness in laying the groundwork for strengthening the Non-Proliferation regime.


The PrepCom got underway after late challenges by some New York-based non-aligned members of the NPT. Some members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) had refused to endorse the Western States' nominee for Chair, unless they received assurances that they would have the right to nominate the President for the 2000 Review Conference. After agreement that a representative of the Eastern European group of States would chair the second PrepCom and the non-aligned group would propose Chairs for the third PrepCom and the Review Conference in 2000, the NAM delegates withdrew their objections to the Western group's nominee as Chair for this first PrepCom. Although non-aligned delegations had also wanted to chair the fourth PrepCom, if one were held, this was not discussed and may have dropped by the wayside. Ambassador Pasi Patokallio of Finland, who had been put forward late last year, was duly elected.

The opening was also delayed by problems over Yugoslavia and North Korea. The Belgrade Government had signalled that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia wanted to take over the empty 'Yugoslavia' seat. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia objected. They argued that just as they had had to go through a formal process of acceding to the NPT in their own right, so should the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). This dispute over Belgrade's assumption that it should now be accepted as the successor to the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia's treaty and forum membership is being fought out in several fora. In the end, the problem was 'solved' by postponing it for later consideration, aided by the 'no show' of any representative of Belgrade at the PrepCom.

North Korea had also reportedly applied to be an observer at the PrepCom, having given notice of withdrawal from the Treaty three years ago, although the Framework Agreement with the United States prevented it from carrying out the threat. The United States and others refused to accept the DPRK as an observer, arguing that it was still an NPT State Party and could only attend as that. (North Korea attended the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, although it absented itself from the final decisions.) This too was part of a larger challenge and so was temporarily dealt with by the diplomatic absence of any North Korean diplomats from the PrepCom. Unless resolved meanwhile, these membership problems could come up again to delay future PrepComs or the Review Conference.

Once underway, the PrepCom devoted one day to a general debate and exchange of views. Instead of breaking into three committees, the PrepCom continued in closed plenary to discuss three 'clusters' of issues, using the Main Committee precedent for allocation of subjects as nuclear disarmament, safeguards or 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy. During the general debate, a few countries, notably Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, had made proposals for how the PrepComs should be structured and what the outcome of the process should be. Early on, Patokallio implemented a proposal by South Africa that the Chair could facilitate decision-making by working with a smaller, representative group of States, akin to the President's group set up by the 1995 Review Conference President, Jayantha Dhanapala. This proved to be the linchpin of the PrepCom, meeting before or after the plenaries in tightly closed sessions. The membership was kept secret, but it appeared that the group involved all or most of the following: the five nuclear weapon States (NWS); Algeria, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Finland (Chair), Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Ukraine. Although their discussions concerned specifics of recommendations, reports and proposals, the real debate was over the future powers of the review process. In particular, South Africa, Canada and others pushed for it to have a substantive role against the resistance of the nuclear-weapons States, which took a 'mimimalist' approach.

The central questions addressed by the Chair's group included:

Underlying these questions lurked others, particularly: In the plenaries, the non-aligned States were represented by a general, joint statement. Apart from that, debate on the clusters was dominated by western group States, which also put in the majority of proposals. The Chair's group discussions were reportedly more balanced and less formal. A late intervention from Iran's Ambassador Sirous Nasseri, who challenged the procedures which were developing, forced some States' assumptions into the open. Britain's Ambassador Sir Michael Weston put forward a narrow view, with little or no role for concrete recommendations. Weston's interpretation was shared by the other nuclear powers but not by non-nuclear members of the western group. As the non-nuclear-weapon States united in a furious response, the dynamic shifted to reveal the nuclear and non-nuclear countries on opposite sides, regardless of their other regional or political alliances.

By the middle of the second week, it emerged that a report in three parts was being considered. The first part was to be a technical and descriptive summary of the PrepCom meeting, covering participants, papers, and procedural agreements. After strong pressure from South Africa and Egypt, backed by the non-aligned States, it was decided that this report would contain a section on recommendations to the next session of the PrepCom. The draft of this section comprised two paragraphs. The first noted the Chair's paper, which emerged from the consultations, and was annexed to the report, as 'the basis for further work on draft recommendations to the Review Conference'. The second paragraph recommended that time be additionally allocated at the next PrepCom to discussing security assurances (proposed by South Africa, backed by the NAM), the resolution on the Middle East (Egypt on behalf of the Arab States, with NAM support), and the fissile materials ban (Canada and Germany, backed by the western States).

The Chair's working paper, which was annexed to the report, had started out as the Chair's view of the main themes discussed during the PrepCom. Although consensus from the whole PrepCom was not sought, the language and themes of the paper were negotiated during the Consultations, so that the final version was a compromise text, representing what one delegation called 'the highest common factor of agreement' that existed among the States Parties at the time. It was decided that a compilation of all the proposals formally submitted to the PrepCom would be attached as a further annex. South Africa had originally suggested this as 'supported and unsupported proposals'. Others preferred not to weight them in this way, but wanted the State which originated each proposal to be identified. The idea was that compiling the proposals would not require consensus, but could be a useful means of indicating to future PrepComs what had been put forward or prioritised by certain countries, without prejudging or recommending future action.

On the last day of the Conference, when it appeared that the US and Egypt had ironed out the wording of the recommendation on the Middle East resolution (although Washington was still reluctant to see this prioritised), Mexico raised a series of objections. As the day wore on, and Mexico held out against any compromise, it looked as if the PrepCom might close without adopting any report at all. Concerned that nuclear disarmament had not been specifically prioritised, Mexico sought two substantive amendments to the report. Firstly, it wanted the Chair's paper to be downgraded to an 'unofficial' paper, saying that it should not be treated as the basis for further work, but only as one among a number of documents which could be taken into account in the future. Patokallio objected that his paper was the product of considerable consultation with States Parties and could not be described as either unofficial or informal. Late into Friday night, after the interpreters had long gone, the PrepCom accepted a modified version of Mexico's amendment, referring to the Chair's 'working paper'.

Mexico's second demand was that nuclear disarmament should be added as a fourth issue for allocation of time at the second session. In vain, South Africa, Egypt and others pointed out that nuclear disarmament was one of the three main clusters, with considerable time already provided. They argued that the reasons for demanding the specific recommendations on security assurances, the Middle East resolution and fissban were that these had been identified as important in 1995, but were neglected in the cluster debates because they did not fit directly into the three main clusters based on the 1968 Treaty articles. Moreover, these issues had particular characteristics and could potentially benefit from practical consideration and perhaps even negotiations under the auspices of the NPT review process. The nuclear weapon States had opposed making recommendations on further work and the United States had particularly objected to singling out security assurances and the Middle East. After the confrontation with non-nuclear-weapon States early in the second week of the PrepCom, the nuclear powers had backed down and, making a virtue of defeat, had supported adding the fissban as a third item. Britain had then pushed for safeguards as well, but withdrew when it was pointed out that as safeguards was one of the main clusters, it did not fit in this section. For many of the non-nuclear-weapon States, the point was not so much about the merits of further work on these three particular issues as such, but rather the importance of establishing a precedent for making recommendations on priorities for further work.

