With the General Debate finishing right on time at 6.00pm on Thursday and a face saving formulation of wording found to settle the dispute over subsidiary bodies, the Review Conference was able to move smoothly into the more substantive work of the Committees by Friday. Monday May 10 will see the first meetings of Committee II, on safeguards, regional issues and NWFZ, and Committee III, on nuclear energy, safety, security and institutional issues.
Subsidiary Body 1 on practical nuclear disarmament approaches and security assurances will also convene on Monday, but regrettably, it has been decided that the Subsidiary Bodies be held as “closed meetings”, which means that civil society representatives are excluded. Though we will do our utmost to get updates and news to you of these closed meetings, we will be dependent on the biased recollections of those in the room, so cannot be as confident of our accuracy as when our own ears and eyes receive the information directly.
Nuclear disarmament debate begins in Committee I
Judging by the first day, this seems to mean yet more set statements from delegations with few fresh ideas or proposals and certainly no interactive debate to set the room alight.
Perhaps attempting to set an optimistic tone, Ambassador Marius Grinius of Canada said, “life for the NPT should indeed begin again at 40”.
Further reductions in arsenals
Most of the nuclear weapon states provided more detail on what they have done over the past 15 years to fulfill their obligations under Article VI, explained their doctrines and (at least in some cases) pledged to work on further measures and initiatives. We will be analysing these NWS’ statements in more detail in a future blog.
Though many of the non-nuclear weapons states welcomed the renewed political will expressed by some of the nuclear powers to achieve disarmament, all NNWS also expressed the need for more action.
Ambassador Luiz Filipe de Macedo Soares of Brazil set out 8 points on which he said a successful outcome of Committee 1 is predicated. Among others these included:
- a reaffirmation of the unequivocal undertaking by the NWS to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals;
- a commitment to the goal of concluding a Nuclear Weapons Convention with a well defined time frame;
- a commitment to diminish the role and salience of nuclear weapons in strategic doctrines;
- further transparency and accountability by the NWS regarding their nuclear arsenals
- a reversal of the maintenance of thousands of nuclear weapons on high alert status and an immediate start to their irreversible demobilization
- pressure for resumption of negotiations in the CD on a treaty on fissile material and Entry into Force of the CTBT
He said that his delegation “expects more than a reiteration of commitments, if their fulfillment is to be once again postponed by the Nuclear-Weapon-States to a distant uncertain future.” In possibly a side sweep at France for its rigid position on insisting the term “creating the conditions for” appear in every statement on nuclear disarmament, he reminded the delegates that Brazil and the majority of non-nuclear weapon States have never put their non-proliferation duties on hold, “conditioning their fulfillment to indefinite, more favorable international conditions”. Brazil expected a similar attitude from the NWS when it came to disarmament.
Egypt on behalf of NAM said that the group had submitted a working paper on “Elements for a Plan of Action on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons” that it would introduce in the Subsidiary Body. The key elements of this would aim at the elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time frame over three phases with measures in each phase aimed at:
- 2010 – 2015: reducing the nuclear threat as well as nuclear disarmament
- 2015 – 2020: reducing nuclear arsenals and promoting confidence between States
- 2020 – 2025 and beyond: consolidation of a nuclear free world
Japan and Australia have also put forward a joint policy proposal containing a new package of practical measures for nuclear disarmament as well as non-proliferation.
Opposition to new nuclear developments
In their statement describing the above package Japan called for the other nuclear weapons states to join the US and Russia in negotiations on nuclear disarmament and, pending the conclusion of these negotiations, not to increase their arsenals. The New Agenda Coalition also called for the nuclear-weapon States to “declare a moratorium on upgrading and developing new types of nuclear weapons, or developing new missions for nuclear weapons”.
In what was taken by some to be a reference to the UK decision to build new submarines for a future generation of Trident nuclear weapons, South Africa made clear that developing new delivery systems would be viewed as a clear indication that “some of the NWS continue to harbour aspirations for the indefinite retention of these instruments of destruction, contrary to their legal obligations and political commitments”.
De-valuing nuclear weapons
Many nations spoke both in the General Debate and in Committee 1 of the need to de-value nuclear weapons. Diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies was part of the outcome of the 2000 Review Conference, and both the NAM and NAC groups considered that since 2000 some of the NWS had gone against the spirit of the NPT by increasing the role of nuclear weapons, and in emphasizing their importance to defend against conventional weapons. Both groups called for more progress in this.
The recent statement by the US in the Nuclear Posture Review was therefore welcomed as a step in the right direction, with other NWS pressured to follow suit, and for an outcome document from this Review Conference to call for a further decrease in the salience of nuclear weapons.
