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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 88, Summer 2008

The 2008 NPT PrepCom:
Good Meeting, but was it Relevant?

Rebecca Johnson

The second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting for the 2010 Review Conference of the states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) took place from April 28 to May 9, 2008. It was chaired with calm authority by Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko of Ukraine, who avoided several potential pitfalls and tried to encourage states to use the maximum time possible to debate the important issues. Though he had produced a comprehensive factual summary of the meeting that found favour with an overwhelming majority of delegations, Yelchenko bowed to the opposition of a handful of states and decided not to push for this summary to be formally annexed. He then brought the gavel down early on the adoption of a "technical" report that contained six organizational and funding decisions relating to the 2009 and 2010 meetings.

Indisputably, the 2008 PrepCom went much more smoothly than the 2007 meeting, where Iran had delayed the start of discussions and blocked adoption of the agenda for over a week. There appeared to be more than enough time for states to say all they wanted on the core issues of nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy, safeguards, withdrawal from the treaty and other implementation measures. Though there were more than the usual number of 'rights to reply' exercised, the complaints appeared quite ritualized, and most related to criticisms made by Western states about Iran and Syria. Yet, despite the effective management of the meeting and many worthwhile contributions from governments and NGOs, the PrepCom left a heightened sense of unease and a slew of inconvenient questions about the role of the NPT and its review process when confronted with real world challenges relating to nuclear weapons and security.

When a meeting is able to carry out its business smoothly and efficiently it is sometimes easier to see what is systemically wrong than when everyone's attention is caught up in overcoming crises and working out procedural fixes. In this analysis of the 2008 PrepCom, I provide an initial overview of the conduct and decisions and then consider some of the pertinent questions that will need to be addressed in the run-up to 2010 and beyond.


Before the Chair turned to adoption of the PrepCom report, which was taken paragraph by paragraph, UK Ambassador John Duncan read a joint statement from the P-5 Permanent Members of the UN Security Council - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States [verbatim text below]. Initiated by Russia and coordinated by the UK, the P-5 had been trying throughout the PrepCom to develop a joint text, as they had done at the 1995 and 2000 review conferences and several earlier PrepComs. Differences among the nuclear powers, most notably with the Bush administration, meant that this was the first joint text to be agreed in eight years. The outgoing US administration's ideological positions were still evident in the omission of any mention of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), despite strong support for CTBT entry into force in the opening statements by the other nuclear-weapon states. Despite such compromises, the P-5 managed to pull together an 11-paragraph overview.[1] Recognized as having symbolic significance after eight years of disagreements, the P-5 statement made little substantive impact. Limited on disarmament and skewed towards compliance by non-nuclear weapon states, it was read into the record just minutes before the Chair guided the PrepCom through adopting its report and then closed the meeting.

The Chair's summary, by contrast, covered the key treaty articles and most if not all of the major themes and concerns raised during the PrepCom. Comprising 63 paragraphs, which are reproduced in full at the end of this article, the factual summary built on language provided by the Chair of the 2007 PrepCom, Ambassador Yukiya Amano of Japan. These included: compliance and noncompliance; universality and calls to India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states and become party to the CTBT; nuclear disarmament, including reductions in strategic and non-strategic nuclear arsenals and concerns about modernization and replacement of nuclear weapons systems; preventing nuclear terrorism; concerns about nuclear doctrines and policies including the use of nuclear weapons; security assurances from the nuclear-weapon states that they would not threaten or use nuclear weapons against non holders of nuclear weapons; CTBT and fissban.

There were sections on IAEA safeguards and the Additional Protocol; export controls; nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially the Middle East; concerns relating to the nuclear programmes of Iran, North Korea and reports of alleged clandestine nuclear activities by Syria, including collaboration with North Korea; nuclear energy rights under the treaty; concerns about nuclear fuel cycle safety, security and proliferation implications. Also included were proposals for comparative or standardized reporting and institutional approaches to strengthen accountability and implementation of the treaty; and questions relating to the exercise of the right to withdraw from the NPT and responses by NPT states parties.

The summary referred to "public and political momentum towards a world free of nuclear weapons", highlighted "the need for concrete and practical steps to achieve this goal" and emphasized that "multilateralism and mutually agreed solutions" were "the only sustainable method for dealing with the multiplicity of disarmament, non-proliferation and international security issues".


On the basis of the agenda adopted for all meetings of the Preparatory Commission after difficult negotiations and delays at the 2007 PrepCom, Yelchenko devoted the maximum time available to debates on the issues of substance, as follows:

The main decisions were taken half way into the second week. It was decided that the third PrepCom will be held in New York from May 4 to May 15, 2009, and be chaired by Ambassador Boniface Guwa Chidyausiki of Zimbabwe. It was also agreed that the Eighth Review Conference of the NPT will take place in New York from April 26 to May 21, 2010. The Chair for the Review Conference has not yet been nominated. The post traditionally goes to a nonaligned state and by the processes of regional rotation is likely to come from the Asia-Pacific region. These conventions were challenged this year by the US delegation, which argued that capability and merit rather than geography should be the deciding factors, but did not suggest alternative mechanisms for selecting on the basis of merit without political bias. Though others appear to share some of the US concerns, vested interests and geographical sensitivities make this a difficult can of worms to open.

The PrepCom also agreed to the in-principle appointment of the Secretary-General for the Review Conference, a senior official of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (ODA). The formal nomination will be made by the UN Secretary-General in consultation with PrepCom members, and the official would then be authorized to organize for the Review Conference in the expectation of the nomination being formally confirmed by the 2010 Conference on the first day.

Before agreeing to hold the next two NPT meetings in New York, a number of NAM countries including Iran, Syria and Venezuela raised concerns about the host country withholding or delaying visas required by diplomats for participating in UN meetings. Yelchenko therefore gave an accompanying statement from the Chair in which he acknowledged that visa concerns had been expressed and said that he had held consultations with representatives from the host country who assured him of their intention to facilitate access in accordance with normal diplomatic procedures.

Two further decisions concerned the funding of NPT meetings. The necessity for these decisions had been flagged up by UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, in his opening speech. Making an unusually public mention of a just-averted crisis in funding due to late payment by some states parties, Duarte warned that "without financing, there is no review process, and this would only be a step toward having no treaty". The Chair echoed Duarte when he introduced the financial decisions by recalling that NPT meeting costs had to be borne by the states parties to the Treaty and that work could be undertaken by the Secretariat only if sufficient finances have been provided. He gave a detailed history of the problems ODA had in getting states to pay their dues to enable the 2008 PrepCom to take place, with the implication that though the United Nations allowed its Conference Services to support the PrepCom without having received full funding, this will not be permitted in the future if significant funding from states is still outstanding. Emphasizing "that assessed and outstanding dues must be paid in proper time", the PrepCom decided to request that the United Nations provide a financial report. This will be circulated as an official document and may increase political pressure through naming and shaming.

General Debates and Themes

Since the Chair's factual summary provides a succinct and accurate overview of the major issues pertinent to the NPT that were addressed during the PrepCom, this section will look principally at the general debates, with focus on universality and disarmament. The aim, in keeping with the particular focus of this journal, is to provide more of a flavour of the statements and discussions than the factual summary is structured to convey.

Universality and the Middle East

A statement by Syria on behalf of the League of Arab States, accompanied by a substantive working paper (WP.2), set out the history of the League's positions and presented a series of proposals for dealing with the issue in the NPT context, including interim steps to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.

In summary, these call on Israel to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state (NNWS) without restriction or condition, and demand that the international community - and especially the depository states (US, Russia and UK) should assume responsibility for implementing the resolution. They propose allocation of specific time, establishment of a subsidiary body to Main Committee II in 2010 and, more controversially, the establishment of a standing committee at the 2010 review conference to follow up - intersessionally - the implementation of the Middle East recommendations. As interim steps, the Arab League calls on the UN to convene an international meeting on establishing a NWFZ in the Middle East. Emphasizing that the nuclear weapon states recognized by the NPT (NWS) must fulfil all their commitments under the NPT not to transfer weapons or technologies or assist or encourage Israel's nuclear programme, they further argue that NPT parties should also not "extend any assistance to Israel in the nuclear field, whether for peaceful or for military purposes", and call for these commitments to be reported on and monitored through to the 2015 Review Conference.

Following directly on from Syria, Egypt emphasized bringing in the states outside the NPT, arguing that "efforts to realize Treaty universality have thus far not been commensurate with the recognition by all states parties of the pivotal role that the NPT plays in enhancing international peace and security." According to Egypt, NPT universality is a necessary first step towards the universal application and strengthening of IAEA full scope safeguards: "Egypt rejects any attempts to impose additional obligations on non-nuclear weapon states, which are already in compliance with their commitments pursuant to the Treaty, if they are not reciprocated by equal and commensurate measures by states that still lie outside the treaty and are not bound by Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements." Egypt raised concerns about nuclear cooperation between NPT parties and non-parties "regardless of the motives declared or the intentions stated". This appears to be an oblique reference to an agreement a few weeks ago between the US and Israel on cooperation relating - according to reports - to nuclear safety. Like the condemnation of such cooperation contained in yesterday's NAM statement, this position condemns the US-India nuclear deal as well.

In its national capacity, Syria made a further statement, complaining that the NPT was under pressure because there was a lack of balanced treatment in the "two main pillars" of the NPT, nuclear disarmament and prevention of nuclear proliferation; and "because of the use of double standards by some countries" concerning the third pillar, nuclear energy, as well as Israel, "which possesses advanced military nuclear capabilities outside the framework of any international control". Arguing that the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East "remains in effect till its goals and objectives are achieved" and that Israel "refuses to achieve just and comprehensive peace", Syria devoted the rest of its statement to reiterating the Arab League initiatives on universality and establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons. It concluded by posing three questions for NPT parties: i) why the international community has not been able to achieve the universality of the treaty or a NWFZ in the Middle East after four decades of international meetings; ii) why nuclear disarmament was not yet achieved; and iii) whether nuclear arsenals provide security to states that possess them, or just undermine international peace and security.

Raising concerns about the continuing prospect of confrontation and conflict in the Middle East - with arms flows from several directions, terrorism and wastage of resources that are needed by many communities - Iraq argued that stability and security in its region would require NPT universality, and that a zone free of WMD in the Middle East would fulfil numerous UNSC and IAEA resolutions as well as the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. Iraq criticized Israel for impeding this objective, saying that it could provide an impetus to nuclear terrorism, and arguing for further pressure to be applied to get Israel to give up its nuclear arms and join the NPT.

Presenting its own twist on the oft-heard clichés about NPT balance, Iran argued that "the NPT also provides for a balance between security concerns and the socio-economic requirements for development, especially for developing countries". Before attacking US nuclear cooperation with the "Zionist Regime" and defending its own record with regard to what it called "my country's exclusively peaceful nuclear activities", Iran provided some combative arguments to accuse the United States, Britain and France of violating various of the NPT's articles, through their nuclear weapons doctrines and modernization programmes and (particularly in the case of the US) through continued cooperation with Israel. Though Iran also castigated certain NATO countries, it appeared that China and Russia were exempted from its censure, despite a recent cooling of Iranian-Russian relations due to Russia's more muscular support of UN Security Council pressure on Iran.

Nuclear Weapon States

The NWS gave overviews on disarmament to the general debate and then more detailed statements to the cluster 1 and practical disarmament sessions. These covered US reductions and policy since 2002, developments outlined in recent announcements from Russian President Putin, French President Sarkozy and UK Defence Secretary Des Browne, and China's familiar positions. The P-5 statements and in some cases attached briefing papers are best read in their entirety (and can be accessed at the Reaching Critical Will website), but each gave a synopsis in their statements to the general debate and then elaborated on these in the cluster sessions.

China reiterated its view that the larger nuclear weapon states have a "special responsibility" to reduce arsenals and called for "a holistic approach to address both the symptoms and the root causes" of proliferation. Emphasizing dialogue and negotiation, Ambassador Cheng Jingye reiterated China's long-held policy of "no first use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances" and called on all the NWS to "undertake not to be the first to use nuclear weapons and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states". Saying that the 2000 "13 Practical Steps" were "still relevant today", China advocated that "we should reaffirm those steps that are still valid and put forward new proposals reflecting the consensus of all sides". Though it has failed to ratify the CTBT more than 10 years after signing that treaty, China continues to say that it "actively supports early entry into force" of the CTBT.

For France, Ambassador Jean-François Dobelle reiterated many of the arguments and pledges made by President Nicolas Sarkozy in Cherbourg, March 21, including reducing the airborne nuclear weapons by one-third, putting France's combined nuclear forces below a ceiling of 300, and underlining that France has no additional warheads tucked away apart from those declared to be "in the operational stockpile". Inviting international experts to witness the dismantlement of France's former production facilities for military fissile materials, Dobelle reiterated the eight-point plan put forward by Sarkozy. Among the familiar endorsements of the CTBT, a fissile materials cut-off treaty (FMCT), and the Hague Code of Conduct against ballistic missile proliferation (HCoC), he highlighted Sarkozy's innovative proposal for dismantlement of all the nuclear test sites. The opening statement also spoke of "parallel mobilisation on all other areas of disarmament". While this may have referred to the Oslo process to ban cluster munitions or efforts to restrict the development or missiles or other weapon systems, it was widely interpreted as a subtle reminder of France's position relating nuclear disarmament to general and complete disarmament. However, since other aspects of disarmament are being enthusiastically pursued by civil society, perhaps this was meant to be a signal that France intends not only to reduce its nuclear arsenal, but to cancel Triomphant and pursue nuclear disarmament in earnest.

Russia devoted the first part of its opening statement to nuclear energy before discussing its nuclear weapons reductions and emerging efforts with the United States to ensure continuing strategic reductions to follow on from START and SORT that would be "predictable, transparent, irreversible and accountable". Russia referred positively to the Sochi declaration following debates between Presidents Putin and Bush, but castigated "hasty deployment" of ballistic missile defences (BMD), and noted that offensive and defensive armaments are "intrinsically intertwined". It gave strong support to the CTBT and reaffirmed support for the FMCT. On security assurances, Russia appeared to give with one hand, advocating "a global agreement", but then took it away again by saying that such an agreement on excluding the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would have to "take into account cases stipulated in defence doctrines" of the NWS. In Russia's view, the "complete elimination of nuclear arms can only be achieved through a gradual, phased movement towards the ultimate objective on the basis of equality and a comprehensive approach, with the participation of all nuclear weapon states, in conditions of sustained strategic stability and with full respect for the principle of equal security for all states." Russia wanted to find "ways to bring the states that are not legally bound by the NPT under the treaty regime, including through improving national systems of accounting, verification and physical protection of nuclear materials, as well as export controls."