Though they had sympathy with Mexico's desire to prioritise nuclear disarmament, they did not support its tactic, which they feared would lose them the precedent of making recommendations for further PrepComs. Some felt that Mexico had misunderstood the purpose of getting these recommendations into the PrepCom report, and that it had not thought through the distinction between the recommendations, debate on the clusters and proposals. However, the deadlock was not easy to break. To persuade Mexico not to veto the PrepCom report altogether, South Africa and Egypt had finally to accept the deletion of the recommendations, in return for a formal 'stand alone' statement from the Chair. Utilising the exact language of the deleted paragraph, Patokallio read into the record:

"It is understood that within the existing agenda and in accordance with the methods of work adopted at the first session, the Committee also recommended that time should be allocated at the second session for the discussion on and the consideration of any proposals on the following subject areas, without prejudice to the importance of other issues:

- security assurances for parties to the NPT

- the resolution on the Middle East

- the provisions in paragraph 4 (b) of the Principles and Objectives on a nondiscriminatory and universally applicable convention banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices."

There was no objection to this statement. Mexico registered a reservation, with a prepared speech which reiterated its consistent and long-held views about the importance of nuclear disarmament and the necessity for new developments such as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to be taken into account. The United States commented on the allocation of time to the Middle East and security assurances, making clear its reluctance to have them prioritised in this way. Egypt and South Africa expressed their disappointment that the agreed recommendations had had to be omitted from the report. Both underlined their understanding that the Chair's unopposed statement would be implemented at the next PrepCom. Patokallio also confirmed the status of his Chair's statement in response to a question from Russia, increasing the likelihood that it will be implemented by the Chair of the 1998 PrepCom.

With these final compromises, the first PrepCom under the new review process agreed its report and closed at around 10.00 pm on Friday, 18 April. There was obvious relief as Patokallio told the Conference: 'Despite some very painful moments at the very end, we should congratulate ourselves. We gave a good start to the strengthened review process.'


The first day of general debate was addressed by 38 delegations, with a statement two days later from Indonesia on behalf of the NAM. A number of countries, predominantly western, used the cluster debates to expand on their ideas and submit proposals. Although the European Union (EU), China and the United States stressed that there should be balance among the main issues, it was clear from the statements of Algeria, Indonesia, Mexico, Switzerland, South Africa, Norway, Malaysia and many others that nuclear disarmament was the highest priority. The importance of universality was also emphasised, but without practical initiatives for bringing the few remaining hold-out States on board.

France made a statement on behalf of the five nuclear powers, which expressed 'our determination to continue to implement fully all the provisions of the Treaty, including those of article VI.' The NWS also reaffirmed their commitment to early entry into force of the CTBT and to immediate negotiations on a ban on the production of fissile materials. While some delegations noted this 'unprecedented' statement by all five NWS, others commented that it hadn't said anything new. However, significance was attached to the explicit mention of article VI and the formal recommitment to the fissban at a time when this measure is mired in deadlock, with some of the nuclear powers less than enthusiastic.

Nuclear Disarmament

Many delegations referred to important milestones in 1996: the ICJ advisory opinion in July; the Canberra Commission report in August; concluding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by September; the statement from 61 retired Generals and Admirals in December, and so on. Many endorsed early ratification of the CTBT, while South Africa suggested that article 4a of the Principles and Objectives (P&O) could be updated with a call for all NPT parties to ratify the test ban treaty and work for its early implementation. Many States also encouraged ratification of START II and welcomed the Helsinki Summit agreement by the US and Russia to initiate START III negotiations.

The nuclear-weapon States listed their achievements in signing on to arms control agreements and reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fissile materials. In response to arguments from South Africa, Canada and others that all five should engage in nuclear arms reduction talks, Britain repeated its version of the 'Chinese thesis', that when the US and Russian arsenals were in the hundreds, the UK would be prepared to join talks on nuclear disarmament. France said that its 'participation in international negotiations on nuclear arsenals is not relevant now' and quoted President Chirac regarding France's deterrent capacity compared with that of Russia and the United States.

China called on the NWS to abandon their policies of nuclear deterrence and said that the States with large nuclear arsenals should 'further reduce drastically their nuclear stockpiles, and should destroy the removed nuclear warheads rather than simply transfer them from deployment to storage'. China repeated its call for a no first use commitment and unconditional security assurances by the NWS and raised concerns about space weapons and missile defence systems. China also reiterated its long-standing proposal for an international Convention 'on the complete prohibition and thorough destruction' of nuclear weapons.

Several delegations, including Sweden and Japan, argued for immediate implementation of measures identified by the Canberra Commission, such as taking nuclear forces off alert and removing warheads from missiles. Others backed Canberra's proposals to end the deployment of non-strategic weapons outside the NWS territories and commit all the NWS to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons.

The NAM working paper called on NPT parties to recommend the establishment of a nuclear disarmament committee in the CD, to 'commence negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time, including a Nuclear Weapons Convention'. This was the wording agreed at the meeting of NAM Foreign Ministers in New Delhi, 4-8 April, 1997. Ambassador Wisnamurti, speaking on behalf of the NAM on 10 April, acknowledged that two NAM members (reportedly Chile and South Africa) had reservations on the specified time-frame for elimination. These States stressed that they remain committed to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and have 'sought to engage' the NWS on 'the practical steps and negotiations required to adopt a programme of systematic and progressive steps to totally eliminate nuclear weapons in the shortest time possible.' Ireland, Canada and New Zealand supported NAM calls for a nuclear disarmament committee in the CD, but did not address a negotiating mandate at this time. Instead, they suggested that the committee could play a useful role in identifying issues which the CD might negotiate in the future.

Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, Ghana, Algeria and Iran pushed for negotiations to commence in the CD based on the 20-year timetable identified in the programme of action supported by 28 of the 30 non-aligned countries in the CD. Malaysia called for negotiations to start in 1997 with a view to early conclusion of a Nuclear Weapon Convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination. Malaysia had spearheaded a resolution to the UN General Assembly in which the commencement of negotiations leading towards a nuclear weapon convention had been backed by 115 States, including China (UNGA res. 51/45M, December 1996). On 13 March, 1997, this call was also endorsed by a majority of the European Parliament in a resolution on the NPT. Ireland and the Marshall Islands referred in their statements to the model Nuclear Weapons Convention launched on the first day of the PrepCom by lawyers, scientists and disarmament experts. The Marshall Islands suggested that an intersessional working group could be established on this under the auspices of the NPT review process.

Russia reiterated its proposal, first made in 1994, for a Treaty for Nuclear Security and Strategic Stability. South Africa called on the three minor NWS to 'join in the process of structured and verified nuclear disarmament'. Canada called on these 'other' NWS not to increase their arsenals and to engage in five-power nuclear disarmament negotiations in parallel with START III. Canada had earlier put forward ideas for all the NWS to undertake measures such as demating nuclear warheads (separating the warheads from the delivery vehicles), verifying warhead destruction, further reductions in tactical nuclear weapons, reduction in delivery systems, commitments not to pursue development of new types of weapons of mass destruction and so on. Referring to a long term objective of negotiating the complete elimination of tactical nuclear weapons, Finland proposed a regime of transparency and unilateral constraints on the deployment and stockpiling of tactical weapons.

South Africa put on record its concern about the 'non-proliferation implications' of the planned expansion of NATO and consideration of 'the future role of nuclear deterrence in the context of the European Defence Policy'. Britain objected vehemently, calling the question of NATO irrelevant to the NPT and denying that the transfer of nuclear weapons among NATO members might violate the Treaty's articles I and II. Concerns about NATO were also expressed by China and Belarus, with both China and Russia emphasising that nuclear weapons should only be deployed on the NWS' own territory.


The declared NWS and many western delegations prioritised commencement and early conclusion of a fissban in the CD. Referring to the P&O, many urged that fissban negotiations should begin immediately on the basis of the Shannon report and mandate agreed in March 1995. Canada proposed that 'pending conclusion' of the fissban the NWS should be urged to commit themselves to 'forever cease production of fissile material' for weapons, to reduce their fissile material stockpiles and place more under IAEA safeguards. As a way of addressing the problem of stocks in parallel with fissban negotiations in the CD, Norway proposed voluntary measures to be undertaken by all nuclear capable States 'to increase transparency on holdings of weapons grade fissile material, plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU)', including declaration, clarification and inspections of the stocks. Norway also called for strict accounting and secure handling and storage procedures. Britain wanted to obtain agreement that all NPT parties would back CD negotiations on the basis of the March 1995 mandate, which they had supported in the P&O.

Indonesia, Iran and Viet Nam also identified a fissban as an important step to accomplish in the CD. The NAM paper called for commencement of 'negotiations on a treaty banning the production and stockpiling of fissile material' for nuclear weapons and devices. Peru and Algeria explicitly pushed for the fissban to include stocks.

Security Assurances

Security assurances, the subject of a UN Security Council resolution (UNSC 984) just prior to the NPT Conference in 1995, were also mentioned by many delegations. South Africa wanted the NPT process to address the issue of negative security assurances (NSA), arguing that a legally binding commitment by the NWS not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear parties to the NPT should 'provide a significant benefit' to NPT parties and 'an incentive' to those who have so far refused to sign the Treaty. South Africa pushed hard for States Parties to recommend that the next PrepCom should allocate time especially for discussion on security assurances. This was supported by other NAM countries, although the United States was reluctant and a number of western delegates considered the issue to be of declining relevance.

In their working paper, the NAM called for a legally binding security assurances regime to be 'urgently concluded'. They referred to 'a protocol annexed' to the NPT, and urged NPT parties to negotiate such an instrument in the NPT PrepCom meetings leading up to the 2000 Review Conference. On behalf of itself, Kenya, Nigeria and Sudan, Myanmar proposed a draft protocol to the NPT on NSA, calling for 'further efforts at the NPT PrepComs with a view to achieving an international legal instrument on security assurances by the time of the Review Conference in the year 2000'. Earlier Viet Nam had suggested the same, while Ghana called for the CD to work on making security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States legally binding. China called for unconditional security assurances and a legally binding commitment by the NWS not to use nuclear weapons first. Algeria, Indonesia and Iran considered further negotiations important but did not specify the venue. However, while Nigeria strongly endorsed Myanmar's proposal, Kenya withdrew its co-sponsorship a few days later, while stressing its continued support for negotiations on this issue. The United States responded negatively, saying that 'there is not now enough common ground among the key countries on which to base the negotiation of such a treaty'. Urging further consolidation of security assurances commitments through nuclear weapon free zone arrangements and the 1995 UN Security Council resolution 984, the United States was 'opposed to the negotiation of a global NSA treaty, or of an NSA Protocol to the NPT'.

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ) were also mentioned by several delegations. Many referred with satisfaction to recent successes, including entry into force of the Treaty of Tlatelolco covering Latin America and the Caribbean, and the signing of the Treaties of Pelindaba (Africa) and Bangkok (South East Asia). Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic called for Central Asia to be declared a NWFZ, as supported by their countries plus Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in the five-nation Almaty Declaration of 28 February, 1997. They were publicly supported by Mongolia (which had unilaterally declared itself a nuclear free country in 1992), the NAM working paper, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Poland and Norway.

Belarus and Ukraine called for a nuclear-weapon-free 'space' in Central and Eastern Europe, arguing that this would reduce the risk of renewed nuclear confrontation in Europe, contribute to the 'search for solutions to the problem of the expansion of NATO' and to the security of countries in the region 'with different approaches to the pan-European security structure', and contribute to the process of disarmament, as well as other benefits. Poland replied that it preferred the word 'enlargement' to 'expansion' of NATO, since the Polish people wished to join NATO. Dismissing the 'possible creation of the proposed denuclearised zone before the NATO enlargement question is solved', Poland said that NWFZs were effective 'in regions of tension which definitely is not the case in Central Europe'.

Egypt on behalf of the Arab League, all members of which are now in the NPT, following recent accession by United Arab Emirates, Djibouti and Oman, recalled the resolution on the Middle East proposed by the depositary States at the 1995 NPT Conference and called on the PrepCom to address this issue as a matter of urgency. Referring to the 'imbalance between the compliance by all Arab States' with the NPT and 'the risk imposed by Israel's ambiguous nuclear policies and its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities', Egypt called for full implementation of the 1995 resolution, including accession by Israel to the NPT, placement of its unsafeguarded facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards and early establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction. The NAM statement gave support and Jordan, Algeria, Syria and Iraq also urged Israel to join the NPT and participate in creating a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Backed by the Arab League and others, Egypt proposed that the 1997 PrepCom should recommend that time be specifically allocated at the 1998 PrepCom for consideration of the 'implementation of the resolution on the Middle East'. The United States objected, but after intense consultations in New York and with their respective capitals, the two delegations agreed to delete the reference to 'implementation' but retain the recommendation.

Several statements, including the NAM working paper, welcomed conclusion and signature of the Pelindaba and Bangkok Treaties, which established NWFZs in Africa and South-East Asia respectively, although problems remain regarding accession to the Bangkok protocols by certain of the nuclear-weapon States. The Marshall Islands, on behalf of the South Pacific Forum, expressed 'satisfaction at the permanent cessation of French nuclear testing' in the region and welcomed the signing of the protocols to the Treaty of Rarotonga by France, the United States and Britain. The Forum called for further assistance in cleaning up contaminated nuclear test sites, resettling displaced people and restoring the affected areas to economic productivity, stressing the need to exercise the precautionary principle with regard to nuclear matters. New Zealand pushed for more positive consideration of the concept of a nuclear-weapon-free Southern Hemisphere. In an attempt to allay the suspicions of some (articulated by Britain) that their initiative was an 'attack on the freedom of the high seas', New Zealand stressed that the aim was to promote shared goals and enable the parties to the four zones covering the Southern hemisphere to work together more effectively, adding that 'we envisage no additional legal commitment beyond the existing treaties'.


Although the safeguards debate was also dominated by Western views, delegations from all groups emphasised the importance of strengthening IAEA safeguards and supporting the implementation of the 93+2 programme. The Netherlands on behalf of the EU, as well as Britain, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Canada and others, urged adoption of the recently concluded protocol which is scheduled for consideration at a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors on 15-16 May. While calling for support for the IAEA programme for strengthening the effectiveness of safeguards, China added that the NWS should 'apply those measures provided for in the model protocol that each of them identifies as capable of contributing to the nuclear non-proliferation objectives.'

Prompted by the Iraqi experience, which showed that a clandestine nuclear weapon programme could be developed by an NPT party, notwithstanding IAEA safeguards, the Programme 93+2 and draft protocol are aimed at giving the IAEA greater powers to verify the completeness, as well as the correctness, of declarations from NPT members and States with related safeguards agreements.

Export Controls

Statements by the EU, Canada, Britain, Australia and others endorsed the export controls applied by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Zangger Committee. The NAM called for 'unilaterally enforced restrictive measures' to be removed. Iran raised export controls as 'private, secretive and non representative', saying that they were used to discriminate against non-nuclear-weapon States of the South. South Africa summed up the more widely held view that export controls are an 'essential component' of the global non-proliferation regime, but also endorsed greater transparency, in order to 'lend increased confidence and credibility to the system'. China proposed that 'those restrictions on the transfer of technologies for peaceful uses of nuclear energy that are beyond safeguards required under the Treaty should be removed.'

Nuclear Energy

In the general debate, several delegations made passing reference to the importance of nuclear cooperation for 'peaceful purposes'. Australia, Japan, Mongolia and others referred positively to the Convention on Nuclear Safety and hoped-for progress on a Convention on the safety of radioactive waste management and spent fuel. Liability, physical protection of nuclear materials and illicit trafficking were also discussed. Argentina and Uruguay raised concerns about the export and transport of plutonium and other radioactive materials, especially when shipping routes close to their coasts were used.

A number of delegations, including Australia, Canada, Japan, South Africa and the Netherlands for the EU, pledged support for the IAEA's role in promoting nuclear power, especially to developing countries, through its Technical Cooperation Programme. The EU noted that in 1996, the IAEA spent $48 million on the promotion of nuclear energy, which 'comfortably outstripped overall Agency spending'. Given the concerns raised elsewhere about the IAEA's inadequate funding for improving its safeguards and inspections regime, this struck some as a strange boast. While backing nuclear power, South Africa questioned its appropriateness for 'least developed countries, bearing in mind the infrastructural burdens that such [transfers of nuclear technology and equipment] place on recipients.' Nevertheless, South Africa argued that the 'optional aspect' of the technical cooperation fund be made mandatory. Japan, Canada, Australia, the EU and others stressed the importance of safety and supported the Convention on Nuclear Safety, which entered into force in October 1996. According to the EU, this Convention 'aims at the implementation of sound safety principles for the operation of nuclear power reactors, whilst respecting the prerogatives and competences of States Parties'. Finalisation of a draft text on a Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management and other initiatives were also mentioned, including recent progress on civil liability for nuclear damage, under the auspices of the IAEA.

The NAM statement reiterated the 'inalienable right' of NPT parties to research, production and use of nuclear energy for 'peaceful' purposes. The NAM called for 'preferential treatment' and 'free and unimpeded and non-discriminatory transfer of nuclear technology' to NPT parties. Australia pointed out that while only a minority of NPT parties have nuclear power programmes of their own, the others 'derive little benefit from its application', while issues of safety and security are vital to all. Australia also noted the 'potential for harm inherent in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology' and mentioned the sea transshipments of radioactive materials.

The Marshall Islands, on behalf of the South Pacific Forum, raised concerns about the dangerous legacy from French, US and British nuclear testing in the Pacific. The Kyrgyz Republic spoke of 'severe problems' concerning radioactive wastes left over from the past, including the unpredictable threat of disaster for its region. Asking for assistance in clean-up and disposal of radioactive contaminants, Kyrgyzstan said that all storage and transports should be in accordance with international agreements, including the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

Japan, which has in recent years received controversial cargoes of spent fuel and plutonium by sea from France and Britain, said that nuclear fuel cycle programmes 'should be carried out under the principle of not holding surplus plutonium and keeping the programmes as transparent as possible.' Japan mentioned that nine countries had reached an in-principle agreement on guidelines for plutonium management, including annual publication of plutonium holdings. Norway noted problems related to 'former nuclear operations', including discontinued nuclear weapon programmes, and proposed that the conversion of nuclear materials from military to civilian uses should be looked at more closely in ensuing PrepComs. Norway called for shared resources and assistance in the field of clean-up, storage and disposal of radioactive contaminants and 'sensitive' [weapon useable] nuclear materials. Canada wanted it noted that article V (relating to so-called peaceful nuclear explosions) has been redefined and overtaken by the CTBT and is now 'an historical footnote to an old debate' on which no more time should be spent.


More than 100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) attended the 1997 PrepCom and held a number of informative sessions at or near the United Nations, alongside the NPT meeting. Although the bulk was from the United States, there were representatives from Tahiti Polynesia, the Marshall Islands, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and many European countries. Responding to a long-time request from the NGOs, who wanted to address the delegates directly, Patokallio obtained agreement from States Parties for the NGOs to speak at an informal session in the second week. This was a considerable advance from previous occasions when NGOs had been permitted only to hold a meeting 'in the margins' of the PrepComs or Review Conference.

Chaired by Pasi Patokallio, nine NGO presentations were made to an informal plenary. Most NGO speakers stressed that their presentations were not on behalf of any individual person, organisation or perspective, but instead had been written by various groups of participants in order to share relevant information and a range of ideas and arguments, representing the diversity of approach and opinion within the NGO community on implementation of the treaty. This summary is only intended as a brief indication of the major themes which were addressed. In his closing statement, Patokallio boosted NGO hopes that they would be invited to address future PrepComs, saying: 'the time the Committee set aside for listening to the NGOs was time well spent.'

In order to feed into the PrepCom process more smoothly and avoid clashes with other important meetings, it would be desirable if the NGO presentations were to be made early, preferably directly after the general debate (or if no general debate is held, at some other convenient time during the first few days).

Responsibility for the Future

The opening and closing speeches focused on the threats, risks and actual harm which nuclear weapons inflict on the earth and all living things, from the mining of uranium, through every part of the nuclear fuel cycle, up to the testing and use of nuclear weapons and the unsolved problems of disposing of the radioactive wastes. Reminding delegates that the original inhabitants of what is now New York State believed that the consequences of actions should be considered 'up to the seventh generation', the NGO presentations concluded with a direct quote from the 8 July, 1996 advisory opinion of the ICJ, which made clear the judges' view that nuclear weapons violated such precautionary principles and endangered the future of all of us.

Regional Security

Addressing articles I and II, some European NGOs raised concerns about the planned enlargement of NATO and about Franco-British nuclear weapons cooperation and the proposed Europeanisation of French nuclear forces. They argued that NATO nuclear programmes were 'a form of horizontal proliferation' and said that the problem of nuclear deployments within NATO had not been fully resolved during negotiation of the NPT and 'could constitute a breach of articles I and II'. Instead of following French proposals for 'concerted deterrence' in the EU, European nations should build a policy of 'concerted disarmament'. To this end, the NGOs who had prepared the statement emphasised the importance of enhancing the role of the OSCE in building security for a 'Europe whole and free'. Supporting progress under article VII on NWFZs, they strongly supported the initiative of a Central Asian NWFZ and called for renewed backing for NWFZs in Scandinavia and Central Europe.

Safety controls on nuclear materials

Looking at the control of weapons-usable nuclear materials, concerns were raised about the inadequacies of IAEA safeguards and the effectiveness of article III. Considerable information on the military and commercial stocks of plutonium and HEU was provided, noting the broad consensus among NGOs that 'the possession of these materials, especially in large quantities and in direct-usable form, present continuous proliferation concerns.' The technical and political pros and cons of different approaches on a fissile material production ban and methods for disposing of weapons-usable materials were discussed, concluding that 'there is an urgent need to reduce access to weapons-usable nuclear materials.'


The participating NGOs addressed the article IV provision with a detailed examination of the claim of nuclear power to be clean, cheap or safe, questioning how this short-lived and dangerous technology could possibly be described as an 'inalienable right'. The facts and figures piled up into a damning indictment of the subsidies which have distorted the high investment and running costs of the 495 nuclear plants (in only 33 countries), their safety record and the continued failure of the industry to find safe means of storing its radioactive products. Concerns were also raised about shipments of nuclear materials and liability. It was noted that reprocessing at present rates would create stockpiles of separated plutonium 'which may well exceed military stockpiles within the next decade.' Since article IV actually benefits fewer than one-sixth of NNWS parties, it was suggested that research, technology transfer and assistance in a range of energy choices should be offered as a more appropriate fulfilment of the legitimate desire of developing States to have reliable energy production in their own hands. Providing such alternatives would give practical meaning to the original intentions of article IV and be consistent with the commitments on sustainable development made in Agenda 21 adopted in 1992 in Rio.

Indigenous People

A powerful statement was made on behalf of the indigenous people whose homes and livelihoods had been devastated by nuclear production and testing, including the Western Shoshone, Kazaks and Uighurs, as well as the Micronesians, Maohi and Australian aboriginal peoples in the 'liquid continent' of the Pacific. Linking the nuclear abuse of these peoples with deprivation of their liberty by economic and military colonialism, a direct appeal was made for peace and justice so that the indigenous peoples could give their children a future free of colonialism and nuclear weapons.


Since there is no relevance in addressing article V, a detailed analysis of various planned programmes for nuclear testing under the CTBT was provided instead. Covering the 'safety and reliability' programmes of the NWS, the statement provided information on subcritical tests, laboratory testing, inertial confinement fusion, pulsed power thermonuclear tests, and cooperation among certain NWS on 'theoretical, numerical, and experimental simulation methods'. The speaker noted that the B61-11 earth-penetrating nuclear bomb was recently certified in the USA without underground nuclear testing and urged the NPT parties 'to seek binding commitments by the NWS not to deploy new-design nuclear weapons, or nuclear weapons modified to have new or improved military characteristics or capabilities or to perform new military missions.' They were also urged to redefine stockpile stewardship as: 'passive caretaking of existing arsenals under safe conditions and international safeguards, while they await disablement and dismantlement pursuant to article VI of the NPT.'

Deep Cuts

Three challenging approaches were made on article VI, which could be viewed as alternatives or as complementary. One proposed a 'deep cuts' programme, to 'reduce the nuclear forces of the weapon States to immobilised, multilaterally monitored arsenals of 100-200 warheads each as a final trial stage before complete elimination.' The main steps were 'no increase commitments'; dealerting of nuclear weapons; exchange of data on nuclear forces, including holdings of warheads and missiles; verified fissile materials production ban; 'direct immobilisation' (sequestration and storage) of the entire operational nuclear forces of all the weapon States; the dismantlement of all warheads covered by reduction agreements, with transfer of the fissile materials to internationally monitored storage, precluding reuse for weapons; and the inclusion of reserve and substrategic warheads in dismantlements, so that 'a process of genuine downward moving disarmament can take place.'

Nuclear Weapons Convention

The group of international lawyers, scientists and disarmament experts which had launched a model nuclear weapons convention on 7 April presented an overview of its concepts and provisions. Emphasising that the draft convention was to invite thinking about the 'coordination across State boundaries, political bodies and various industries' necessary for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the drafters outlined their 'comprehensive, incremental approach, including concrete step by step measures'. Brief explanations were made on the negative and positive obligations, definitions, verification provisions and implementing organisation, underlining that 'nuclear disarmament may take many steps but will need to include a convention or conventions on total elimination.' The drafters offered their model convention, saying that 'when one undertakes a journey it helps to have some idea of the nature of the final destination.'

Amendment for Universality

A speaker from one of the countries that has remained outside the NPT offered a creative and challenging approach to address the Treaty's unequal treatment of NWS and NNWS, and to make the NPT universal. It was the responsibility of all the States which had supported resolutions on nuclear disarmament in the UN or CD to 'force negotiations upon those who will not negotiate'. Pointing out the power of one third of the NPT parties to call an amendment conference, the statement challenged NPT parties to make good their demands for nuclear disarmament and universality by confronting the declared and undeclared nuclear powers with an amendment converting the NPT into a nuclear weapon convention. 'The countries that are not in the NPT, especially those like India, Pakistan and Israel, who hide their nuclear weapons behind demands for global or regional disarmament, would be faced with a simple choice.' This could 'push the lever' that would start the negotiating process for everyone. The NWS would have to make a choice: 'with the whole world watching the closing scenes of the nuclear age, no country would be prepared to go it alone.'


The Chair of the PrepCom, Pasi Patokallio, called the meeting 'a good start to the strengthened review process'. This seems to be the general verdict among States Parties, although few could pinpoint why. Using China's favourite description, the PrepCom was widely viewed as having gone 'smoothly', despite what one senior NAM delegate described as the 'hiccup' at the end. Considerable credit was given to Patokallio for the consultations and preparations he had made in the months before the PrepCom started (though the late challenge on the Chair had made that difficult towards the end).

The first PrepCom under the new review process differed from previous PrepComs in several respects. In some ways it resembled a half-length mini review conference, but without the formality of separate main committees or the process of negotiating to get a consensus declaration. In line with the intention of proponents of the 1995 decisions, Patokallio worked hard to ensure that a significant proportion of time would be devoted to debating the substantive issues. A note of caution is necessary however: there is a difference between discussing substance and addressing substance. The general debate and sessions on the three clusters provided opportunities for countries to give information and put forward their ideas, arguments and proposals. Only in the Chair's consultations was there any real debate on what to do with the issues and proposals being raised.

In the run-up to the 1997 PrepCom some of the nuclear powers had made clear their minimalist approach to the new process, essentially regarding the PrepComs as preparatory, with all decisions to be taken at the Review Conference. The NWS had acceded to the decisions in 1995 as the price to get agreement on indefinite extension without a vote. They were prepared to talk, but they resisted any concrete innovations such as subsidiary bodies and recommendations for further work or the institution of mechanisms for monitoring progress towards implementation. Again South Africa and Canada played leading roles in pushing at the envelope of the possible to develop something more substantive, that could be built on in the future.

The Decisions

The first part of the 1997 PrepCom report was a technical record of the meeting, prepared by the Secretariat, led by Hannelore Hoppe of the Center for Disarmament Affairs. This noted that the PrepCom was chaired by Pasi Patokallio of Finland on behalf of the Group of Western States and Others, with participation from 148 NPT States Parties.

It was agreed that Tadeusz Strulak of Poland, on behalf of the Eastern European Group, would chair the next PrepCom, which would be held in Geneva, likely dates: 28 April to 8 May, 1998. Provisional dates and venue were also established for the Third PrepCom and Review Conference, with no mention of a possible fourth PrepCom. The third is expected to be chaired by a NAM candidate and held in New York from 12-23 April, 1999. The Review Conference, also likely to be chaired by a NAM representative, is designated for 24 April to 19 May, 2000 in New York. These decisions remain provisional, partly due to political rivalry over the venue, and partly because the Western group want to see whom the NAM nominate as the PrepCom Chair and President before a final decision is taken. It appears that what one senior official described as the 'disastrous chairing' of Main Committee I in 1995 still looms in diplomats' memories. There was also some skirmishing between NAM States, who wanted future PrepComs and Review Conferences to be held in New York, and European countries, many of which favoured Geneva for at least some if not all the meetings.

The PrepCom agreed to apply mutatis mutandis the rules of procedure of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. It would 'make every effort' to take decisions by consensus, with a fallback of majority voting available if necessary. Representatives of non-party States, specialised agencies and intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could participate as observers in meetings not designated as closed. Accordingly Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Pakistan and over 100 NGOs attended the opening session, the General Debate and the final plenary of the PrepCom.

Chair's Working Paper

The three-page Chair's Working Paper summarised 'general agreement' on the major issues addressed in the clusters, subdivided according to the 1995 P&O subheadings. Some stressed that these were the highest common factor existing among the NPT parties at this stage; but others saw them as the lowest common denominator. The Chair's paper consisted of four sections: universality; main committee I issues, which were subdivided into non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, NWFZ, and security assurances; main committee II issues covering safeguards; and main committee three issues on the 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy.

On universality, the eight new accessions were welcomed, bringing membership to 186. Those with unsafeguarded nuclear facilities were urged to accede to the Treaty. Non-proliferation was reaffirmed with a sentence on implementing the NPT without hampering the 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy. With regard to nuclear disarmament, NPT parties were urged to promote early entry into force of the CTBT and to commence negotiations on a fissban, using the P&O language on the March 1995 Shannon Report to get around the stockpiles impasse: 'in accordance with the statement of the special coordinator of the Conference on Disarmament and the mandate contained therein.' There was 'recognition' of progress in nuclear arms reductions and the reaffirmation by the NWS of commitment to pursue 'systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally'.

The four existing NWFZs were welcomed, but no mention was made of the Central Asian initiative, despite the widespread support it had received during the PrepCom. Similarly, the language on security assurances was kept general, smoothing over the conflict between the US and the proposal for a protocol supported by Myanmar, Nigeria and Sudan, as well as South Africa's push for more debate at the next PrepCom. Under safeguards, the conclusion of the IAEA's 93+2 programme to strengthen the safeguards regime was welcomed. The IAEA was reaffirmed as 'the competent authority' responsible for ensuring compliance with the Treaty, a position often evoked by opponents of export controls and the nuclear suppliers' regime. Commitments on nuclear cooperation and concerns about threats or attacks on nuclear facilities were mentioned in the short section on nuclear energy.

Following Mexico's amendment, as modified, the Chair's working paper would not be 'the basis for further work on draft recommendations' but would be taken into account, together with proposals from delegations. The amended paragraph, as agreed, now reads (from my notes): "During the course of the session, the Chairman held a number of informal consultations in the process of which delegations put forward their views and proposals on recommendations to the next session of the Preparatory Committee and on draft recommendations to the 2000 Review Conference. As a result of these consultations, the Chairman put forward a Working Paper which is annexed to the present report (annex ...). The Committee recommended that at its second session, the official documents and other proposals submitted by delegations during the first session of the Preparatory Committee (as contained in annex ...) will be taken into account for further work on draft recommendations to the Review Conference and also the Working Paper submitted by the Chairman that will be interpreted in the light of other documents and other proposals made by delegations as contained in the same document."

Although they would not have insisted on amending the report, many NAM shared Mexico's concerns that, as it stands, the Chair's working paper was not strong enough, especially on disarmament. On behalf of the NAM, Colombia emphasised that the reports at this stage were subject to review and were not to be regarded as the draft recommendations for the 2000 Review Conference. This reflects NAM anxiety towards the end of the meeting that they had not been sufficiently prepared for the substantive work that actually occurred at the first PrepCom and, consequently, had not put in strong enough proposals nor lobbied effectively for their views to be incorporated more effectively in the Chair's working paper.

A list of proposals made by various States during the PrepCom was annexed to the report. Disarmament Diplomacy No. 15 (May 1997) will carry the Chair's working paper verbatim and will provide a summary of the proposals in the annex.

Cluster debates

The cluster debates which Patokallio established had positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, they provided continuity with the main committee structure which Decision 1 on Strengthening the Review Process had decided to retain in the Review Conferences. They provided a way of dividing up the issues, so as to give some coherence to the debates. Patokallio was guided by the allocation of issues to the main committees as provided in Annex V (NPT/Conf.1995/1), which identifies the articles and preambular paragraphs broadly associated with nuclear disarmament, safeguards and nuclear energy. Patokallio's decision to allocate the sections in the 1995 P&O to the three clusters made good sense and was readily accepted. Nevertheless, some problems remain.

Article VII (NWFZs) was listed in both cluster 1 and 2, but mainly dealt with under cluster 2. Universality did not really have a home. Cluster 1 has taken on a range of issues including transfer (articles I and II), nuclear arms control and disarmament (article VI), the programme of action in the P&O covering the CTBT, fissban and systematic and progressive reductions, as well as security assurances and, potentially, measures associated with confidence building and general and complete disarmament (article VI). As presently conceived, equal time is given to the three clusters. The related but distinct issues falling under 'nuclear disarmament' have to fit into the same time as the less diverse issues covered by 'safeguards' and 'nuclear energy'. If the sections in the P&O were taken as a guide instead, at least half the time would be allocated to the several issues in the nuclear disarmament cluster, with the remaining half divided equally among safeguards and 'peaceful' uses. Such a distribution of time would better reflect the weight accorded the issues in general statements, the concerns raised in 1995 which resulted in the enhanced review process, and the number and range of issues discussed under each cluster. Interpreting balance in terms of equal allocation of time is not written into any procedure or decision and should be reconsidered in the future.

Patokallio chose to hold the cluster debates consecutively in closed sessions. This was to enable maximum participation. When main committees are held in parallel, smaller delegations have difficulty covering all the issues. However, this decision needs to be revisited at each PrepCom, as it may be possible to hold two sessions in parallel at times, and therefore maximise the available time. In decision 1 on Strengthening the Review Process it was agreed that 'subsidiary bodies could be established within the respective Main Committees for specific issues relevant to the Treaty, so as to provide for a focused consideration of such issues.' Contrary to one view being purveyed, this does not mean that no subsidiary bodies may be set up by the PrepComs or that they cannot work intersessionally. Since the clusters are based on the main committee allocations it makes sense to leave open the possibility of convening subsidiary bodies within the review process and not only at Review Conferences.


A further point on the cluster debates, regarding participation. The PrepCom decided that NGOs and non-party States could observe the formal plenaries. In practice this meant the first day and half of the last. Observers were shut out from all of the cluster debates. During the 1995 Conference, some sessions of the Main Committees were also open, at the Chair's discretion. Judging from remarks made by delegates, there was little in the cluster debates that could not have comfortably been conducted in the open. Bearing in mind the oft-quoted fear that observers could cause some States to be inhibited from speaking freely while others might play to the gallery, the Chair could use her/his discretion to close the cluster debates when the discussions move from information, statements and proposals, to negotiations and bargaining. In view of the desire for universality and the wide public interest in nuclear issues, as represented via NGOs, it does not make sense to exclude non-parties and NGOs from nine-tenths of the proceedings. A more flexible approach towards observers at the cluster debates should be reconsidered for the future.

The role of the Review Process and P&O

was considerable ambivalence, confusion or lack of thought about the objectives and intended outcome of the enhanced review process, including how the Principles and Objectives should operate. South Africa and others had insisted on amendments to the draft agenda to leave it with enough flexibility to consider ways and means (such as subsidiary bodies, sub-groups or intersessional working groups), and how decisions or debates would be recorded. Before discussing the outcome, it is interesting to consider the initial views on the new process put forward during the general debate.

Arguing that this first PrepCom was initiating 'a qualitatively different process' than the previous NPT reviews, Canada proposed that each session should produce 'a distilled compilation of proposals, not a consensus document'. Using the structure of the NPT, with recommendations under the preamble and each of the Treaty's ten articles, Canada proposed a 'rolling document' which would be an inventory of 'views, evaluations and proposals...as an evolving basis for eventual negotiations on recommendations to go forward to the 2000 Review Conference'. Backing Canada's ideas, New Zealand also suggested that 'sub-groups' could be appointed to work in more depth on some issues, within the PrepComs and/or intersessionally.

The EU considered that the PrepCom 'remains preparatory in nature' with the job of recommending, while 'the Review Conference itself decides', a position strongly echoed by China and the United States. To report from one PrepCom to another, the EU favoured a 'neutral mechanism', such as a Chair's summary not requiring consensus, and proposed that outgoing and incoming Chairs should consult each other in the periods between two meetings. In line with the conservative approach of its two nuclear-weapon States, the EU took the view that subsidiary bodies could only be established within the main committees of an actual Review Conference and argued for decision-making at the PrepCom to be based on consensus. Japan also advocated that the PrepComs should produce some form of a Chair's summary report, with annexes, with a final report from the last PrepCom meeting consisting of two parts: review and recommendations. Indonesia, however, preferred that a draft final document be developed as a rolling text and negotiated in the PrepComs, arguing that intersessional meetings 'with no financial implications' could facilitate the negotiations on a rolling text. Indonesia supported consensus-based decision-making, but also proposed that voting could be used if all attempts to achieve consensus had been exhausted.

Where several delegations, including South Africa, New Zealand and Canada, regarded the P&Os as dynamic and updateable yardsticks, Japan argued against revising them. Instead, Japan argued that the Review Conference should aim to formulate a new set of objectives, 'taking into account views expressed in discussions held prior to and during the Conference'. Canada called the P&O a 'means to an end'. The EU, United States, Mexico, China and others stressed that the process was to be centred on the Treaty itself. China said that the P&Os derived from the NPT, which remains the 'source', and also stressed that "'review' is not 'negotiation'", and the NPT process 'should not replace the ongoing or future work of the CD'.

With this diversity of approach, it is not surprising that there was no clear agreement on how to use the P&O. Several general statements and proposals focused on aspects of the P&O and Patokallio made sure the P&O themes were incorporated into the cluster debates. In terms of measuring progress against the P&O yardstick, this only seemed relevant to the CTBT. Although some proposals for updating or renewing certain of the paragraphs were received, no mechanism was discussed for how they could be incorporated. If decisions can only be taken at a Review Conference, then the role of the P&O between Review Conferences is only that of a measure or non-binding agenda for action.

Before the second PrepCom sets the process too firmly, decisions will have to be taken about whether the 2000 Review Conference wants to evolve a new set of Principles and Objectives as well as or instead of a Final Declaration. The P&O in 1995 were not the subject of consensus, as is necessary with a final declaration. They were developed by negotiation in the President's Consultations and presented to the 1995 Conference as part of a package of decisions. Will this process be followed again?

Is it desirable, feasible or necessary to develop the P&O among key States? If a major value of the P&O is to be concrete and action oriented, negotiating a slim and pragmatic set of P&O in the main committees does not look promising. It has to be recalled that while Dhanapala's Presidential Consultations managed to forge the P&O in 1995, the Review Conference itself failed to adopt a final declaration by consensus.

The intended role of the Chair's Working Paper in 1997 seemed to have caused confusion. Since it broadly followed the paragraph structure of the P&O, some States and observers became concerned that it might set a precedent for a weaker or more generalised P&O than in 1995. This may have been one reason for Mexico's intention to downgrade its status. Mexico, like others, may have wanted to ensure that the rather bland assertions in the Working Paper would not supersede the P&O or the proposals put forward by States Parties. Patokallio and others argued that this was a misunderstanding of the role and function of the Chair's Working Paper. They stressed that it was not intended to form the basis for a new set of P&O but only to reflect a common denominator of positions at this time.

The P&O emerged from a very particular set of circumstances in 1995, but they seem to have gained some life of their own and to have played (and continue to play) a useful role, whether regarded as yardstick or programme of action. They will not emerge by accident again. Nor can they be developed by the committee-based, consensus-building procedures that give rise (often unsuccessfully) to the final declarations. Much more thought needs to be given to the role of the P&O in strengthening the review process; whether to renew them in 2000, and if so, by what procedures and with what purpose in mind. If the P&O drift or become prey to the consensus dynamics that beset the final declaration in past Review Conferences, States Parties will lose an important tool for enhancing the accountability and implementation of the Treaty. To avoid this, key proponents of the strengthened review process will need to provide practical ideas and build alliances to take the P&O further. This will have to be addressed in advance of the Review Conference, so that States Parties can develop effective strategies and distinguish between the proposals they are submitting: whether for recommendations for 2000, for a rolling text to go into a final declaration, or for an updated or new set of principles and objectives.

Making Recommendations

Some States went into the first PrepCom hoping to make recommendations on substance, but the only recommendations actually considered at the first PrepCom were procedural in form. Even the recommendations that South Africa and Egypt fought so hard for concerned the allocation of time to three particular issues (in addition to the main clusters), rather than being recommendations on the issues themselves. The 1995 decisions stated that the PrepCom could make recommendations to the Review Conference on 'principles, objectives and ways...' This would seem to encompass substantive as well as procedural recommendations.

It is clear that some countries recognised the need to establish precedents for making recommendations, and it may be that they regarded procedural recommendations easier or less confrontative for this purpose. The consequences of Mexico's success in removing the recommendations on additional time allocations from the PrepCom report will not become clear until the next PrepCom. South Africa and Egypt, supported by Patokallio as Chair, moved swiftly to put on record their understanding that the Chair's unopposed stand-alone statement would be implemented in 1998. But those opposed to a recommending role for the PrepComs, most notably the United States, may move to consolidate their position against.

Though its stand and timing were unfortunate in the circumstances, Mexico was attempting to make an important point. Beyond talking about it in cluster 1, what was the NPT process going to do about nuclear disarmament? There appears to be little that it is empowered to do. Yet used strategically, the new process could provide a very useful mechanism for identifying priorities for further action by the NWS and by multilateral negotiation, where appropriate. Using the programme of action in the P&O, States Parties could set concrete targets for steps and measures to be undertaken. To do this, however, the status of the P&O must be assured in the future, and the next PrepComs must unequivocally establish the right to make recommendations. Both the fissban and security assurances fall under cluster 1, as aspects relating to nuclear disarmament. Given the present political and structural limits, those wishing to push for nuclear disarmament would stand a better chance if they were prepared to formulate a practical proposal on a specific aspect or step that could be considered for a future recommendation. That's no guarantee of success, of course, since the NWS may try to block. Still, better forethought regarding the tools at hand and strategies for utilising them would at least make maximum use of the potential inherent in the review process.

Groups and Alliances

None of the traditional groups acted in unison with much intention or effect. The Western group was held back by the reluctance of their nuclear weapon members to see the PrepCom process develop any real teeth, but some western States, notably Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the Finnish Chair and his delegation, put many constructive ideas on the table and played an important role in keeping options open at this first PrepCom. Most of the substantive proposals also came from western States, spanning step by step reinforcement of the current arms reduction process to more radical proposals to speed up the elimination of nuclear weapons.

With the exception of Kyrgyzstan, on behalf of the five Central Asian (former Soviet) States which have proposed a NWFZ in their region, few Eastern Europeans other than Russia and Poland spoke. Poland succeeded in gaining agreement for its Ambassador Tadeusz Strulak to chair the next PrepCom. Poland also put in a bid for an Eastern European President of the Review Conference in the year 2000. However, several Eastern group members, including Poland, are bidding to become NATO and/or EU members in the near future. Their desire to do nothing that might jeopardise their applications makes them either invisible or else more gung-ho for NATO and the western nuclear powers than some of their western European colleagues. The future viability of this group in the UN context - even for the allocation of posts - must be in serious doubt.

On the whole, the non-aligned States seemed to begin the PrepCom process with little idea of what they wanted to achieve. This may in part have been due to overlap with important meetings which drew attention and high level personnel away from the PrepCom. As Geneva ambassadors for NAM countries normally cover a range of duties including disarmament and human rights, the Human Rights Commission at the Palais des Nations kept many in Geneva. This left the NPT PrepCom mostly to New York staff, who don't generally work on disarmament. They too were stretched by the simultaneous holding in New York of a PrepCom for the Conference on Sustainable Development, set up in 1992 by the Rio (UNCED) Conference. Overlap between the New Delhi meeting of NAM Foreign Ministers, which finished on 8 April, may also have contributed to a slow start for the NAM, since many expected policy to be clarified there. Indeed, the NAM statement, which utilised agreed language from New Delhi on several issues, was delayed until 10 April, two days after the general debate concluded.

South Africa, which had played a key role in crafting the P&O and review process in 1995, went in with some clear objectives, especially on procedure and precedent. Willing to make cross-group alliances with like-minded non-nuclear groups, South Africa prepared its ground well and was able to develop and gain acceptance for key elements of its strategy. Egypt, as in 1995, went into the PrepCom with a single clear objective of increasing pressure on the US and Israel over Israel's nuclear programme and non-membership of the NPT. Having brought the rest of the Arab League into the NPT, Egypt was in a stronger position to isolate Israel and push for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, utilising the section on recommendations to make its point. Despite considerable opposition from the United States, the moderate style of their procedural approach enabled both countries to get their recommendations (and therefore the precedents) accepted. Though this was jeopardised in the final hours, it does not negate their strategic intent or the principle that was established and reinforced in the statement from the Chair.

With the exception of these two initiatives and the NAM statement and working paper, which tended to be declamatory, the non-aligned states made little individual use of the opportunities created by the review process. Few spoke in the cluster debates or put in proposals. That was a weakness which was tacitly acknowledged in Colombia's final statement, in which the NAM wanted to ensure that the stage would still be open for recommendations and proposals in 1998. It will be very important for leading NAM countries to decide over the next year on their strategy and priorities for the PrepComs, review process and the Review Conference in 2000. Alliances with some of the stronger advocates of nuclear disarmament among the western group could increase the chances of success. Without diminishing their goal of nuclear disarmament, it may be necessary to choose strategic objectives and to target specific demands according to the most viable procedural tools.


While early reactions to the PrepCom among diplomats and officials were mixed, the general verdict seems to be cautiously positive. Many shared the Chair's view that the PrepCom has laid some good foundations on which to build in the future. However, the real test will come at the 1998 and 1999 PrepComs and the next Review Conference. Only then will it be possible to see whether the review process is playing a useful or substantive role in facilitating better progress on nuclear disarmament, strengthened safeguards, universality and sustained non-proliferation. If not, it will decline into another deliberative forum, with no teeth to bite the cheats or laggards, nor muscle to move the goal of full implementation closer. The 1998 PrepCom may have to deal with sharper confrontations between the nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon States and is likely to be less smooth.

Several diplomats have spoken of a defining moment during the Chair's consultations, early in the second week. Attempts by the NWS to limit the scope of the process and restrict the PrepCom's ability to make recommendations suddenly united the non-nuclear-weapon States in the room. From then until the final stage of the Conference the disparate regional and political groups were observed to be acting as two (opposing) camps: nuclear and non-nuclear. In the multi-polar post cold war world, the common interest among the P-5 as nuclear weapon owners has been revealed more clearly. As evinced by their five power statement, they are also acting more in concert. For a few days, before things almost fell apart at the end, some diplomats expressed optimism that the review process was uniting the non-nuclear-weapon countries and providing them with some tools for joint action. It will be interesting to see if this perception arose from a one-off crystallising of opposition, or if it heralds a more solid building of alliances among the non-nuclear-weapon states. And if so, whether that shifts the balances in the deadlocked CD as well as the NPT process.

The mechanism of the Chair's informal consultations among key parties was undoubtedly useful, as in 1995. The principle, if not a firm precedent, for making recommendations to subsequent PrepComs was established and the option on subsidiary bodies kept open. More time than in previous PrepComs was devoted to discussing substance, but more consideration is needed for how to address substance in ways that better reflect the priorities of the international community and are geared to more practical results. By all accounts, the quality of debate and breadth of representation in the clusters could be enhanced. The best way to improve debate is to be clear about the kind of outcome that is desirable and feasible. Notwithstanding the sterling work by a small number of countries, it appears that NPT parties are too timid about what they could do with the NPT process. The danger is that they may fulfil the more pessimistic expectations with this conservative approach. Unless they coordinate their strategies and proposals more effectively they will play into the hands of the NWS who would much prefer to see the PrepComs degenerate into talk-shops, allowing their control of nuclear business as usual to continue!

Finally, a note of concern regarding the final events at the PrepCom. Mexico's decision to block the recommendations unless the words 'nuclear disarmament' were added and its apparent preference for creating an opportunity to make a strong speech about nuclear disarmament at the final session illustrate a worrying tendency (shared by many) to favour gesture over strategy. In the depths of the Cold War, gesture and demonstration were the only available tools for most of us. 1987 and the INF Treaty marked the turning point, to be quickly followed by START I and II, the CWC and CTBT, unilateral withdrawal of most tactical nuclear systems and so on. These gains can be consolidated or allowed to slip into reverse. Already there are some worrying signs on the political horizons.

With Garcia Robles and Marin Bosch, Mexico used veto and resistance strategically and with laudable effect during those difficult times. Blocking the final declaration of the 1990 NPT Review Conference was not popular in some quarters, but it may well have been the catalyst that brought the nuclear powers to negotiate a CTBT before the NPT came up for renewal in 1995. The PrepCom in 1997 may have looked the same from the outside, but it was not. Due to the recent political and international changes the opportunities for influencing decision-making are different and, I would argue, better. We do not yet have perfect tools or guarantees of success, but if we want to effect credible progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation we have to adapt the available tools for our purposes or teach ourselves how best to use the tools that arise. That is the challenge of the NPT review and accountability process.


The author would like to thank the many diplomats at the NPT PrepCom who generously shared information from the sessions which were closed to the press and public. I would also like to thank Hannelore Hoppe and the Center for Disarmament Affairs for their kind assistance in obtaining statements and official documentation. Credit and thanks are also due to many of my NGO colleagues. I am especially indebted to PPNN and the Monterey Institute for facilitating some very interesting discussions on the NPT Process and the first PrepCom. Mistakes and opinions in this report are the author's sole responsibility.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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