Many called into question the role of nuclear weapons in strengthening security and strategic stability. Ambassador de Macedo Soares of Brazil said he found it inconceivable that the concept of “nuclear deterrence” with all it strategic implications was still in use. He described the doctrines of those in possession of nuclear weapons as possibly having, “a more basic meaning: enhancing power and a sense of dominance to those who possess such weapons , thus being a serious obstacle to the democratization of international relations, a fundamental basis for international peace and security.”
Ambassador Jerry Matjila of South Africa said that “the provisions of the Treaty, the 1995 “Principles and Objectives” and the practical steps for nuclear disarmament agreed to in 2000 provide a blueprint for a step-by-step process that would reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, de-emphasize their importance and lead to their elimination”.
Fissile Material Treaty and CTBT
Having had hopes raised last year (then immediately dashed) that the Conference on Disarmament would finally begin to negotiate a treaty banning the production of Fissile Material and having had the Canadian-led resolution on this adopted by consensus at First Committee, Ambassador Grinius of Canada spoke strongly on the need to begin formal work on this treaty. However with the CD blocked and back in “a state of paralysis”, Ambassador Grinius said, “as was seen on the landmines, cluster munitions and arms trade issues the CD no longer holds a monopoly on disarmament negotiations” and suggested that another way should be found.
As in the General Debate the majority of nations are finding creative ways to describe a treaty on fissile material without necessarily calling for an FMCT.
Pressure for an early Entry into Force of the CTBT is also part of all proposals being put forward as elements for an action plan on disarmament in the final outcome document. Calling the CTBT “an integral part of the disarmament process and non-proliferation regime”, the EU stressed the need for a strong commitment to universal ratification and, meanwhile, for a continued moratorium on testing with dismantlement of all nuclear testing facilities as an essential confidence building measure.
Non-strategic (tactical) Nuclear Weapons
While welcoming the new agreement between Russia and the US on START, the majority of states have called for non-strategic nuclear weapons to be included in the next round of reductions in arsenals. The EU spoke clearly on this, recalling that these weapons are not covered in any disarmament treaty and stating that “Reduction and final elimination of non-strategic nuclear weapons are integral parts of the nuclear disarmament process to which all States Parties are committed under Article VI of the NPT”.
The EU raised concern about the “proliferation of missiles which could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction” citing the recent missile tests as examples. The EU proposed a start to consultations on “a multilateral treaty banning short- and intermediate-range ground to ground missiles” and is promoting the “universalisation of The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, and its enhancement” as a significant contribution to disarmament by increasing confidence and transparency.
Friday afternoon heard some powerful and expressive presentations from a wide range of civil society representatives, starting with Jody Williams, Nobel laureate for her leadership role (together with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines) to bring about the comprehensive Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. Jody’s message was very clear – it’s time to start on a Nuclear Weapons Convention, and those who say it is premature or too difficult said the same thing about banning landmines. They wanted to try instead for a partial, technical fix, but they were overwhelmed by massive and global public clamour to ban landmines completely. The same has to happen now for nuclear weapons to be banned. The partial and technical approaches under the NPT have served their purpose in reducing proliferation and nuclear dangers after the mid-1960s, but the world is calling now for a comprehensive and global ban on the use and deployment of all nuclear weapons, with a time-table for dismantling existing arsenals safely and securely.
The second speaker, Sumiteru Taniguchi, underscored what is at stake. A frail, elderly and immensely dignified Japanese man, Mr Taniguchi held up a famous picture of an appallingly burned boy, telling the NPT participants that this iconic photograph from the bombing of Nagasaki was his 16-year-old self, who had been riding his bicycle 1.8 km from the epicentre of the bomb’s explosion. His appeal concluded that for human beings to survive, “Nagasaki must remain the last victim city of the atomic bomb… Let us spread our call for the abolition of nuclear weapons all over the world”.
There followed a series of analyses – most but not all of which represented a cooperative drafting process shared by many NGO groups and participants. These covered different views of the role of doctrines of nuclear deterrence in undermining security and driving proliferation, the current state of play among the existing nuclear-armed states (within and outside the NPT), and the case to establish a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention as a collective objective to give more coherence and urgency to the incremental steps that may be agreed on the path to a nuclear weapons free world. There were presentations addressing the dangers of nuclear sharing, the need to support nuclear weapons free zones, with emphasis on North-East Asia and the necessity to build a nuclear, chemical and biological weapons-free and secure region in the Middle East, nuclear energy and the role of scientists. The presentations concluded with moving appeals from the Most Venerable Gijun Sugitani (Religions for Peace), Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima and Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki.