Day 15 at NPT: Taking Stock, NPT and UK

Posted by Rebecca Johnson

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference President Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) held his 14th plenary late on Wednesday 19th May to “take stock”. The three Committee chairs all reported that negotiations were proceeding on the basis of the draft reports issued last Friday, and that they planned to have revised drafts available Thursday if possible.  A revised Draft action plan from Subsidiary Body 1 (practical disarmament) chaired by Alexander Marschik (Austria) was circulated.  This “includes concrete steps towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” and is available at:

Ambassador Cabactulan concluded by noting that the Chairs’ texts had been “generally well received” and urged the Committees to “continue their serious work and seek consensus”.  He set them the target of adopting revised reports by 6.00 pm Friday, and said that the next plenary would be Monday May 24th (which happens also to be International Women’s Day for Disarmament).

UK statement

A week after the UK got its first coalition government in over half a century, Britain’s Ambassador John Duncan finally got to deliver the UK plenary statement, which mainly consisted of a box summarising “the UK’s progress to date” on the 13 practical steps agreed and adopted by the 2000 NPT Review Conference, which look pretty impressive until you remember that the previous government had made an unequivocal undertaking to build three or four nuclear submarines to carry some 50 (ish) US Trident missiles topped with up to 160 nuclearwarheads (each of which would be some 8 times bigger than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, at about 100 kilotons) so that Britain would be sure still to be a nuclear-armed state in noncompliance with the nuclear-weapon states’ NPT obligations for the next fifty years.

Though the majority of Labour Party members had long been opposed to this expensive and dangerous nonsense, the recent party leadership (notably T. Blair, G. Brown, P. Mandelson) were so traumatised by electoral defeats in the 1980s which they conveniently blamed on the advocacy of nuclear disarmament in the cold war, that they failed to notice in 2007 that the cold war had ended. So just as the US’s cold war policymakers Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn were concluding that relying on nuclear weapons for deterrence was “becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective”, the Labour leadership committed the UK to spending somewhere between 20-76 billion on a cold war nuclear system that will not protect us and has no strategic rationale or militarily useful purpose. (The huge disparity in these projected costs represents calculations in 2007 from Labour and Liberal Democrat documents respectively Greenpeace crunched the numbers and came up with a Trident renewal price tag of 98 billion.)

When Nick Clegg challenged the Trident replacement decision in the first two leadership debates and stated the LibDems’ opposition to spending gazillions on the Trident status symbol, his poll numbers went up significantly. While there was a mixture of reasons for his increased popularity after the debates, it is at least reasonable to draw the conclusion from this poll data and the election of a Scottish parliamentary majority and government in May 2007) that opposing nuclear weapons nowadays is an electoral advantage, not liability.

The cold war is over, the security environment is very different now, and in the UK there’s a new government that may be able to look at security and defence with fresher eyes.  The concluded Coalition Agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has now been published.

On the NPT, this states, “We will maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money.   Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives. We will immediately play a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.”

Elsewhere (and with a minor rearrangement of words), the Agreement says: “We have commenced a Strategic Defence and Security Review, commissioned and overseen by the National Security Council, with strong Treasury involvement. We will also develop and publish a new National Security Strategy.”

Though the Conservatives have generally been thought to be the knee-jerk pro-nuclear party, they also see themselves as close to the UK armed forces. And senior military figures are less interested in nuclear weapons – which they regard as unusable – than in getting budget increases for equipping the armed forces and developing a strategy for extricating Britain from the Afghanistan war without provoking political collapse or losing military face.  So sense and international law might yet prevail and as Nixon decided to go to China, Britain might yet become the first nuclear weapon state to comply fully with its NPT obligations.

And finally, not yet there with TNW…

Meanwhile, I am still chasing up on tactical nuclear weapons, trying to make sure that I get an accurate report on a heated debate over this that occurred between Russia and Germany in Subsidiary Body 1, which was closed to civil society for reasons that go back into the mists of NPT time…   but little by little we have been prising the doors open, with the help of forward-thinking national and UN diplomats.  However, it has been deemed that some governments’ deliberations (notably practical disarmament, the Middle East, and institutional reform and withdrawal) are too sensitive for our non-governmental ears (despite [or perhaps because of?] the fact that we have been the originators, purveyors and encouragers of most if not all the ideas under discussion).  So as I wasn’t able to see and hear this exchange personally I am dependent on the perceptions of others, and want therefore to make sure that I speak to all concerned.  I’m nearly there, and hope to bring the delayed blog on TNW out later today.


Day 14: NPT Sidelined by Sanctions Resolution on Iran

Posted by Rebecca Johnson

As Main Committee II and the subsidiary bodies on institutional issues (SB3) and practical disarmament (SB1) ploughed on with negotiations over text,  I was planning to devote today’s blog to the need to address the problems raised by the particularly destabilising class of short-range nuclear weapons variously described as non-strategic, sub-strategic, tactical or battlefield weapons.  But then the news came through that the P-5 +1 (the Permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany) have agreed a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran, which was tabled in the UN Security Council today (Tuesday).  The sanctions resolution follows close on the heels of a confidence-building nuclear fuel exchange brokered by two significant non-permanent members of the Security Council, Brazil and Turkey that was (in part at least) meant to push the sanctions threat further down the road.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her announcement about the sanctions resolution before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ratification hearings on New START, thereby giving the impression that this was being pushed for domestic reasons. The signal – or at least the interpretation in the UN’s North Lawn building – is that domestic politics and the “Iran dossier” are more important to the Obama administration than the NPT.  The question is, what will be the effect on the NPT Review Conference of this push to get sanctions against Iran in the Security Council?

Notwithstanding their own concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and compliance record, many thought the fuel exchange deal was an honest attempt by Brazil, Turkey and even Iran to to help the NPT Conference, clear potential obstacles out of the way and facilitate more constructive engagement. Has the Obama administration blown that chance? The next ten days will tell, but many here think the calculus has changed, and not for the better.

