NPT one week after consensus adoption of agreed document

by Rebecca Johnson

After a frustrating morning of delays, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference finally got underway in the General Assembly Hall at 3.30 pm Friday. Ten minutes later everyone was applauding the brisk adoption of a final document (designated L.2) containing 64 specific actions and important agreements to work for a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

In the end no-one tried to amend it and no-one blocked consensus.  In proposing this text – which had been circulated the day before – the Conference President, Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, made a distinction between the section titled “Conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions”, which was fully agreed, and the preceding “Review of the operation of the Treaty”. This review section would be characterised in a footnote as the President’s summary and reflection to the best of his knowledge of what transpired and the balance of views as expressed in the review debates.

After the anxious waiting, when the fate of the conference – whether it would be hailed a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ – hung in the balance, the diplomats seemed momentarily stunned when the President brought the gavel down on the decision to adopt the Final Document. Then tumultuous applause as delegates and civil society realised that it was Done…  that we would not be there till midnight wrangling or salami slicing over language, asterisks, status of documents or decisions in order to avoid deadlock and defeat.  After four weeks (and some four years of preparations),  the NPT Review Conference had managed to adopt a final document that was neither a complete rollback nor just a lowest common denominator fig leaf proclaimed a success for domestic and diplomatic PR purposes, as many had feared.  But it was no dramatic leap towards a world free of nuclear weapons either.  Presentation and politics trumped real, progressive commitments. When the applause fades and the dust settles, we will need to evaluate if these weeks of sound and fury can be made to signify something that can be used to enhance regional and global security.

Action plans: reaffirming past commitments but no new powers to implement

The section on conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions contains the negotiated agreements, with framing principles and objectives and 64 specific actions. It comprises four sections: Nuclear Disarmament;  Nuclear Non-Proliferation; Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy; and The Middle East, particularly implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.  By contrast, the review part follows the treaty’s structure in terms of its articles, in which “The Conference” calls on, reaffirms, welcomes, underscores, recognises or notes various facts, developments or proposals…  (the verb denoting the degree of commitment or warmth). Instead of seeking a single consensus view of everything, in this section some paragraphs describe divergent views and differences of perceptions and positions among states parties.

Once the outcome document was adopted and applauded, a host of delegation leaders gave speeches, including Egypt on behalf of the NAM, Lebanon on behalf of the League of Arab States, Spain on behalf of the European Union, the United States, France, China, Russia, Netherlands, Algeria, Japan, United Kingdom, Cuba, Austria, Iran, Australia, Argentina, Libya, South Africa, Chile, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, Viet Nam on behalf of ASEAN, Norway, Brazil, South Korea, Venezuela, Sudan, Tanzania.  Almost all of these paid tribute to Ambassador Cabactulan and his team and highlighted particular aspects of the final document that they had just agreed to.  In addition to the three Committee Chairs – Ambassadors Boniface Chidyausiku (Zimbabwe), Volodyrmyr Yelchenko (Ukraine) and Takeshi Nakane (Japan),  tributes were paid to the chairs who piloted through the subsidiary bodies and action plans, notably Alison Kelly (Ireland, who was credited with enabling the opposing sides to find agreement on the Middle East), Alexander Marschik (Austria, who developed the disarmament action plan), and José Luis Cancela (whose attempts to bring different sides together on treaty withdrawal and reform are reflected in the review part of the outcome document) and Steffen Kongstad (Norway, who stepped in to facilitate the final rounds of negotiations on the forward-looking actions which took place in the last week among some 16-20 key delegations under the President’s auspices).

There was also great appreciation and warm applause (led by Cabactulan) for Tom Markram, the NPT Secretary-General (UN Office for Disarmament Affairs) who supported Cabactulan and provided quiet, effective, behind the scenes leadership with his Secretariat team.  Several, including Egypt and the NAM (as spoken), Chile and Norway, as well as the President, also acknowledged the work of civil society in providing ideas, strategies and other input for the review conference and beyond.  The following summary relies on notes taken by Rebecca Johnson and Carol Naughton, as very few of the statements were made available (apologies for any errors).

Initial assessments in closing remarks

On behalf of the NAM, Egypt’s Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz – a leading player during the 2010 Review Conference – characterised the outcome document as “an important step forward” that “reaffirmed in our plans of action the critical importance of achieving the universality of the Treaty and putting into action an effective process to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East”. In noting that progress had been achieved in adopting an action plan to push forward efforts to establish a zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, Egypt promised the NAM’s constructive engagement with “all concerned parties”, while emphasising: “The road ahead is not easy, but it’s the only way forward.”

Mentioning the debates and negotiations on a “wealth of elements”, including a multilateral nuclear weapons convention, he noted that due to time constraints it had not been possible to achieve everything the non-nuclear-weapon countries had aimed for, but that they had accepted difficult compromises “to take advantage of signs of a re-emerging international good will” and do everything in their power to make the review conference a success.  Having shown “maximum flexibility” to accept compromises for the sake of a positive outcome in 2010, he argued that the NAM states parties would vigorously pursue the following priorities in the run-up to the 2015 NPT Review Conference: universalisation and global realisation of the NPT’s objectives, prompt commencement on a Nuclear Weapons Convention as the route to realizing the total elimination of nuclear weapons and a nuclear weapons free world by 2025, unconditional security assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons, reaffirmation of the “inalienable right” on NPT non-nuclear-weapon states to pursue their “national choices” regarding the peaceful uses of nuclear energy “including their right for nuclear fuel cycle, without undue restrictions”, reaffirmation that voluntary arrangements and confidence building measures should not be turned into legal obligations” ( a reference to the debates around the IAEA additional protocol, export controls, multinational fuel banks and similar proposals). Lebanon followed on, endorsing Egypt’s statement and highlighting that agreement on Action Plan IV on the Middle East – in which regard he particularly paid tribute to Alison Kelly for facilitating – was central to making it possible for consensus to be achieved on the final document, points that were to be echoed by Algeria and others later. Though Libya was not happy at the lack of real forward movement on nuclear disarmament and that Israel’s nuclear programme had got off lightly, it welcomed the commitments to a progressive process on the Middle East.

After Spain, on behalf of the European Union had pledged to begin work immediately to take forward the actions plans, including on the Middle East, Ellen Tauscher, US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, took the floor. The NPT Final Document, she said, “advances President Obama’s vision. It reflects our collective commitment to uphold and strengthen this cornerstone of the international nonproliferation regime. It also demonstrates our unified resolve to strengthen the Treaty’s three pillars – disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy – with the inclusion of recommendations for follow-on actions.”

Arguing that “This forward-looking and balanced action plan establishes benchmarks for future progress and concrete actions,” Tauscher noted that “It commits parties to work to achieve the President’s vision to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and recognizes the steps the United States and others have taken to advance this disarmament agenda. It recognizes the achievement of the US-Russia New START agreement and reflects our shared interest in achieving deeper reductions of all types of nuclear weapons and reducing their role in the international system. It encourages the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the urgent need to get on with long-delayed talks on a fissile material cut-off treaty. It affirms that the Additional Protocol and comprehensive IAEA safeguards agreements represent the enhanced standard for verification of the NPT and essential for the IAEA to carry out its international safeguards responsibilities. It emphasizes that peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be made available to all Parties in conformity with the NPT’s nonproliferation provisions, and recognizes the importance of multilateral mechanisms for assurance of nuclear supply and related fuel cycle services.”  Referring to the text on Article X (withdrawal) in the review part of the final document, Tauscher was pleased that this highlighted “the view of most in this hall that Parties are to be held responsible for violations of the NPT committed prior to withdrawal, and that consultations and actions by nuclear suppliers are needed to discourage abuse of the Treaty’s withdrawal provision.”

Tauscher made reference to the “agreement to hold a regional conference in 2012 to discuss issues relevant to a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems” and said that the United States has “long-supported such a zone, but we recognize that essential precursors must be in place for its achievement. The Parties should know that we take seriously our commitments with respect to this regional conference, and we will work with the countries in the region to create conditions for a successful conference. We note, however, that our ability to do so has been seriously jeopardized because the final document singles out Israel in the Middle East section, a fact that the United States deeply regrets.”  Before concluding, Tauscher specifically criticised North Korea’s “defiance of international law” and Iran. Recalling “that Iran is the only country in this hall that has been found by the IAEA Board of Governors to be currently in noncompliance with its nuclear safeguards obligations”, Tauscher argued that “Iran has done nothing to enhance the international community’s confidence in it by its performance in this Review Conference.”

France, Russia, China and the United Kingdom all welcomed the adoption of the Final Document and gave warm thanks to all who had made agreement possible. France’s Ambassador Eric Danon was glad the document had not been reopened, even though they themselves would have liked to have gone further on Iran and DPRK, making reference to action in the UN Security Council. Ambassador Anatoli Antonov was particularly pleased that Russia’s proposals had helped carry forward the 1995 Middle East resolution for the first time in 15 years. China’s representative called the document a substantial result that strengthened the authority of the Treaty, and highlighted the items they particularly supported including the complete and thorough destruction and elimination of nuclear weapons, a nuclear weapons convention, unconditional security assurances. Skirting round their own refusal to join the other declared weapon states in a moratorium on the production of fissile materials for weapons, China called for early negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament as the only effective approach, and encouraged ratification of the CTBT (presumably by itself as well as by others) and its “early” entry into force.  UK Ambassador John Duncan spoke of the decade of stalemate and long road to reaching a decision on ways forward, including on the Middle East. He underlined the increased confidence in international security and importance of the unprecedented agreement on action plans across all three pillars. Hoping to take forward the spirit of openness, cooperation and partnership of the last four weeks, he said the outcome should be viewed as an opportunity not a threat and that it was time not just to look forward but to move forward.

In amongst the tributes variously paid by all the speakers to the President, Secretariat and/or various Chairs or facilitators, NAM speakers particularly associated themselves with Egypt’s statement, highlighting the need for further progress on nuclear disarmament and the Middle East.  Cuba and Venezuela both noted that the distance between rhetoric and good intentions and actual commitments on concrete steps had been considerable.  Cuba called the action plan on disarmament “limited and insufficient” in five key areas: no timetable on nuclear disarmament, no commitment to begin negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, no clear commitment to stop the  qualitative and quantitative developments of nuclear weapons, no call for withdrawal of nuclear weapons to home territories (i.e. out of Europe), and no legally binding negative security assurances.

Aware that Iran had reversed its intention to block adoption of the final document following politically-charged domestic arguments and eleventh hour appeals from allies and civil society, including ministerial phone calls during Thursday night and Friday morning, some expected defensive brimstone when Ambassador Ali Soltanieh was called.  What they got was a dignified and substantive statement that expressed gratitude to the Conference president, chairs and secretary-general, endorsed Egypt’s statement on behalf of the NAM and then gave Iran’s views on the dangers of nuclear weapons and what the final document lacked. Noting the dangers attached to the existence of nuclear weapons and the catastrophic consequences of their possible use, Soltanieh argued for an end to the notion that nuclear weapons confer political clout and capability to shape and influence world events: “Holding on and modernizing nuclear arsenals should be condemned rather than condoned or tolerated. Any increase in nuclear capability, in particular qualitative improvement under the pretext of “reliability” should equal a reduction in political credibility.” He then identified nine ways in which the proposals of the non-nuclear weapon states had been watered down. In several cases, majority calls for commitments from the weapon states – for example, to halt modernisation and qualitative development, reduce operational status, diminish the role of nuclear weapons in doctrines and policies, and withdraw and eliminate nuclear weapons from the territories of non-nuclear countries – had been portrayed merely as “legitimate interests”, aspirations or “questions” for discussion.  Iran particularly criticised France and the United States for blocking any possible agreement to further limit or prohibit the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and objected that there was no commitment on the “most important request” of non-nuclear-weapon states, including the NAM, namely “a legal framework with specified timeline for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, including a Nuclear Weapons Convention by 2025” had “after more than 40 years living under the shadow of nuclear weapons” been watered down to acknowledging that “a majority of States parties believe” an agreed legal framework should include specified timelines.  Iran was concerned that the final document had not said enough to criticise Israel or the other states remaining outside the NPT and any NPT members that engage in supplying them with nuclear materials or technologies.

In view of such shortcomings, why, then, did Iran decide to join consensus and not block the outcome?  Sharing the views of many NPT parties that notwithstanding its limitations the document can still serve “as a viable benchmark to progress towards our common goal of nuclear disarmament”, Iran “joined consensus to show our respect for the views of the others and our political and good will”, especially viewing the proposals and commitments to vigorously pursue nuclear abolition as “a real source of pride and inspiration in our future endeavours”.  Of course, this was to put a brave face on the fact that Iran had been sidelined and isolated, involved in the President’s “Friends of the Chair” consultations while also being denied a platform for claiming discrimination. The successful combination of engaging and defanging — which also meant ensuring that there was a vested interest by others in getting a positive outcome — carries important lessons for the future.

Chile’s Ambassador Alfredo Labbé reflected the view of many when he expressed particular pleasure at seeing the UN Secretary-General’s five point plan reflected in the outcome and paid fulsome tribute to the work of civil society. Argentina referred to many of the proposals from NPT parties having “fallen by the wayside” and called for further actions between now and 2015, including by the Conference on Disarmament. Canada regarded the outcome as containing “seeds of hope” and pointedly backed the “whole document”, underscoring the importance of reforming the NPT’s review process. Austria’s Alexander Marschik expressed his appreciation to all who had contributed and emphasised that though the difficult negotiations meant that the disarmament action plan did not contain everything he had hoped for, it was a substantive plan that should be used as a benchmark to measure progress and build steps forward. He also reiterated that despite joining consensus on the final document, this was to be understood in light of Austria’s national policies, and Austria “had no interest in nuclear power”.

Following a statement from South Africa that fully endorsed the NAM positions, Tanzania said that nuclear weapons should be consigned to the “dustbin of history” and that the experience of South Africa should be used in demonstrating how to get rid of nuclear weapons. The Netherlands raised concerns about a lack of balance in the section on the Middle East. Japan particularly mentioned that some 2,000 members of Japanese civil society, including a hundred Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) had come to the NPT to call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Though saying that the Conference was “overall a great success”, Japan acknowledged that “the outcome, though it was close to the maximum achievable this time, is certainly not satisfactory”.  Mexico talked of the outcome being “imperfect” but said that the consensus would help to build bridges between the different positions. While such an outcome “would not take us to heaven, it could keep us separate from the hell of nuclear war”.

The UN Secretary-General’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, read a brief statement from Ban Ki-moon congratulating the Conference on reaching consensus and urging all concerned to do more to implement these agreements, making particular reference to his five-point disarmament plan.  Rushing to close before 6.00 pm, President Cabactulan thanked everyone who had helped bring about this outcome, paying particular tribute to NPT Secretary-General Tom Markram and the Secretariat. Commending the delegates for having worked hard for success, he hoped that the Conference outcome had moved us closer to freeing the world of nuclear weapons.

Initial assessments

The major news story – the issue that dominated the meeting and, once agreed, carried the conference to its positive outcome – was the decision to hold a regional conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, with commitments to both a preparatory process and follow-on steps.  As adopted, the disarmament action plan failed to reflect the substantive and hard fought debates that had characterised the NPT conference, especially on nuclear disarmament, safeguards and strengthening the review and institutional powers of the NPT.

Specific proposals relating to devaluing nuclear weapons, nuclear doctrines and use, nuclear sharing, and eliminating tactical nuclear weapons were either watered down to the level of the agreements adopted in 2000 (which, as many states complained, had been reneged on or barely addressed for most of the past decade) or cut altogether. For the first time in an NPT context, a majority of states explicitly advocated comprehensive negotiations as well as incremental steps, citing the UN Secretary-General’s Five Point Plan and its reference to a nuclear weapons convention.  Yet these strong demands from the nuclear-free countries met with defensive rear-guard manipulations from the nuclear-weapon states.  The nuclear weapons states fought hard against these proposals in Main Committee I, Subsidiary Body I and then in special consultations among 16 – 20 key governments convened by the President to conclude negotiations on the action plans.  With the nuclear-weapon states intransigent and time running out, the only way to save many of these proposals was to make them appear aspirational, framed in terms of Obama’s Prague call for the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons (which had previously been endorsed in September 2009’s UN Security Council Resolution 1887) and the NPT 2000 “unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear weapons”.

Unlike in 2005, it was possible to include several strong paragraphs on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – not yet in force 14 years after being signed by the nuclear weapons states, and despite more than 150 having ratified it.  China’s opposition to joining the other four nuclear powers in a moratorium on the production of plutonium and enriched uranium for weapons purposes, combined with differences of view about the need to address existing stocks of fissile materials, the travails of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, and a weakening interest in a cut-off treaty as the next focus for multilateral negotiations, ensured that the exhortations in the four-paragraph action plan on a fissile materials treaty remained at a low common denominator.  Yet, despite the  document’s disappointments and weaknesses, the NPT outcome is likely to prove very significant – more so, perhaps, than most of the negotiators envisage.

In the immediate aftermath of the Conference, there was relief at successfully adopting a final document. As illustrated in the concluding statements, some focussed on the importance of the deal on the Middle East conference, and many were keen to portray the outcome as one that strengthens the nonproliferation regime.  The disappointments on disarmament, safeguards and reform were glossed over for the sake of a good show of unified commitment to the overall objectives of the non-proliferation regime, framed now in terms of pursuing security in a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration, in particular, worked hard for an outcome document.  Ambassador Susan Burk spend months on the road, participating in meetings from Manila to Rio, with plurilateral and bilateral consultations at most capitals in between.  Deputy Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher spent days shuttling between the UN and her hotel across the road during the Conference, and even Vice President Biden played a role, speaking directly with Egypt’s President Mubarak and inviting the ambassadors of key Arab States to lunch in Washington DC in hope of gaining their support for the US position on the Middle East conference and process (without a negotiating mandate).  Goodwill towards President Barack Obama for his efforts in challenging nuclear dependency in the behemoth of the US nuclear establishment played an important role in the decisions by many governments to make difficult compromises to enable the final document to be adopted.  It was judged by many that an out-and-out failure would play into the hands of those seeking to get or keep nuclear weapons, and that it was necessary for Obama to show that the world supported his nonproliferation and disarmament objectives in order for him to get ratification for the New START Treaty and the CTBT.  The general view was that if the Conference had collapsed in ignominy, that would have made any further initiatives or progress by President Obama extremely difficult. For this reason more than any other, governments rallied round and accepted the wholesale watering down of many proposals.  Already governments are spinning their assessments towards presenting this outcome as an important reaffirmation of and boost for the nonproliferation regime.

Cracks in the regime

Looking more closely, however, the outcome reveals a deeply fractured, crumbling regime, unable to deal with its own compliance and implementation shortcomings, strengthen itself institutionally or adopt commitments to devalue nuclear weapons and make the IAEA additional protocol a verification standard or a condition to be met before countries can be supplied with nuclear materials or technology.  At every NPT PrepCom and Conference since 1994, the same complaints, basic concerns and demands have been raised, without much getting done.

So it was in 2010. Disarmament was not the only issue where images of agreement were considered more important than the substance. The adopted text was also unable to go much beyond reaffirmations, exhortations and language agreed in 1995 or 2000 on universality, strengthened safeguards, the additional protocol, export controls, nuclear safety and security.  After almost a decade of debates on disincentives to make withdrawal from the treaty more difficult and to increase the NPT regime’s tools for accountability, compliance and implementation, nothing on these appear in the section on conclusions and recommendations, though brief summaries are reflected in the review part of the final document.

Apart from the intense negotiations over establishing a process to take forwards implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, one of the most hard-fought issues in 2010 was that of multilateral negotiations on some kind of comprehensive nuclear weapons treaty as a way to operationalise and implement the shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.  The idea of a nuclear weapons convention has been on the fringes of disarmament debate for several decades, mostly advocated by civil society.  What has changed in 2010 is that, faced with intractable problems of nuclear insecurity, compliance, proliferation pressures, potential nuclear terrorism and a contested safeguards system that even with the Additional Protocol is weaker than the verification regime that international security really requires, more governments are beginning to view the concept of a nuclear weapons convention in a more positive light.  Cold war demands die hard, so there were still copious calls for legally binding security assurances and timelines or a timebound framework for disarmament. Like the ritualistic calls on India, Pakistan and Israel to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states, such calls miss the significance of how the strategic nuclear environment has changed since the cold war.  The massive jump in statements supporting some kind of comprehensive practical treaty-making objective signalled a shift from frustrated rhetoric to a search for practical solutions.

The multilateral machinery of the cold war, including the NPT and the 1978 UN Special Session on Disarmament are rusting from the inside. Though the outward signs of rust can be painted over for a while by UN Security Council resolutions like 1887 and 1540 and NPT conferences that can demonstrate collegial engagement, such as this one in 2010, the endemic weaknesses in the regime will soon be beyond repair. Year after year efforts are made to fix them resulting either in failure or in temporary band aids that come unstuck with the next downpour.  As illustrated in some of the interventions, governments are now gradually recognising what analysts have long warned: the contradictions at the core of the partial 1960s nonproliferation bargains will increasingly compromise efforts to deal with nuclear threats in the future, thereby undermining regional and international security.  The current regime is now beyond repair, and if nuclear security is to mean anything in the 21st century, efforts must be made to negotiate a new nuclear compact, based on the non-discriminatory objective of enhanced mutual security and the prohibition and abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Though the reference to a nuclear weapons convention in the disarmament action plan (1 B iii) is only a faint echo of the various calls for negotiations on a comprehensive framework or treaty for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, it serves two important purposes: it brings the concept of comprehensive multilateral negotiations on nuclear weapons into mainstream discourse and it removes the oft-heard excuse that governments cannot engage in discussions about such negotiations because they would undermine the NPT.  The additional mentions in the review part of the document (notably paragraphs 82 and 83) reinforce this recognition and make clear that it is no longer premature to pursue such a goal, although they contain none of the concrete suggestions put forward during the Conference.

There is a parallel here in the relationship between the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) and the 1996 CTBT. The PTBT was deemed the maximum achievable in 1963, but it only partially banned nuclear testing, allowing the more advanced nuclear  weapon states to continue testing underground. China and France regarded it as discriminatory and never signed.  Yet both countries (with varying degrees of reluctance) entered into the CTBT negotiations, which established a zero yield and fully verified test ban.  China and France both signed the treaty when it was opened on 24 September, and, despite some of China’s position statements during the negotiations (and its twice-a-year tests while negotiations were continuing), China joined the other nuclear-weapon states in adhering to a complete moratorium pending entry into force. China, like the United States, has yet to ratify, but the test ban regime has continued to be established and embedded nonetheless, creating a context in which resuming nuclear testing becomes untenable, even for die-hard CTBT opponents.

Now that dust whipped up by all the sound and fury from the NPT Review Conference is settling, it has become clearer than ever that a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention is now needed – not only to implement the disarmament obligations of Article VI, but to establish much more effective and non-discriminatory mechanisms for non-proliferation verification and nuclear security.  Current-day media and analysts are still focussing mostly on the politics of the Middle East deal agreed by NPT parties, and the additional pressure on Israel that this is likely to bring, as well as the dramas concerning the United States and Iran.  When historians look back at the 2010 Review Conference, however, they are more likely to recognise that the 2010 Review Conference embodied a more fundamental shift, illustrated as much by the inability of NPT parties to agree stronger language on the Additional Protocol as by the inability of the nuclear weapon states to keep the references to a nuclear weapons convention out of the final document, though in other respects they managed to limit the disarmament action plan to reaffirmations of principles and commitments made in 2000.

In other words, the process and outcome of the NPT Review Conference have made two things very clear:  reaffirmations of commitments made ten or fifteen years ago are not enough, especially as these undertakings were not honoured and implemented. As the outcome document underlines, getting rid of nuclear threats requires not only concrete disarmament steps but the establishment of  ‘the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons’. The action plan on nuclear disarmament as well as the inability of the NPT machinery to deal with noncompliance and to strengthen its own safeguards agreements, as illustrated in what was left out of the final document, make it now clear to everyone the need to initiate a process leading to negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention that will do away with the NPT distinction between nuclear haves and have-nots and comprehensively ban nuclear weapons for all.

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