After "strongly endorsing" the long EU statement, the UK's opening statement evoked Defence Secretary Des Browne's February 5 statement to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), but left the detail to later sessions. Notably, however, the UK seemed to distort and echo the unequivocal undertaking the NWS took in 2000 to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, saying: "The United Kingdom is unequivocally committed to strengthening" all three pillars of the NPT. Stressing that "non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament are not in competition", the UK argued that "if one is truly committed to the goals of article VI....then you must be a non-proliferator". The statement emphasized things like "common endeavour", a "world where the international community will tolerate no proliferation... a genuinely integrated approach to nuclear disarmament... a world in which the NPT enables and facilitates the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, whilst underpinning our common security."

The UK ambassador was more specific when he exercised the right to reply after Iran's statement made the accusation that the UK decision "to renew and further develop its nuclear weapons capability, by approving the Trident project, is... in full contravention of Article VI of the NPT and in defiance with the unanimous decision of the 2000 NPT Review Conference". Iran further argued that, "The Trident project can generate and in fact expand the nuclear arms race beyond the traditional rivalry between the two most powerful nuclear weapon states, thus is a special source of concern for the international community and is a clear setback for the global efforts to bolster nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation." In response, Ambassador Duncan said it was "wholly incorrect to suggest that the UK is further developing its arsenal". Referring to the December 4, 2006 White Paper on Trident, he said the UK had decided to develop replacement submarines "to ensure future governments can maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent should they so choose". This decision did not, he stressed, mean that the UK is committing now to retaining nuclear weapons to 2050. He repeated that the UK arsenal has been cut to below 160 and that the UK's nuclear weapons represent a small proportion of the world inventory of nuclear weapons.

The United States rejected any claims that the NWS have "backtracked" on their NPT commitments to disarmament and referred to US "exemplary progress", claiming that the numbers speak for themselves. In a combative statement that focussed on both compliance (by others) and its own record on disarmament, Dr Christopher Ford pointed out that the US has dismantled three out of every four nuclear weapons and brought its total arsenal to the levels of the 1950s, reduced its tactical nuclear weapons by 90 percent, reduced materials and is building a new plant to convert weapons materials into reactor fuel and so on. With regard to the FMCT, the US hoped the CD would find consensus around CD/1840 to start work on negotiating this. Arguing that the US "story of disarmament progress is not just about numbers", Ford referred to the new triad in the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, which reduced reliance on nuclear weapons by improving other means to accomplish strategic deterrence. He commended to the PrepCom the "ambitious work plan" the US outlined in 2007 for 2010, and stressed that the US remains firmly committed to the disarmament goals and preamble of NPT and is creating the "conceptual and infrastructural foundations for meeting the shared goal of a future world that is not merely free of nuclear weapons, but than can remain so because would-be proliferators are unlikely to win significant strategic benefits by 'breaking out' of a disarmament regime".

Though the reductions in arsenals and further steps taken by four of the NWS were welcomed in most statements from the NNWS, many raised concerns that more than 20,000 strategic nuclear weapons remain in the major arsenals, and that many of these are still on high or "hair-trigger" alert. Even more states than last year raised serious concerns about the progress in reducing arsenals being undermined by replacement and modernization policies and the development of new nuclear weapons, missions and doctrines.

Promoting practical nuclear disarmament

Amidst the familiar and almost-universal calls for CTBT entry into force and commencement of work in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to enable negotiations to get going on a fissban/fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT), there was a spectrum of approaches on disarmament. Concerns were raised about NATO nuclear sharing, non-strategic/tactical nuclear weapons, and what would happen to strategic nuclear arms reductions when the current START and SORT agreements between the US and Russia come to their designated ends in 2009 and 2012 respectively. More attention was also given to missile proliferation, and cautious interest was expressed in Russia's proposal to extend the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and make its provisions globally effective. There was emphasis also on implementation of some or all of the 'thirteen steps' from the 2000 Review Conference, especially regarding decreasing the operational status of nuclear systems and the NWS' undertaking to eliminate and not just reduce their nuclear arsenals. Some raised concerns about nuclear dangers, especially in the context of the production and use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), while others spoke of the environmental legacy of nuclear production and waste. Several reiterated the importance of disarmament education for raising awareness and fostering a better informed and engaged civil society to enhance future security.

While NAM statements continued to emphasize the need for a timetable or time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament, Australia joined Costa Rica, Malaysia and the New Agenda Coalition in making explicit reference to a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), noting, "at an appropriate time, the international community will likely need to consider complementary legal frameworks, including a possible nuclear weapons convention, for the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons." Though hedged with caveats like 'possible' and 'eventual', this was significant in being Australia's first positive mention of the objective of a nuclear weapons convention, which physicians and NGOs have been at the forefront of pursuing though the Australian-initiated International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Among the other statements that emphasized the reciprocal responsibilities and obligations of NWS and NNWS, Malaysia underscored that "only through the total elimination of nuclear weapons can we eliminate the threat of the proliferation of nuclear weapons". Describing the NPT as "only the middle point in the process, whose final objective, as article VI declares, is nuclear disarmament", Costa Rica recommended that NPT parties study and discuss the legal, technical, political and verification approaches and elements in the model Nuclear Weapon Convention developed by civil society and spearheaded in the UN First Committee and General Assembly by Malaysia and Costa Rica. Costa Rica tabled this model NWC as an NPT working paper at the 2007 PrepCom, and wanted to promote discussion among NPT parties as well as civil society about its ideas. Raising concerns about the renewal of nuclear arsenals and the "meagre commitment by NWS to live up to their commitments to make concrete, verifiable and irreversible progress towards nuclear disarmament", Costa Rica argued that a quinquennial review was not sufficient, and the NPT needed more active mechanisms for constant review and accountability.

Norway gave one of the most substantive presentations, with detailed references to the five principles and ten policy recommendations from the February 2008 Oslo Conference on Achieving the Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. Referencing also the seven Nation Ministerial Declaration issued by the governments of Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Norway, Romania, South Africa and the United Kingdom after the failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference,[2] Norway declared that "we all have much to lose by weakening the NPT [and] cannot let this happen... Our task during this Review Process must be to consolidate and further strengthen the NPT. We must create the necessary enabling environment and political will to this end. This entails working in more innovative ways, not least across regions."

Indonesia referred to both the Oslo Conference and the Wall Street Journal articles by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, Sam Nunn et al. Sharing the view that though nuclear weapons are now strategically "irrelevant", they have become more dangerous, Indonesia considered that addressing the role and use of nuclear weapons should be a "central part" of the work of the 2010 Review Conference. After recognizing the special responsibility and need for disarmament leadership by the US and Russia, Indonesia argued that the adoption of a new NATO Strategic Concept that required the retention of nuclear weapons would contradict the NPT's obligations. Indonesia said it supported "any actions to remove and dismantle tactical nuclear weapons from territories of NNWS which are members of NATO".

Chile had given a strong statement on the first day on behalf of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. While addressing a range of NPT-related issues, including universality, NWFZs and the importance of strengthening the IAEA's verification capacity, the main focus was Article VI. This group of Latin American and Caribbean countries strongly rejected "the idea of maintaining the option of nuclear weapons' use as a dissuasive element in the strategic doctrines and national security policies of certain countries" and insisted on unconditional and legally binding security assurances for NNWS. They called for a verifiable fissban and for universalization of the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.

The Latin American states also welcomed adoption in 2007 of a new UN General Assembly resolution, 62/36 on 'Decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems', which Chile had co-sponsored with New Zealand and others. Another co-sponsor, Nigeria, also drew attention to this new resolution and underscored the importance of reducing dangers and instability by taking nuclear weapons off alert. Nigeria argued that "moving all nuclear weapons from high alert status would lead to increased security for all... and provide a much-needed signal that the nuclear weapon states take their responsibilities seriously in the lead up to the 2010 Review Conference". New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, welcomed the widespread and growing support for removing all nuclear weapons from high alert status, which would increase confidence and reinforce a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies.

Kyrgyz ambassador Muktar Djumaliev spoke of the "united belief" of states in Central Asia that their NWFZ "will strengthen peace and security at the regional and global levels" and called attention to the "innovative nonproliferation feature of the zone, which requires states parties to adhere to the IAEA's Additional Protocol". Arguing for "creative efforts" to reduce terrorist access to nuclear materials, the Kyrgyz Republic explicitly supported an earlier Norwegian proposal (from the 2005 Review Conference) to enhance the security of existing stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) while "minimizing its use in the civilian nuclear sector". Djumaliev also highlighted the "often overlooked environmental problems caused by nuclear weapons production". Detailing some of the appalling waste and contamination legacy from the Soviet nuclear weapons still being borne by Kyrgyzstan, Djumaliev called for "appropriate assistance" from governments and the international community "to expedite the clean-up" and find a comprehensive solution.[3]

Austria argued that the "unequivocal undertaking by the NWS to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals" [as contained in the 13 steps from 2000], "forms part of the NPT acquis". In a statement that gave strong support to the CTBT, HCoC and FMCT, Austria bucked the apparent NPT race to embrace nuclear energy. Calling for "new thinking", Austria argued that "the dangers related to nuclear technology cannot be ignored for the sake of short-sighted focus on national economic interest, fears of limitation of state sovereignty or loss of control over a key technology sector". The statement then identified some practical considerations on this, following on from the "food for thought" presentation made at the 2007 PrepCom by host Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik: "it is time to design a framework suited to the nuclear realities of the 21st century which restricts the most dangerous technologies, enrichment and reprocessing, exclusively to facilities under multilateral control. These limitations need to be accompanied by proper rules of transparency and by an assurance that legitimate users could get the supply of fuel they need."


The vast majority of statements underscored support for the CTBT, with the EU referring to "a new momentum" towards that important treaty's entry into force. The Latin American statement likewise pushed for entry into force of the CTBT and commended Colombia's recent ratification. Though many statements also expressed support for the CD to commence negotiations on a FMCT or more far-reaching kind of fissile material treaty (FMT), these appeared less enthusiastic (or perhaps more despairing) than the kind of strong endorsement accorded to the CTBT. Indeed the fissban mentions tended to be placed more in the context of getting the CD working than for its intrinsic merits for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

After commending the CTBTO Preparatory Commission for its progress on establishing the verification system and emphasizing the importance of the CTBT for nuclear disarmament and the credibility of the NPT, many expressed the hope that the existing moratoria on testing would be maintained, and that political breakthroughs in the hold-out countries would enable the CTBT to enter into force in time for the 2010 Review Conference. Though there were some direct expressions of encouragement to specific states, little more could be said in this US election year, given the widespread view that the key to getting CTBT entry into force back on the practical agenda for many of the hold-out countries is the United States. Behind the scenes, however, there was much discussion of how to build a bipartisan strategy to push for US ratification once there is a new US president and senate. Some also noted, in Japan's words, that the effectiveness of the CTBT's international monitoring system (IMS) had "proved its effectiveness on the occasion of the DPRK's October 2006 nuclear test".

The "Vienna Group of Ten" - Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden - put in a substantive working paper on the CTBT. Raising concerns that "any development of new types of nuclear weapons may result in the resumption of tests and a lowering of the nuclear threshold", the Vienna Group called on all states "to refrain from any action which would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT, pending its entry into force", and underlined the importance of maintaining the moratoria and of DPRK fulfilling its October 3, 2007 commitments as well as acceding to the CTBT. Referring to various verification and educational work carried out by the CTBTO Commission and supporting governments, the Vienna group called on all to support and resource the work of the CTBTO. Turkey pledged to hold a "Cross-Regional Workshop" on the CTBT in July 2008 to review the test ban regime's achievements and "offer perspectives for the future".


While most if not all the groups and delegations referred to the fissban - or, more narrowly, an FMCT - as high on their list of priorities, it was generally mentioned in conjunction with exhortations to resolve the CD's long years of paralysis. Since most hope that a change of US administration will prompt a rethink on verification, few saw much point in going into detail on the substantive and political challenges relating to this long-sought nonproliferation objective. Several took the opportunity to support the CD's latest draft work programme put forward by 2008's presidents (P-6) as draft decision CD/1840. Japan pointed out that no CD delegation has actually expressed opposition to fissban negotiations, but that there were "differences over the modality and the scope".

NAM countries are almost unanimous in arguing for the fissban to include stocks and verification. Norway, like most others outside the NAM, said that from their national perspective, "an ideal FMCT would have to include verification provisions" and said that "in the long run, we hope it should be possible to monitor decommissioned military facilities in all nuclear weapons states". Norway argued that "dealing with existing stocks of fissile materials will undoubtedly strengthen the disarmament dimension of such a treaty, and urged the NWS to "declare or reconfirm their moratoria [and]... place material designated as no longer required for military purposes under an IAEA verification regime".

Germany put forward a working paper (WP.21) on FMCT and suggested that a "stepping stone" could be a "political declaration of all nuclear weapon states, de facto nuclear weapon states and important non-nuclear weapon states, which have the capacity to produce weapons usable materials... This declaration would contain an unambiguous fissile material cut-off commitment, a commitment to adopt or maintain the necessary measures for security, control and accounting of weapons usable materials and a commitment to enter without preconditions into negotiations on a non-discriminatory, legally binding FMCT." Advocating an incremental approach, Germany suggested that an FMCT could be a "framework treaty" enshrining the basis norms and then charting a process for implementation, including stricter verification (which could be added as protocols) and the incorporation of stocks. Meanwhile, a Group of Scientific Experts could be established in the CD to examine technical aspects and prepare the ground, as was done for several years before the CTBT was finally negotiated.

Germany also drew attention to the complementary mechanism for addressing stocks that has recently been put forward by Bob Einhorn - a "Fissile Material Control Initiative" (FMCI), conceived as voluntary arrangements by or among the relevant states to increase security, transparency, accounting and control of fissile material stocks around the world, which could increase confidence and accountability so as to pave the way for or, if negotiations get underway, reinforce the FMCT.

Einhorn also put these ideas forward during a packed breakfast meeting supported by UNIDIR and the Netherlands, among others, for the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) to give an update on their work. The IPFM briefing included country-specific reports from various key states (including India, Pakistan, the United States and South Africa) on attitudes to the fissban and a presentation of key elements and approaches regarding scope and verification of a draft treaty in progress intended to address some of the disarmament and nonproliferation concerns that a fissban will need to address.

Opposition to new, modernized and destabilizing nuclear weapons and missions

While almost all the statements welcomed that some of the NWS had made further reductions to their nuclear arsenals, there were more statements than in previous meetings that raised specific concerns about vertical proliferation, most notably modernization of nuclear arsenals and continued reliance on nuclear deterrence.

Ambassador Don Mackay of New Zealand said the seven members of the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden) remain "seriously concerned that intentions to modernise other nuclear forces seem to persist" and underscored that "states should not develop new nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons with new military capabilities or for new missions, nor replace nor modernise their nuclear weapon systems, as any such action would contradict the spirit of the disarmament and nonproliferation obligations of the treaty". Apparently responding to recent remarks from the UK and France, the NAC statement noted, "some nuclear weapon states have recently continued to advocate the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, thereby reinforcing the perception that nuclear weapons will continue to remain a strategic component of national security. The consistent attempt to treat nuclear weapons as a unique security enhancer perpetuates the mistaken perception that nuclear weapons are an essential component of a modern military force, and provides greater prominence and status to these weapons at a time when the international community repeatedly discourages their presence and calls for their total elimination." New Zealand said the NAC would be building on the seven areas requiring "urgent attention": universality; nuclear doctrines; reductions in nuclear forces; security assurances; nuclear-weapon-free zones; negotiation of a treaty on fissile material; and a prohibition on the testing of nuclear weapons [entry into force of the CTBT].

The 100-plus members of the NAM likewise stated: "It is most unfortunate that the NWS and those remaining outside the NPT continue to develop and modernize their nuclear arsenals, imperilling regional and international peace and security, in particular in the Middle East.... The recent developments in this regard illustrate a trend of vertical proliferation and non-compliance by NWS towards their commitments under Article VI of the NPT. In addition to the adoption of destabilizing new nuclear postures and the modernization and development of new types of nuclear weapons, we received with concern a recent announcement made by a NWS[4] on the addition of a new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine to its nuclear arsenals. This is indeed a great setback. We must call for an end to this regression [by] rejecting nuclear deterrence and placing a ban on all forms of nuclear weapon testing with a view to their total elimination." The NAM then reiterated their long-held position that "the Review Conference should call for developing a specific timeframe for the implementation of Article VI and a mechanism to verify the compliance of NWS and their obligations."

Various NAM and NAC members followed with their own statements, adding or emphasizing particular elements. Stressing accountability, Brazil sought to weaken the hostility of some NWS to its previous proposals for reporting in a comparative way, by arguing that the NWS would gain if their steps "in streamlining their nuclear arsenals and other control measures" were better known through "comparative tables showing those measures". In later sessions devoted to disarmament, there were further criticisms of replacement and modernization of weapons in the arsenals. In most cases these were linked with concerns about continuing reliance on nuclear deterrence, post cold war doctrines, concepts and operations for nuclear weapons use, and the maintenance of nuclear weapons on high alert. The use and threat of use of nuclear weapons were also addressed in relation to negative security assurances (NSA).

Brazil summed up the contradiction noted by many delegations, stating, "While we welcome the efforts made by the NWS for the reduction of stockpiles, the progress achieved thus far does not necessarily represent a commitment to nuclear disarmament". Brazil referred to new rationalizations for the use of nuclear weapons as well as modernization processes, and called for "full and transparent reporting" on what has already been done and on envisaged future progress. Brazil reiterated its proposal for a comparative table of measures undertaken by the NWS, for use at the 2010 Review Conference and beyond.

Following from its substantive statement to the general debate, the NAM cluster 1 statement underlined the conclusions of the July 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and said that new targeting options and weapons "to serve aggressive counter-proliferation purposes" undermine the disarmament commitments.

South Africa underscored that the NPT not only tries to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons but "also contains a legal commitment for their total elimination". Supporting recent efforts and initiatives from prominent personalities and states, South Africa encouraged bilateral reductions and unilateral steps, as undertaken by some NWS, but emphasized that these "should follow the principles of irreversibility, transparency and verifiability". Calling for the role of nuclear weapons in security policies to be diminished, South Africa argued, "As long as some countries continue to possess and maintain nuclear weapons and have military doctrines that enhance the role and use of nuclear weapons, they create a situation in which there will be others who will also aspire to possess them. It is highly dangerous to perpetuate the perception that nuclear weapons provide security, because they only increase insecurity."

Kenya, likewise, referred to deliberate efforts to modernize and improve nuclear technologies and called for defence doctrines based on nuclear arsenals to be discarded, together with "the cold war mentality that the possession of nuclear weapons can be a prerequisite for security". South Korea also underlined that "any qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and the development of advanced new types are contrary to the obligation to work for nuclear disarmament in good faith".

Indonesia made clear that though it welcomed the growing political momentum to reduce arsenals and undertake practical actions to achieve the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, "nuclear disarmament should not only be seen as reducing the number of weapons, but also in preventing those that do exist from use". Arguing that the role of nuclear weapons in the contemporary world should be a central part of the agenda for the 2010 Review Conference, Indonesia referred to the "continued existence of thousands of nuclear warheads in stockpiles and on high alert status" and was very critical that "more sophisticated and advanced nuclear weapons are also being developed by some NWS in order to maintain their nuclear deterrence". Noting that though the strategic importance of nuclear weapons "now is irrelevant", Indonesia said they had become more dangerous: "These are compelling reasons for renewed efforts by NWS to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenals and review the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines."

Non-strategic nuclear weapons and NATO nuclear sharing

While the NAM and several other statements raised concerns about NATO nuclear sharing, including references to tactical or non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW), the most concrete proposals on NSNW came from Finland, speaking also on behalf of Sweden, Lithuania, Switzerland, Ukraine and Austria.

Noting indications of new types and new plans for NSNW as "battlefield weapons to counter or complement... conventional forces", Finland et al said this would "go against" the NPT obligations, including the 2000 NPT final document. Welcoming the focus on these weapons in the Wall Street Journal articles, the WMD Commission (recommendation 21) and the Chair's Summary from the 2007 PrepCom, these states called on the PrepCom to "convey a clear message of the importance of treaty-bound disarmament measures" regarding NSNW. Relating this issue to proposals to broaden the INF regime, they specifically argued for the 1991/1992 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNI) to be codified in a post-START context and called for NSNW to be consolidated and withdrawn to central storage as a first step towards their reduction and elimination.

Despite Finland and others highlighting the dangers from tactical nuclear weapons, the European Union contains member states that host US nuclear weapons and bases assigned to NATO, and is therefore unable to say much. All the more significant, therefore, that the EU statement "encourage[s] states concerned to start negotiations on an effectively verifiable agreement to best achieve the greatest possible reductions" in non-strategic nuclear weapons.

Concerned that a new NATO Strategic Concept based on the retention of nuclear weapons would contradict the NPT, Indonesia supported "any actions to remove and dismantle tactical nuclear weapons from territories of NNWS which are members of NATO". The New Agenda Coalition identified as "a significant transparency and confidence- building measure if those non-nuclear weapon states that are part of regional alliances which include nuclear weapon states could report on steps taken or future steps planned, to reduce and eliminate the role for nuclear weapons in collective security doctrines".

Addressing this issue, Russia said all its NSNW had been withdrawn from former Soviet territories to Russia and concentrated in central storage facilities, where technical safety and reliable protection is ensured. Russia also said it had introduced measures to protect against terrorist actions, and drew attention to its longstanding proposal "that all nuclear arms be withdrawn to the territory" of the NWS that own them.

Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces

South Korea and others welcomed last year's joint US-Russian statement supporting the INF Treaty. Most of Russia's cluster 1 statement was devoted to explaining the status of its current arsenal and efforts to pursue follow-on bilateral agreements on strategic nuclear systems before START and SORT expire. However, Russia also put forward President Putin's initiative to make the INF obligations "truly global", and then elaborated on this objective in a fringe meeting with other states and NGOs. In response to some who have questioned whether Russia is serious about taking this initiative forward (particularly since its first reaction to US plans to deploy BMD bases in the Czech Republic and Poland was to threaten to pull out of the INF Treaty), Russia argued that the renunciation of these missiles would strengthen regional stability and global nonproliferation and missile control regimes, and "reverse troubling trends that lead to increasing international tensions".

In its briefing on turning the INF treaty into a universal arrangement for global accession, Russia's delegation drew attention to the draft multilateral INF treaty elements it had attached to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's speech to the CD in February 2008. In particular, Russia drew attention to the obligations in the treaty not to flight test and produce missile stages and launchers and obligations to eliminate existing intermediate and shorter range missiles by an agreed deadline. It noted also the restrictions imposed on deployment and movement of such missiles pending elimination; the information exchanges; elimination procedures; compliance and verification rules; and, of course, other basic treaty requirements and provisions such as depository, implementation authority and entry into force. However, the delegation appeared less confident in response to questions about how to draw in the other states that have or are developing intermediate and shorter range missiles in their arsenals, and where and how they envisaged negotiating the expanded treaty.

BMD and Outer Space

A few statements explicitly linked outer space security with nonproliferation. Drawing NPT parties' attention to the Russian-Chinese draft treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT), Russia summed up the connections thus: "The emergence of weapons in space would not only expand the spheres of military competition, but bring it to a quantitatively new level, which is fraught with unpredictable consequences for the entire arms control process, strategic stability and international security as a whole" and warned of a potential arms race in space that would give new momentum to WMD proliferation.

Deep cuts with transparency, irreversibility and verification

Given its membership, the EU's contribution on cluster 1 predictably contained mixed messages. Referring to the "significant reductions" by two EU states, it stressed the need for the largest NWS to follow on from START and SORT and make deeper cuts and emphasized the principles of irreversibility, transparency and verifiability. The EU also referred to the "de-activation of thousands of nuclear warheads" and "efforts to convert military stockpiles of fissile material into a physical state which can no longer be used in nuclear weapons".

The New Agenda Coalition also addressed transparency and confidence-building. Supporting Brazil's proposals for the establishment of clear parameters to facilitate comparative nuclear accounting, the NAC called on the NWS to "provide further clarity as to the current status of their holdings, as well as future plans for downsizing and the reduction of reliance on nuclear weapons in national and regional security doctrines". As noted above, the NAC called for reports relating to this from nuclear umbrella states as well. The NAC encouraged all the NWS to maximize opportunities, for example through engaging in the UK-led P-5 meeting on disarmament verification.

Underlining the importance of the NWS undertaking further "practical disarmament measures", Japan's working paper highlighted three core principles agreed in the 2000 NPT final document - transparency, irreversibility and verifiability - and called for the role and operation status of nuclear weapons to be further diminished and for the "threshold for the use of nuclear weapons" to be kept "as high as possible". In particular, the Japanese paper itemized examples of the information that the NWS should be encouraged to disclose, including: the aggregate numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery systems deployed and in stockpiles; the extent of nuclear stockpile reductions and the number and pace of reducing and dismantling nuclear warheads and delivery systems; the extent of reductions in the nuclear weapons complexes, including personnel and size; the year in which fissile material production for weapons ceased (if it has ceased); the amount of fissile material declared excess and plans for its disposition; activities to assist in the removal of fissile materials from dismantled weapons; steps taken to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines; and plans or intentions for further nuclear disarmament measures.

With regard to irreversibility, Japan cited as "exemplary measures" the dismantling of nuclear warheads and delivery systems; dismantling of nuclear test sites (a widely welcomed proposal long advocated by non-aligned states and recently revived by President Sarkozy of France, despite reluctance from some of the other NWS); shutting down and dismantling facilities for the production of fissile materials for explosive purposes (another proposal advocated by France, which has already made progress on this at Marcoule and Pierrelatte, which it closed in 1995-96); and disposing irrevocably of fissile material declared excess to military requirements, as voluntarily undertaken by the US, Russia and UK, though in pursuit of disarmament some might argue that the concept of "excess" should be rigorously justified.

Chair's Factual Summary

In accordance with decisions taken in 1995 and revised in 2000, the Chair of the first and second PrepComs should "carry out consultations with the states parties to prepare the ground for the outcome of the sessions as well as their agenda... The consideration of the issues at each session of the Preparatory Committee should be factually summarized and its results transmitted in a report to the next session for further discussion."[5]

Ambassador Yelchenko quoted from these decisions and reminded delegations that the 2002 and 2003 PrepCom summaries had been annexed to the report; they were not negotiated, but delegations accepted them as the Chair's summaries and made their comments or reservations on the record after adopting the report, so that these were reflected in the summary records. He then told the conference that he had done his best to reflect truthfully and accurately the major points but it was not possible to include every proposal and every concern or statement. Alluding to opposition by a small number of delegations, which many assume included Iran and Syria, the Chair announced that "Following consultations I have become convinced that it will not be possible for my summary to be annexed to the report. I have therefore decided to turn it into a working paper of the conference."

Though few were surprised at this outcome, there was disappointment, since the majority of states had liked the summary, which built on the thoughtful work of his predecessor, Ambassador Amano. To careful readers without the baggage of national positions to protect and targets to attack, the summary was a pretty comprehensive, fair and balanced reflection of the range and complexity of issues covered in the PrepCom. This was clear from the expressions of appreciation from delegations who commended Ambassador Yelchenko for his calm, authoritative, considerate and open-minded conducting of the PrepCom and also for the summary, which had had to reflect more than thirty working papers and over 150 statements in the general, cluster and special time debates. As noted by the EU in its closing statement, the summary "reflects discussions that we had during this session and the working documents that were presented by states parties". New Zealand's ambassador Don Mackay also noted that the task of making the factual summary was "extraordinarily difficult, but also very worthwhile", pulling the many statements and papers "together in a thematic and analytical way". Of course, he noted, one can "find elements that one feels should not have been emphasized so much or elements that are missing, and of course there are things one disagrees with", but it was clear that he felt that as long as the debate contained disagreements, the different views ought to be reflected in the summary. Commending the Chair on his "very fair and balanced summary" Mackay said that "what we particularly liked was that it contains and reflects a number of forward-looking proposals and recommendations for 2010, especially with regard to transparency and confidence-building and more structured reporting by the nuclear weapon states" expressing the hope that these would be developed further and contribute to a successful review conference in 2010.

The draft report is reproduced below, but it may be useful to highlight some of the elements of especial interest to advocates of disarmament diplomacy, which should not be taken as imputing less importance to other parts of the summary.

The first ten paragraphs provided an overview that placed emphasis on full implementation and compliance, including the CTBT (para 7), while also noting the need to keep weapons and nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists (para 8). Para 21 was even more directly devoted to demonstrating the "strong support" for the CTBT and urgency of this treaty's entry into force. Para 25 addressed the need for fissban negotiations and covered the debate over stocks and verifiability.

After giving emphasis to multilateral approaches, the summary in para 10 referred to the "slow pace of progress" in implementing the 13 practical steps. Para 11 summarized a view held by the 116-member group of NAM states parties to the NPT, which continue to call for a time-bound framework for achieving the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Para 12 recalled the ICJ advisory opinion and support for development of a nuclear weapon convention, as well as proposals for a subsidiary body on nuclear disarmament at the 2010 Review Conference. Paragraph 13 mentioned NATO and recorded the concerns voiced about "the increased role of nuclear weapons in some strategic and military doctrines, and the apparent lowering of the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons". Para 17 spoke of continuing strategic nuclear reductions, while non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) were highlighted in para 24.

The summary reflected arguments for de-alerting, de-targeting and reducing reliance on nuclear weapons (para 15). While para 16 was mainly devoted to the NWS' reiteration of their commitments and actions on nuclear disarmament, it reflected also the concerns voiced "about apparent reinterpretations of nuclear disarmament obligations". Para 23 referred to development of ballistic missile defence systems drawing "concern as adversely affecting strategic stability and having negative consequences on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation", as well as "the risk of a new arms race on earth and in outer space", including reference to the Russian-Chinese draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) tabled in the CD. Para 29 reflected the emphasis that a growing number of states have placed on disarmament education. Paras 30 and 31 summarized the views on security assurances from the NWS to the NNWS.

Of particular significance as more NWS assign billions for modernizing their nuclear arsenals, para 14 addressed new nuclear weapons developments and went beyond 2007, stating: "Concern and disappointment were voiced about plans of some nuclear weapon States to replace or modernize nuclear weapons and their means of delivery or platforms, and about the development of new types of nuclear weapons. In response to these concerns, France, the United Kingdom and the United States provided clarifications and explanations on their efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament." The second part of this paragraph reflected the view of the UK and others that had spoken of the need to foster "an environment conducive to nuclear disarmament". Also mentioned was the "considerable concern... expressed about nuclear cooperation of States parties with States not party to the NPT".

Is the review process strengthening non-proliferation?

The principal reason for the NPT review process is supposed to be to strengthen the treaty and non-proliferation as a whole. As developed in 1995 and 2000, it was intended to provide a more frequent mechanism for states parties to promote implementation and identify what needs to be further developed and acted on to strengthen the nonproliferation regime and international security. An argument can certainly be made that the almost-annual PrepComs are useful for focussing attention and encouraging governments and civil society to pay attention to developments and discuss ways to improve the functioning and implementation of the treaty. At the same time, it appears that the structure of these meetings - based as they are around developing a document for adoption at the next Review Conference - impedes substantial progress. As an exercise in periodic awareness-raising around nuclear issues, the review process works okay. But it is manifestly inadequate as a mechanism for addressing real world problems relating to noncompliance, universality and disarmament by a handful of NWS and non-nuclear weapon states parties.

On paper, the 2010 Review Conference provides us with a clear set of demands and some target dates derived from the treaty's core obligations and the 1995 and 2000 decisions and agreements. Since the treaty entered into force in 1970, most would agree that the 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences were the most substantive and successful. Yet, the ink was barely dry before repudiations or reinterpretations of the agreements were being made by one or more of the nuclear weapon states. A product of the cold war, when the United States and Soviet Union assumed responsibility for overseeing treaty compliance and security, the NPT was concluded without any practical mechanism or authority for its states parties to push for decisions taken by review conferences to be implemented. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for developing and implementing bilateral safeguards agreements with the non-nuclear weapon states (and which has more limited agreements also with the NWS), has a different membership and a much wider brief than the NPT, and cannot take on the full roles necessary for verification and implementation of the NPT.

Already consultations and meetings are being organized to look at what needs to be done to make the 2010 Review Conference a success. Following the debacle in 2005 and years of deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, everyone is hoping that a change of US administration will open up new opportunities for rules-based non-proliferation and a rebuilding of the institutions of multilateral security. Sharing this hope, we also want to prepare the ground for the 2010 Review Conference to be conducted effectively and restore confidence in the treaty. But though important, US positions are not the only ones that determine how well the NPT regime can be made to work.

A key question to consider: What would count as success in 2010 and is that enough? Institutionally, a review conference's success is usually measured by whether it is able to adopt a consensus final document. We got that in 2000, only to see the agreements sidelined and undermined by some of the major states that had actively negotiated them, especially with regard to nuclear disarmament and the 'thirteen steps'. Does anyone seriously believe that this time round such a final document would be stronger or better or more likely to be fulfilled?

So success in 2010 cannot be judged only in terms of adoption of a consensus final document. We also need to troubleshoot: What would failure look like, and what would be the implications? As demonstrated in 2005, there can be both substantive and procedural failures. The two do not always go together. What may at the time look like failure may sometimes become the harbinger of progress, and conversely, some outcomes that are lauded as successes may simply reflect the lowest common denominator and so fail to address the real causes of nuclear insecurity.

In 1990, for example, the Review Conference ended without a final document because neither the US nor Mexico would back down on their incompatible positions over the need to lock in a nuclear test ban. But this failure helped to galvanize negotiations on a CTBT to ensure that this issue would not derail the NPT when it came up for extension in 1995. The 1995 Review Conference was widely regarded as a substantive success when it adopted the package of decisions on extension, principles and objectives and strengthening the review process. The fact that it did not manage to get all the main committees' reports and final review document adopted was a disappointment at the time but irrelevant to subsequent progress. While a positive and constructive review conference is undoubtedly better than a bad-tempered stalemate, it is more important to aim for an outcome that will further real world security objectives than to confine strategies to the institutional processes and expectations of the forum.

For those more concerned with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons than facilitating the spread of nuclear power, the 2008 PrepCom carried a worrying subtext that will need to be addressed. Notwithstanding the conventional references to balancing the three pillars in the treaty (meaning nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy and non-proliferation), more Western states than before are congratulating themselves on their activities in promoting nuclear technology and materials to facilitate the development of further nuclear energy programmes at home and to new markets in the developing world. Similarly, many more nonaligned states now seem to prioritize Article IV above Article VI. This appears to reflect a shift from a previous era in which treaty effectiveness was judged mainly against progress on nuclear disarmament and prevention of proliferation. Now it appears that access to nuclear power is being used as a yardstick for measuring the treaty's implementation. The US-India nuclear deal is part of this prioritizing of nuclear power, though it makes other strange bedfellows. It has been instructive - and worrying - to see which states actively collaborated when the Bush administration rammed a coach and horses through nuclear trade restrictions on non-NPT parties in order to get the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to agree to the deal with India.

Outside the NPT, however, the mainstream discourse on nuclear weapons has been undergoing transformation from arms control to nuclear abolition. Following from the analysis and recommendations of the high level Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by Dr Hans Blix, former nuclear architects from George Shultz and Mikhail Gorbachev to Malcolm Rifkind and Michel Rocard have been challenging governments to recognize that a world without nuclear weapons is desirable and achievable. Their prescriptions for the next steps may not differ greatly from the Canberra Commission and the thirteen paragraphs of the 2000 NPT programme of action, but their open advocacy of steps to build a nuclear weapon free world suggests a paradigm shift is underway. The respectable objective is no longer deep cuts in the US and Russian strategic arsenals, but 'global zero'. There may still be a long way to go before the rhetoric of this new agenda is turned into concrete policies and actions, but the changes in focus and argument indicate a qualitative breakthrough. As can be seen from the tenor of the speeches and papers delivered at the 2008 PrepCom, civil society's nuclear abolition agenda is being picked up by a growing number of governments. This new nuclear abolition movement is promoting many of the steps already agreed by NPT parties, but with a dramatically different tone and more determined approach. This is in contrast with the review process, where calls for universality and disarmament appear to have been reduced to ritual and rhetoric.


The 2008 NPT PrepCom was probably as good as it can get in the current review process. Unlike in 2007 - or the previous Review Conference in 2005 - there were no major obstacles to get in the way of a smooth process. Paradoxically perhaps, this actually serves to focus attention on the systemic inadequacies and the political disconnect between the NPT processes and the real challenges of preventing the further proliferation, development and use of nuclear weapons.

It is not difficult to identify the elements that need to be worked on to make 2010 a success within NPT terms. The Chair's summary lists them. US ratification of the CTBT - or if that is not possible, a visible, president-led strategy and timetable to win the requisite majority in the Senate - would boost confidence and stimulate strategies for bringing the test ban treaty into force at last. Ideally the new president should use 2009 to lay the groundwork for the Senate to take a fresh look early in 2010. If the numbers are not there for the treaty to be ratified before the Review Conference, which would of course be the best scenario, then as long as the US administration could demonstrate its political will and strategy for ratification, the impact on the NPT would be positive.

Reaffirmation of the undertaking to eliminate nuclear arsenals will need to be given practical credibility through commitments to identify and start work on taking implementation of the relevant parts of the 13 steps to the next stage. The US and Russia need to negotiate deeper (and verifiable) cuts in their strategic arsenals to follow on from START and SORT. Creating the conditions to negotiate the fissile materials production ban and get the CD back to work would likely be high on most states parties' agendas. The devaluation of nuclear weapons and measures to address nuclear insecurity in the Middle East will be essential, and the sponsors of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East need to be initiating consultations now with all relevant states - including Israel - to work out what is feasible and necessary in this area.

Even if NPT parties are able to express agreement on these issues, implementation will only come about through actions undertaken in national capacities and if the international community as a whole accepts the imperatives of nuclear disarmament. Therefore, when looking at what can realistically and constructively be achieved at the 2010 Review Conference, civil society and states need also to look beyond 2010 and consider how best to create and use political opportunities to fulfil the NPT's core objectives and aspirations even if these may entail the use of non-NPT fora and institutions.

An example of this is the growing movement for negotiations on nuclear abolition. Though much of the pressure is coming from outside the NPT, including calls for a nuclear weapon prohibition convention, it should be clearly understood that as with the CTBT and fissile materials ban, such a treaty would strengthen the nonproliferation regime by codifying and establishing verification mechanisms for the fundamental obligations contained in Article VI. It is absurd for some governments to argue that calling for a global nuclear disarmament conference or negotiations on a nuclear weapon convention risk undermining the NPT. On the contrary, such initiatives would amplify the NPT's abilities to prevent proliferation and would constitute an unrivalled mechanism for engaging the three nuclear weapon possessors outside the NPT. Similar fears were raised when government and civil society partnerships found it necessary to negotiate outside the Inhumane Weapons Convention (CCW) in order to develop treaties that banned anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions respectively. With the demonstrated successes of the Ottawa and Oslo Processes, the majority now recognize that such treaties have an important role to play in building norms, contributing to humanitarian law and establishing verification and monitoring systems. Moreover, if advocates of those bans had been guilt-tripped to confine their efforts to within the direct parameters of the CCW, the governments would still be making statements about their objectives to ban landmines and cluster bombs. Instead, they are now making statements - and taking actions - about what they are doing to implement the bans and remove these weapons from their arsenals amd policies.

Unlike the US-India deal, which has been given the nod although it fundamentally undermines the nuclear trade restrictions-incentives structures developed over 40 years of NPT operations, work on a nuclear weapon convention would be entirely consistent with the objectives and purposes of the NPT. Railroaded through the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in September and subsequently accepted by the US Congress, the Bush administration's deal with India could prove profoundly undermining of the NPT, especially if Israel and Pakistan push to receive the same kind of privileges. At the same time, the regime will need to address the safety and proliferation risks arising from the growing emphasis being put on the NPT's Article IV and the excitement in the US, French, Russian and other nuclear industries that they can use the NPT to launch a nuclear renaissance and make big profits out of constructing new nuclear power plants and selling nuclear technologies all over the world.

The NPT is both vitally important and increasingly out-dated. I am sceptical that nuclear energy could ever become the environmentally responsible, cheap, safe, clean answer to developing countries' energy needs, and would much prefer to see greater investment and resources go into developing sustainable, renewable energy that can be built and managed safely by communities all over the world. Be that as it may, even the most ardent proponent of the nuclear renaissance needs to ensure that this does not turn into a proliferation nightmare. Nuclear energy proponents ought to be lining up to get negotiations on a nuclear weapon convention underway, as their ambitions to supply and spread nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes will depend on getting rid of nuclear weapons. Leaving aside the unresolved waste and safety concerns, it is obvious that broadening nuclear energy markets will never be compatible with security as long as nuclear weapons remain objects of desire and power projection. Outlawing nuclear weapons use - declaring the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons to be a crime against humanity - would be a first step, with comprehensive negotiations on a prohibition treaty needing to follow.

To continue to be relevant, states parties to the NPT need to consider not only how to strengthen the regime's institutions and have a constructive, forward looking Review Conference in 2010. They also need to think about what medium and long-term approaches and strategies will best fulfil the fundamental security, nonproliferation and disarmament objectives and goals of the treaty. This will entail looking beyond the NPT to pursue nuclear abolition. It will require non-discriminatory objectives and the development of mechanisms that engage India, Israel and Pakistan without conferring benefits. Most of all, the non-nuclear countries will have to be convinced that nuclear disarmament is really on the agenda and that their compliance with the NPT will not leave them to be treated as second class citizens in a world ruled by nuclear weapon possessors.


[1] Statement by the Delegations of China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America to the 2008 NPT PrepCom, Geneva, May 9, 2008. This statement is reproduced verbatim.

[2] See Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre's speech to the CD March 4, and reproduced in Disarmament Diplomacy 87.

[3] See also the Bishkek Appeal agreed on September 7, 2007.

[4] This refers to France.

[5] This is (para 6, "Improving the effectiveness of the strengthened review process for the NPT, Final Document adopted May 2000).

Dr Rebecca E. Johnson is executive director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. My thanks to the many constructive NGOs at the PrepCom, especially Reaching Critical Will, and my thanks and appreciation to the Chair, Ambassador Yelchenko, and the Secretariat under the leadership of Tom Markram and Tim Caughley, who were unfailingly helpful and courteous in facilitating the engagement of civil society, making documents available, and generally enabling us to do our jobs of disarmament education, analysis and advocacy with a minimum of hindrance and hassle. Most of the statements and working papers can be accessed at www.reachingcriticalwill.org or at http://ods.un.org.

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© 2008 The Acronym Institute.