Brazil-Turkey-Iran fuel exchange deal

The deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey was in essence a nuclear fuel exchange in which Iran would deposit 1,200 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) in Turkey, in return for receiving 120 kg of fuel needed for its Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).  This is similar to the offer made to Iran by the “Vienna Group” (the IAEA with France, Russia and the United States)  last year, but is weaker and only (at this stage) relates to about half of Iran’s LEU stocks.  It is not being presented as a long term solution, but as a confidence-building measure to get talks going again.  Turkey (a NATO member with nuclear weapons on its soil) and Brazil, one of the most significant actors among states parties to the NPT, will have thought through the deal very carefully and it is clear that one reason was to head off the pressure for sanctions, which could derail the NPT Review Conference.  Both these nations are constructively engaged in the NPT Review Conference and the first two paragraphs of the agreement underlines their intention to support the NPT and create a “a positive, constructive, non-confrontational atmosphere leading to an era of interaction and cooperation”.

The first paragraph also signals their understanding – which is shared by most developing countries – that the NPT confers a right “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities) for peaceful purposes without discrimination”.  You don’t have to like the way that nuclear energy is characterised as an “inalienable right” – and I don’t – to recognise that it’s in the NPT’s Article IV.  I wish it weren’t, but in 1968 the treaty framers felt the need to include “atoms for peace” as an incentive to get non-nuclear countries to accede.  The nuclear powers knew that nuclear fuel production capabilities are essential for making bombs – that’s the route they took, after all – but the treaty was a trade-off, so they enshrined nuclear energy, made no distinction between power reactors and fuel cycle facilities, and hoped that safeguards would create a sufficient barrier.

The fact is – and the Brazil-Turkey-Iran deal recognises – that uranium enrichment is not prohibited by the NPT as long as it is subject to full compliance with IAEA safeguards. Iran’s uranium-enrichment programme was not fully and properly declared to the IAEA before being exposed by dissident whistleblowers, and this violation of its safeguards agreements has resulted in a series of IAEA and Security Council resolutions.  With the experience of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) fresh in non-proliferation thoughts, there are deep concerns that Iran may also be making as much use of the Article IV nuclear energy ‘rights’ as it can prior to withdrawing from the treaty and making nuclear weapons. The potential for a nuclear weapons option is certainly there, and this is the subtext for many of the heated arguments we are seeing in the NPT Conference, especially on the role of the IAEA, the Additional Protocol, withdrawal and strengthening the NPT’s institutional powers.

High risk tactics

There is undoubted impatience with the attitude of Tehran under President Ahmadinejad, but what those pushing the sanctions at this time have underestimated or failed to understand is that there is also a widespread sense that Iran is being unfairly hounded over its enrichment programme. It may be cause for anxiety, but the programme does not of itself constitute a violation of the NPT. This view is not only held by the 116-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which Iran is a member, but by others as well.  Part of the rationale for moving towards negotiating a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention is that would provide far more effective and non-discriminatory barriers and tools for preventing nuclear proliferation as well as for banning nuclear weapons and facilitating disarmament.  The way Article IV is framed  is one of the most dangerous systemic weaknesses in the non-proliferation regime, but coercive actions are not the answer.  Trying  for another sanctions resolution against Iran at this time is a very risky strategy for the Obama administration.

A successful and positive NPT Conference outcome would have done more to reinforce the New START Treaty’s ratification process than the short term candy of telling Senate Republicans that you’re going to punish Iran yet again.  At the very least the United States should have worked with Brazil and Turkey to give the deal a starter’s chance in the hope of it leading to longer term agreements to close off Iran’s weapons options permanently.  Unless there is startling new evidence on Iran’s programme to substantiate further noncompliance charges, which does not seem to be the case, the timing of this sanctions resolution looks like a slap in the face for Brazil and Turkey.  It could divide not only the Security Council but the NPT.

Back at the NPT Review Conference, it has been obvious that Iran’s relationship with the NAM is under strain and that Egypt learned its lessons from 2005 and is determined not to get used by either side in the titanic political struggle between the United States and Iran.  The tensions were displayed again this afternoon when Iran’s Ambassador Ali Soltanieh castigated some of the NAM’s positions on the draft report from Committee II on safeguards, to which Egypt’s Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz gave a combative and almost dismissive response.  The United States no doubt  hopes the sanctions resolution will isolate Iran further.  The danger is that the attempt to corner Iran is more likely to backfire, letting Ahmadinejad off the hook at home and allowing Tehran to garner more support for its positions in the NPT context.  Past experience demonstrates that Ahmadinejad attacks when he feels cornered, and that outside pressure strengthens his domestic power and weakens support for his democratic adversaries.

Of course Tehran should cooperate fully with the IAEA and it would be highly desirable for Iran and everyone else to suspend uranium enrichment and halt their nuclear programmes, but the timing and tactics of this attempt to get sanctions could turn a high-win NPT probability for President Obama into a losing mess.  Whether or not the resolution gets through the Security Council in the next two weeks, the view here is that it is likely to backfire for the United States and be bad for the NPT.

The sanctions resolution against Iran sidelined the NPT on Tuesday and has infuriated many delegates, starting with Brazil and Turkey.  Those behind this strategy in the Obama administration must be convinced that the results will be worth the high risk for the President’s NPT objectives.  They’ll have to hope they are right.  The Obama administration had worked hard to promote a constructive NPT Review Conference and until today was first in line to claim credit if the outcome on May 28 was deemed successful, as many expected.  If the Conference collapses in deadlock and failure, the resultant weakening of the non-proliferation regime will now be laid at Obama’s door.  That will of course be overly simplistic, but in politics perception is nine-tenths of the impact.

NPT Day 13: Roundup on Main Committee III on nuclear energy, safety, security and institutional issues

Posted by Meena Singelee, Acronym Junior Associate, with input from Rebecca Johnson

In open sessions during the previous week and Monday morning (10 May), Main Committee III, chaired by Ambassador Takeshi Nakane (Japan),  has been meeting to discuss issues relating to nuclear energy, safety, security and institutional issues. In similar fashion to Main Committees I and II, many of the presentations overlapped and many highlighted the divisions along familiar lines.

Considerable support was expressed for the IAEA’s role in terms of technical cooperation and for providing the Agency with the human, technical and financial resources to carry out its mandate.  Members of the Arab League also expressed their familiar condemnation of transfers of technology and materials and cooperation with Israel.  Non-aligned states (NAM) have continued to stress their “inalienable right” to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while also raising concerns about proposals viewed as constraining the right of states to withdraw from the NPT, as provided for in article ten (Article X).  This issue, which will be dealt with in more detail in However, the dividing lines are clearly profound especially along the issue of withdrawal and interpretation of Article X.

Please note that most if not all the formal statements are available from Reaching Critical will at

After the formal statements, Main Committee III undertook some limited “interactive debates”, which are also summarised below.  While the statements were repetitive, the interactions between and among the state parties have been fairly diverse and at times, even carried somewhat heated exchanges.

On Friday, the initial draft report for Committee III was issued and the Group of Non-Aligned states parties (NAM) met to discuss the interim reports.  Discussions are beginning on Monday on the basis of this draft.  Though debates are at times sharp, there is still an aura of cautious optimism in the room so we may yet have hope for some form of consensus from Main Committee III.

Nuclear energy

Parties to the NPT re-emphasised their “inalienable right” to access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, highlighting the increasingly crucial role of nuclear technology in sustainable development, providing electricity, and assisting in health, agriculture and other issues. The need to recognise and further the aims and objectives of the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation programme was also addressed in the sessions

The Statement of the Non-Aligned Movement drew on high expectations of the Review Conference and stressed that one of their priorities for the outcome of the conference would be to ensure that:

–          Nothing in the treaty should be interpreted to affect the inalienable right of all parties to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in a non-discriminatory manner and in line with Articles I and II

–          The treaty is not reinterpreted in terms of the rights of the parties to access to technical cooperation among themselves or with international organisations

–          Undue restrictions on exports to developing countries of materials, equipment and technology which are for peaceful purposes should not be imposed on parties

–          Transfer or use of nuclear equipment or material for peaceful purposes should not be prohibited due to sensivity but must be subject to full-scope IAEA safeguards

Assurances of nuclear fuel supply and the Multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle was also brought up by several states. The statement by Sweden reiterated the need for multilateral nuclear fuel assurances and the work of the IAEA in this particular area. Sweden also highlighted with conviction that the availability of such assurances could provide a useful mechanism to ensure supply to states where there are unforeseen needs for Low Enriched Uranium, while at the same time, not infringing on the rights of states under the NPT. Sweden argued that two positive outcomes of these assurances could be an enhanced security of supply which would in turn increase the stability and confidence of states initiating peaceful nuclear programmes, and as a non-proliferation and confidence-building measure of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The Statement of South Africa also addressed and promoted international cooperation in peaceful nuclear activities under Article 3 of the NPT, through the exchange of scientific information to develop applications of nuclear energy aimed at promoting socio-economic progress in developing countries.

Iraq said that the establishment of a uranium bank required further study.

For other states, addressing the front and back ends of the nuclear fuel cycle was also an issue which needs to be given due consideration during the next 3 weeks. The Republic of Korea stated that “due consideration should also be given to the back end of the full fuel cycle, including waste management” and looked forward to further discussions on the issue.

New Zealand also raised the issues of “reprocessing, spent fuel and waste management” as real needs that need to be addressed as part of the development of a multilateral nuclear fuel cycle.

While France recognised the sovereign right of states to access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Ambassador Florence Mangin, in the French statement said that “any state that fails to meet its obligations with regard to non-proliferation and the implementation of IAEA safeguards, or for whom the peaceful purpose of its nuclear activities cannot be verified, should not be entitled to benefit from the provisions of Article IV” and reiterated that states could not “demand civil nuclear cooperation” and at the same time, “renege on its international obligations”.

The United Arab Emirates, which delivered its statement to the Main Committee on Friday highlighted the need to strengthen the confidence of the international committee and to encourage adoption of more projects that rely on peaceful applications. It urged parties to act in a responsible manner and in line with their obligations and in line:

–          The adoption of full transparency in their peaceful nuclear energy programmes

–          With fully abiding by the comprehensive safeguards regime of the IAEA and to cooperate fully with the Agency to allow full verification of the parties’ programmes and nuclear facilities

–          With adopting adequate measures to build trust on these programmes and activities

The UAE also urged states to fully support the Agency in strengthening and developing the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and research and to encourage all types of responsible nuclear research and strengthening cooperation in scientific and technical exchange

Nuclear safety

On nuclear safety, Argentina’s statement drew on the following:

–          Nuclear activities for peaceful use should have internationally accepted standards safety and physical protection

–          Importance of international cooperation to bolster nuclear safety

–          The management of radioactive waste

–          Urging all states who have not yet done so to ratify all relevant conventions in the field

The Philippines also highlighted nuclear safety as one of the key issues that needed to be addressed and said that in order to make significant advances in nuclear safety, international cooperation through the IAEA was necessary.

New Zealand acknowledged “the primary responsibility of individual states for maintaining the safety of nuclear installations within their territories…and the crucial importance of an adequate national, technical, human, and regulatory infrastructure in nuclear, radiation, transport and radioactive waste safety”.

Nuclear security

One commonality that was stressed was the need to prevent nuclear terrorism by locking down nuclear material. Again, many states welcomed President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington DC last month. One trend that emerged during the sessions was the statements urging members to sign up to the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Ukraine repeated its decision taken last month to “get rid of all national stocks of high enriched uranium by 2012” with sufficient financial assistance and called on all states who have not yet done so to accede to and implement fully all relevant IAEA conventions.

Norway urged parties to the NPT to sign, ratify and implement the Amended Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and nuclear facilities,the Convention on Nuclear Terrorism, and for the IAEA to play a key role in this context, as well as the transport of nuclear material.

Institutional issues and reform

All states reiterated their commitment to reinforcing the aims and objectives of the IAEA, and to provide it with the adequate human, technical and much-needed financial assistance. States also welcomed the announcement last week by the US Secretary of State for the $50m towards technical cooperation assistance. It was also decided that institutional issues would be discussed in Subsidiary Body 3 in their deliberations.

The Statement of the European Union emphasised that “the European Union will continue to provide its full support to the activities of an effective and efficient IAEA that has the adequate resources to fulfil its mandate… for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, promoting nuclear safety and security, and strengthening effective safeguards to prevent nuclear proliferation”.

Non-nuclear weapons states also highlighted that nuclear weapons states should not push the issue of pressing for the Additional Protocol to become the IAEA norm or for similar pre-conditions to cooperation on peaceful use.

Mexico said that from a legal perspective, the Treaty is not in keeping with most areas of international law since it has not yet transitioned from codification to implementation.

Article X and withdrawal

Non-nuclear weapons states stressed that Article X is at risk of being re-interpreted by the Nuclear Weapons States and that it ultimately remains the sovereign right of states to withdraw from the treaty if membership of the treaty is no longer in the interest of the states.

The Statement of Japan, like most other states, acknowledged to the fullest extent, the sovereign rights of states in relation to Article X but also warned that collective efforts were needed to ensure that violators would not remain at liberty to abuse the provisions. Japan also suggested that “the issue should be considered without revising its Article X” and “would like to address this issue further in the deliberations of the subsidiary body’s sessions”.

Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, in the Statement of Egypt also drew on the withdrawal issue, stating that Egypt’s concerns were “compounded by attempts to restrict the right of withdrawal from the Treaty, a right guaranteed by Article X of the NPT, as well as international law” while drawing comparison to the failure to perceive non-adherence to the NPT as posing a similar threat to international peace and security.

Colombia also said it would oppose all modifications to Article X provisions and the reinterpretation of texts which could ultimately weaken the NPT regime.

On the withdrawal issue, the US and the EU each stated their intention to deliver an address on withdrawal separately to SB3 when it meets later this week.

Lebanon seemed to apply to Article X considerations the cautionary note that its Arab League colleagues and others applied to the Additional Protocol, saying: “we should be careful not to blur the frontiers between what is legally binding on state parties, what is voluntarily agreed to by them, and what could seem desirable as confidence-building measures”.

Post-statement interactions in Main Committee III

Interactions between and among NPT parties that have taken place in the subsequent three sessions have been in depth and lively, surprisingly so perhaps in view of the topics up for discussion in Committee III.

In the final session held on Friday morning, Iran voiced concerns on procedures relating to the report, due later that day. Iran’s concerns, as expressed in Committee III, related specifically to whether there would be opportunities open to delegations to provide their own views to be reflected in the report and whether the language used in the report would fully reflect the debates taking place that very morning.  The Chair, Ambassador Nakane, clarified that should there be any specific language to be added, then it could be proposed and it is anticipated and expected that the report would fully reflect the proceedings of the Main Committee.

Egypt made clear that for any language to be acceptable to the Delegation, the report of the Main Committee would need to include the following elements:

–          Clarification on multilateral approaches including fuel assurances and the bank end of the nuclear fuel cycle

–          A clear statement that the eligibility to benefit from the fuel bank would require the implementation of the Agency’s full-scope safeguards and a legally-binding agreement not to develop or seek to acquire nuclear materials for military purposes (an element aimed at the states currently outside the NPT regime and which have received transfers from states within the regime)

–          Regional and multilateral arrangements to provide such approaches and assurances

Consensus among all the parties is possible but still some time away. While there seems to be some agreement on particular areas, there still is a wide gap on others. Perhaps top of the list is the need to reaffirm the role of the IAEA in ensuring the peaceful uses of energy through technical cooperation and to provide it with the adequate human, technical and financial resources to meet the increasing workload.

Many  non-nuclear weapons parties are also seeing to reaffirm their inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and in a non-discriminatory manner. Many of these parties, led by the NAM are also working on ensuring that the Additional Protocol remains a voluntary undertaking rather than a legally binding measure imposed on everyone – a view not shared by parties.

On the issue of the fuel bank and multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel cycle, many states have noted with concern, the disparity between the rules for the non-nuclear parties and those outside the NPT regime. Several states continue to stress, similarly to Egypt, that all states benefiting from the fuel bank should not only be a member of the IAEA but also under full scope safeguards and a signatory to the NPT – again, an area which will require much compromise if it is to be adopted in the outcome document.

NPT Day 13: half time comments

Posted by Rebecca Johnson

As the NPT Review Conference enters its third week in New York, Main Committee 3 (nuclear energy) is continuing its deliberations in Room 4 and Subsidiary Body 1 (practical nuclear disarmament) is dissecting the Chair’s first draft in Room 2. We gather that the Committee I report — incorporating the forward looking disarmament plan of action from SB1 — will be reissued later today after ironing out the rather hasty mashing together of two different reports on Friday.  Acronym is busy sounding out different governments’ attitudes to the Committee Chairs’ initial draft reports the Iranian-Turkey nuclear deal and the report on NATO released by Madeleine Albright’s selective little group,

Later today we’ll issue a summary of nuclear energy related issues raised through the last week in Committee 2.  Meanwhile, check out my latest article on openDemocracy, titled  NPT Conference: Half Time Glass Half Full.

This article discusses the growing frustration now being expressed about the failure of the nuclear weapon states to honour agreements made at previous NPT Conferences.  Looking at three key areas — nuclear disarmament, the Middle East and safeguards, I argue that this time the NPT outcome needs to adopt not only a menu of good ideas, but to give itself direction, accountability and muscle to translate commitments into action.

Later today Acronym hopes to send out a summary of the nuclear energy committee’s main debate.

Meanwhile, we draw your attention to the excellent research and summaries contained in NPT News in Review, published by WILPF’s project ‘Reaching Critical Will’, especially today’s analysis, the fruit of a weekend of sifting through the conference documents and reports.  I find it immensely heartening to see this bright and dedicated group of young people carrying forward so brilliantly what Acronym started in 1995 (not to mention 2000, 2005 and other disarmament meetings in between), with the consequence that I’m able to change the way I cover these meetings and focus on other matters (including sleep)!

So do check out the RCW website, not only for the NPT statements and documentation, but for the excellent reporting in News in Review as well.

NPT Conference: Half time glass half full (openDemocracy)

NPT Conference: Half time glass half full

openDemocracy article by Rebecca Johnson, published May 17, 2010

The review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York has passed its midpoint well on schedule, much to the relief of those who remember the angry stalemate of 2005,   Yet failure to get agreement on key regional and global disarmament commitments could still threaten the outcome.  As first drafts of proposals from the three committees on disarmament, safeguards and nuclear energy were circulated on Friday, the major disagreements revolve around three issues: what should be in the 2010 disarmament action plan; how concrete a commitment will be made to a future conference and process to lay the groundwork for making the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone; and the role and acceptability of the strengthened safeguards agreements that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been trying to get states to adopt.

On disarmament, there is much emphasis on reaffirming a set of principles and steps that were adopted ten years ago, but barely implemented.  These include bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, negotiating further multilateral disarmament measures, making much deeper and irreversible cuts in existing arsenals, and diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies.  Though these la carte steps are still important, the fact that they were agreed to and then ignored for ten years rankles deeply.  The majority of the 184 nations without nuclear weapons  want the review conference to agree to implement a more clearly defined set menu including some kind of comprehensive nuclear treaty or framework to give legally binding context and coherence to the steps. They want to ensure that this time the NPT outcome has direction, accountability and muscle, and does not end up as disregarded or repudiated, as happened to many of the agreements painstakingly negotiated and adopted in  1995 and 2000.

So far we have seen Britain, France and Russia still reciting the reductions and closures of nuclear facilities that they undertook in response to the end of the cold war twenty years ago, as if expecting to rest on these past laurels for the foreseeable future while they actually seek to retain, modernise and renew their nuclear systems.  Apart from its long-held declaratory policies of no first use and unconditional promises not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-armed countries (called security assurances), China hasnt even got reductions to show, as Beijing is also bent on modernising and increasing the Chinese nuclear arsenal.

The exception is the United States, which had a lot of catching up to do after the Bush administrations negative record on nuclear arms and international treaties over the previous decade.  Ever since President Obamas speech in Prague last year on wanting a world free of nuclear weapons, the United States has been at pains to promise future disarmament and security commitments as well as listing its past efforts.  The Presidents determination to ratify the CTBT and the New START agreement with Russia, as well as the 2010 Nuclear Posture Reviews recognition of the need to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, have brought considerable support for the Obama administrations efforts to make the NPT Conference successful.  Two kinds of problems are coming up now that could get in the way.

News that Obama has promised $180 billion to modernise the US nuclear infrastructure and arsenal over the next ten years has called into question the sincerity of his commitment to nuclear disarmament.  While it is understood that this huge sum much more than the Bush administration spent on nuclear weapons and facilities is meant as a sweetener to win Republican votes to ratify the CTBT and New START, the price tag is thought by many to be dangerously (and unnecessarily) inflated.  In the UN corridors and side-bar meetings rather than in the formal NPT Committee debates so far, more voices are asking if Obama can be trusted to walk the walk on practical disarmament as well as talking his compellingly attractive talk about the vision of a nuclear free world.

This frustration is not only aimed at the United States, as illustrated by a heated exchange earlier in the week, when Ireland supported South Africa in challenging the complacent tone of a presentation by France, saying that reductions in nuclear weapons, in and of themselves, do not necessarily equate to a commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  Pointing out that nuclear weapons reductions, while welcome, may be undertaken for a wide variety of reasons including financial considerations, safety and security, preventing weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and so on, Ireland underlined the importance of making and meaning a genuine commitment to eliminate and not just reduce existing nuclear arsenals.

While Ireland was specifically urging France to reaffirm the undertaking the nuclear weapon states made in 2000 to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, South Africa had criticised the British decision to procure the next generation of nuclear weapons to replace Trident.  In this context, a growing number of governments are arguing that the missing link between Obamas Prague vision and the practical fulfilment of the disarmament obligations in the NPT is a negotiated treaty to ban nuclear weapons altogether.

Building on the conventions that have prohibited biological and chemical weapons, an envisaged nuclear weapons convention would prohibit the use and deployment of nuclear armaments and provide an agreed timeline for eliminating current arsenals and establishing a stringent verification system applicable to all, and is advocated now by the majority of NPT governments as well as the UN Secretary General and over 4000 mayors and parliamentarians from around the world.  The first draft of the NPT Chairs disarmament plan of action circulated on Friday recommended special efforts to establish the legal framework required to achieve the final phase of nuclear disarmament and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.

In the final two weeks all eyes will be on the nuclear weapon states.  If they insist on this recommendation being deleted as France and Russia succeeded in doing in similar circumstances at an NPT preparatory meeting in 2009 that will be taken to mean that in spite of their feel-good rhetoric they are not serious about fully implementing their disarmament obligations.

The positive tone of the first two weeks was largely due to the constructive engagement of the US delegation on all fronts.  But as delegations fight for what will go into the final text, retrogressive national policies of replacing, modernising and committing increased budgets for current and future nuclear arsenals are fuelling demands for commitments to a treaty-based comprehensive objective, as well as rededication to the progressive and practical disarmament steps adopted ten years ago.

The gap between past agreements and actions is also at the heart of disputes over text relating to the middle east. Having seen fifteen years go by since the NPT Conference in 1995 adopted a resolution calling for a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the middle east (in return for Arab support to extend the NPT indefinitely), the Arab states parties want more than nice words this time round.  While the Conference will no doubt call generally on Israel, India and Pakistan to join the NPT, attention is on what more can be done to engage Israel, the only state in the middle east with unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.  The Arab states want the 2010 NPT Conference to agree on a practical process to move towards negotiations on a nuclear-free zone in the middle east, and have therefore proposed (among other things) a regional conference that would include Israel.  In view of Israels insistence on achieving recognition from its neighbours and regional security first, the United States has traditionally shielded Israel from overt criticism, despite the fact that it has remained outside the NPT and has a very secretive and attitude regarding its nuclear weapons, which are believed to number between 60 and 200.  In addition, the United States is pressing for the NPT conference to address Irans ambitious uranium enrichment programme, which many governments regard as a security problem for the region as well as internationally.

Negotiations on the middle east are continuing in private, primarily between the nuclear weapon and Arab states, with the United States and Egypt as the main interlocutors.  Iran is a party to the NPT and is certain to oppose any criticism or further controls on its nuclear programme, which it vociferously claims is solely for peaceful purposes.  While Iran is marginalised from the closeted negotiations on the middle east at this stage, it is a loud voice in debates over strengthened safeguards.  The IAEA and many governments negotiated an Additional Protocol to plug the loopholes in the 1970s safeguards system, which most people agree is inadequate for verifying that states are adhering to their obligations not to divert nuclear materials for weapons. While many want there to be agreement that nuclear materials and technologies should not be supplied to states that have not adopted the strengthened safeguards agreements, some most notably Brazil, Egypt, Iran, Libya and Syria argue against.  They claim that the protocol is voluntary and that it is unreasonable to heap more controls on the programmes of non-nuclear-weapon states when there are no comparable verification requirements on the nuclear weapon states.  This argument will run and run, but in the end it is expected that some form of compromise language will be found.

So at the half way point in the NPT Conference, nothing can be taken for granted especially on disarmament and the middle east and there is everything to play for.

Day 10 at the NPT: draft reports circulated at half time

Posted by Rebecca Johnson

Draft reports from Main Committee I, MCII and MCIII with ‘placeholder’ text on some issues, especially from subsidiary bodies II and III which are continuing their debates in closed sessions, were distributed on Friday afternoon and are now posted in full on the Reaching Critical Will website for you all to see and read for yourselves,

These are initial drafts but very significant as the Chairs’ sense of the major issues and concerns, providing text on which all sides can — and should — engage.  We had been expecting that MC I and SB I would be issued as two separate papers at this stage, with SBI particularly focussing on a forward-looking action plan. At the last moment today — for procedural reasons (for the sake of consistency in style and format among the three Committee reports rather than overt political scheming, I am assured) SB1’s report has been jammed into MCI’s report, resulting in various duplications, repetitions and incoherences which the two Chairs want to iron out.

The point here, however, is that these reports reflect the first phase of engagement, and the real negotiations are now going to get started.  The Conference is likely to get tougher (and more interesting) now, as the key delegations push their positions.

Since any of you with particular interest can read and assess the drafts for yourselves, and in the knowledge that the minute we say we like (or dislike) something we send warning flags to certain delegations, we at Acronym plan to take a bit more time to digest and analyse, rather than parsing these drafts for you at this stage.  So have a great weekend, and ENJOY!

Friday morning plenary feedback from Committee Chairs

After days and days of general debate statements, repetitions of the main points in more statements to the Committees and, no doubt, even more repetition of positions in the Subsidiary Bodies (that civil societyparticipants are not  allowed to hear for ourselves), the Conference is going to get Interesting.

On Friday morning, the President of the NPT, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, convened a short plenary to give the half-way assessment and enable the Chairs of the Committees to give brief oral reports in public.  He announced that papers with draft language from some if not all the committees would be circulated in the afternoon — and as the tacked on new opening for this blog attests, they were.

Here – rather smoothly by comparison with its recent predecessors, endeth the first, most formal phase of the Conference. Much of the real work of course has been taking place in closed meeting rooms and the Missions of the key delegations, including the Chairs of various Committees and Subsidiary Bodies (UN speak for what most of us would call closed working groups).   Here, the diplomats and their advisors have been poring through stacks of working papers, statements and other relevant resources, to identify and sort the proposals that would take the NPT regime forward, the proposals that have attracted significant support, and the proposals that are too far to the edges to be taken forward this time round (and in some cases ever). They have to weigh the politics of each proposal without explicitly acknowledging any politics. The first stage of this is now nearing completion, and we await the draft reports and ‘action plans’ with bated breath (or apprehension, depending on point of view)!

Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku formally reported that Main Committee I (disarmament) had held 3 meetings, heard a lot of statements, and then held a more focussed debate “that was more useful”. He reported that Subsidiary Body 1 (forward looking practical disarmament and security assurances), chaired by Ambassador Alexander Marschik, had also held 3 meetings. The initial draft papers from both the Committee and Subsidiary Body had been submitted to the President and ought to be available Friday afternoon.

For Main Committee II (safeguards, NWFZ), Ambassador Volodyrmyr Yelchenko reported that 4 meetings had been held, with debates particularly focussing on safeguards and the additional protocol.  He had produced a draft report which was given to the President, and expressed the intention to begin deliberations on this draft report next week on the basis of a work programme that will be distributed later today. He also reported that Subsidiary Body 2 (chaired by Alison Kelly), which is dealing primarily with the Middle East,  held 2 closed meetings.  This, as predicted, is where some of the toughest negotiations are taking place, and there is as yet not even a first draft, though a ‘placeholder’ text from a previous year might be issued,

For Main Committee III (nuclear energy, safety etc) Ambassador Takeshi Nakane said that 4 meetings had been held, which heard 43 general statements and then got down to focussed work on four specific areas:

i) peaceful uses of nuclear energy in all aspects

ii) nuclear safety

iii) technical cooperation   and

iv) multinational fuel cycle approaches, including assurances of supply to those that give up the option to develop their own national facilities.

Amb. Nakane also reported that Subsidiary Body 3, chaired by Ambassador Jose Luis Cancela, had held its first meeting, dealing with the NPT’s Article IX, X and universality and would continue its deliberations next week on the basis of the later decision for it to address other issues relating to institutional reform.

Ambassador Cabactulan congratulated the Chairs, talked about the UN’s difficulty dealing with the huge mass of reports and working papers that have to be translated into and transmitted in all the UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), but indicated that the drafts of at least some of the Committees would be available today, and that negotiations on the basis of these drafts would begin next week.  Yay!

Day 9 at NPT: Additional Protocol, safeguards in Committee II

Day 9  (Thursday 13)  Committee II (Safeguards, Additional Protocol)

Posted by Carol Naughton with input from Rebecca Johnson

As the set statements delivered by nations finally ended we actually heard interactive dialogue in Committee II this morning. Given how tired everyone is, it was refreshing and certainly sharpened attention again.  The following report is drawn mostly from contemporaneous notes as there were not many written statements in this session.

The Chair, Ambassador Volodyrmyr Yelchenko, announced that the committee would move to interactive discussion on two topics – Strengthening IAEA Safeguards and the Additional Protocol and Nuclear Security.

IAEA spokesperson Tariq Rauf told the Committee that there were now 100 nations who had now adopted the Additional Protocol to strengthen their safeguards agreements, with Iraq expected to join them soon.  As reported earlier, however, there is still a fundamental division in attitudes between those who regard the Protocol to be necessary to increase confidence in the NPT, and those that view it as “voluntary” or even as an imposition.  After Iran had declared the Additional Protocol to be “voluntary”, Australia responded to say that it was voluntary in the sense that each nation can choose whether or not it decides to adopt it, but once signed it is then legally binding. Replying to a question on procedure, an IAEA representative explained the process of adopting the Protocol and told us that in the last ten years the inspection days per year had dropped from 10,000 to 8,000 but that 50% more nuclear material and facilities were now under IAEA inspection.

The representative of Brazil took time to explain the history and Brazil’s position on the Additional Protocol, arguing that when the IAEA initiated negotiations in the 1990s, it was with the understanding that it was voluntary and that this cannot now be changed. Hence, Brazil respected that it was entirely up to each individual nation whether they wanted to consider the Additional Protocol as the standard for verification or as a condition of supply for nations. In Brazil’s view, when the nuclear weapon states are prepared to give up their nuclear weapons, then – in that context (presumed to be an emerging disarmament regime) – “in a future package, the Additional Protocol or something even stronger might be essential” for there to be confidence in compliance and implementation.

South Africa’s Ambassador Leslie Gumbi  called on nations to avoid getting into issues where there is clear divergence and said there was, “a need to find ways around this and not push down each others throats issues we do not agree on”.

Both Iran and Ukraine raised concerns about confidentiality within the IAEA and leakage of sensitive material to the media. However this was picked up by Australia who felt that the issue of how to deal with IAEA confidentiality was best left to the IAEA Board to deal with.

It is interesting to observe that, outside of Non-Aligned positions, many nations that are pushing for nuclear disarmament are also in favour of universalising – or at least increasing accessions to – the Additional Protocol.  They clearly associate disarmament with a strong safeguards and verification regime.  In other words, a future framework of instruments is needed not only to provide a new international agenda with an action plan for nuclear disarmament, but also an action plan for strengthening necessary verification, safeguards and compliance tools.

In recognizing the difficulties facing the current debate on making the Protocol a key component of the new safeguards standard, Switzerland proposed that the IAEA should initiate an internal debate on enhancing the attractiveness of implementing the Additional Protocol. As an example Switzerland suggests that those nations that have implemented a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and a Model Additional Protocol should receive concrete and immediate benefits. Such an approach, they argue, would provide the international community with a higher level of confidence and this should lead to decreasing the perceived burden associated with verification.

Day 9 at NPT: disarmament issues

by Rebecca Johnson and Tim Wright

Main Committee I: Disarmament steps and comprehensive approaches

As the various Committees and Subsidiary Bodies get underway for the second week of the NPT Review Conference, debates are gradually going beyond the repetition of established positions.  Initial drafts from the chairs of the working groups (and subsidiary body 1) are in the works and may even be circulated by the end of this week.

Where relevant, the nuclear arms reduction measures, withdrawal or renunciation of certain weapons systems, and dismantlement of former test sites and fissile materials production facilities, have been widely welcomed. There is a welcome recognition of the need to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in nuclear doctrines and postures, including publication of a new book from Commander Robert Green (UK Royal Navy, retired), titled Security without Nuclear Deterrence, and a new report on Delegitimizing Nuclear Weapons, from the Swiss Government and Monterey Institute.

In this regard, the US emphasis on reducing the role of nuclear weapons in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review was welcomed, although this is currently more on the level of declaration and intent than practical or verifiable changes in military policy and operations.  In view of the huge amount of words already generated by the statements and working papers – almost all of which are available on the Reaching Critical Will website – Acronym Institute blogs do not purport to provide a summary of the entire landscape, but rather a snapshot of what we consider interesting, unusual or depressing in this Review Conference.

The nuclear weapon states have formally and in detailed publications and side-bar events listed their achievements, reiterated their commitments (at least some of them) and underlined their reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence, security or at least as long as anyone else has some!  A lunchtime event featuring the chief US and Russian negotiators on the New START treaty, Dr Rose Gottemoeller and Ambassador Anatoli Antonov, provided a fascinating insight into the dynamics, challenges and compromises that contributed to achieving an outcome that the Presidents of Russia and the United States could both sign.

Within the open Committee meetings, there have been relatively few challenges to the complacent tone that has crept into some of the P-5 presentations, though there have been more questions in the subsidiary bodies and side-bar events.  It was therefore refreshing to see a European member of the New Agenda Coalition – Ireland – support the arguments by many of the developing states that nuclear disarmament requires more than arms control.  After listening carefully to the achievements that France characterised as demonstrating its full compliance with Article VI, including its implementation of 10 of the 13 practical disarmament steps agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, Ireland’s representative asked which particular steps France had in mind and whether they included step 6, which contained the “unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals”.

In its remarks Ireland echoed South Africa and many others and highlighted a major issue of concern – relevant to all the nuclear weapon states’ presentations – that “reductions in nuclear weapons, in and of themselves, do not necessarily equate to a commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons reductions, while welcome, may be undertaken for a wide variety of reasons, many of them laudable reasons. Such reasons may include financial considerations, safety and security, preventing weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, environmental reasons and so on.”  The Committees are supposed to have “interactive debate” – i.e. impromptu exchanges of view, questions, answers and comments as well as the long lines of prepared statements.  It is a pity, therefore, that France did not avail itself of the opportunity afforded by Ireland to respond to its questions in open session, as we would all have benefitted from this.  Instead, a row erupted in the cafe upstairs, where Ireland’s open and thoughtful intervention was astonishingly treated as an act of European disloyalty.    That said, Ambassador Eric Danon spent an hour this morning discussing French nuclear policy in an off-the-record meeting with representatives of NGOs, responding in thoughtful detail to the questions that were put to him.

Norway made a strong statement in Committee I, arguing that success will require restoring the “compact from 1995 and 2000” but that going beyond such 10-15 year-old obligations will be required in order to “have an outcome that could make a real difference”.  Commenting that after 40 years of the NPT “we cannot claim that we are where we should be”, Norway made the case for establishing “a new international nuclear agenda with an action plan for nuclear disarmament with clear benchmarks and deadliines holding us all accountable”.  Norway called on the NWS to “advance practical measures” to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policies and lower their operational status, “refrain from developing new categories of nuclear arms” and advocated “the full elimination of tactical nuclear weapons” and “active use” of “proposals on how to move toward our overall objective of abolishing all nuclear weapons” specifically mentioning proposals from the UN Secretary-General, among others.

In echoes of the way in which International Humanitarian Law and the humanitarian consequences of the deployment and use of anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions were evoked in campaigns to bring about comprehensive, treaty-based bans on these inhumane weapons systems in 1997 and 2008 respectively, Norway, which had played crucial roles in these negotiations, argued that it was time to consider how nuclear weapons relate to International Humanitarian Law, concluding: “Nuclear weapons are the most indiscriminate, disproportionate and inhumane weapons ever created. After 65 years experience of living with the threat of nuclear weapons, we have the necessary means and knowledge to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Now we have to, together, employ the necessary political will.”

Calls for a comprehensive, treaty-based approach

Thirteen years ago Costa Rica and Malaysia sponsored a draft Framework Convention on Nuclear Weapons based on a model draft treaty researched and written by civil society lawyers, scientists and nuclear specialists.  Updated and presented again to the First Preparatory Committee of the 2010 NPT Review Conference in Vienna in 2007, this draft was called a “good point of departure” by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2008. It offers technical, legal and political solutions to all aspects of nuclear disarmament, safety, security and the prevention of the spread and military uses of nuclear weapons and materials, for governments to consider in order to move from the partial instruments of NPT-based counter-proliferation to full compliance with the NPT’s core obligations. This will require a comprehensive approach capable of facilitating nuclear disarmament and establishing much more effective institutional tools and benchmarks for compliance and implementation over the longer-term.

Last year, 124 governments — roughly two-thirds of all UN member states — backed the General Assembly resolution, which is a follow-up to the International Court of Justice’s landmark advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The court held, unanimously, that governments have a legal obligation to achieve (“bring to conclusion”) nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

Below we summarise the compilation made by Tim Wright of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who researched who said what in the General Debate and Committees about working towards some kind of a comprehensive treaty that would prohibit the use and deployment of nuclear weapons and provide for the phased elimination of existing arsenals.

Following many General Debate statements, cited below, the need for negotiations on some kind of nuclear weapons convention has featured prominently in Main Committee I, with a number of delegations expanding on their general calls for preparations towards laying the groundwork for negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons treaty.

Of the nuclear weapon states, China argued, “The international community should develop, at an appropriate time, a viable, long-term plan composed of phased actions, including a convention on the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.”

Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, which comprises some 110 non-nuclear states party to the NPT, stated: “The consideration of a Nuclear Weapons Convention banning all nuclear weapons, as mentioned in Article VI of the Treaty, should begin and should be an integral part of any plan of action on nuclear disarmament to be adopted by this Conference.”

The States Parties to Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones reaffirmed “the urgent need to advance towards the priority goal of nuclear disarmament and the achievement of the total elimination and legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons … We support the United Nations Secretary-General’s call in his five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament for all Non-Proliferation Treaty Parties, in particular the nuclear-weapon States, to fulfil their obligation under the Treaty to undertake negotiations on effective measures leading to nuclear disarmament.”

Similarly, noting that “Current barriers to nuclear disarmament could be overcome through commencing a preparatory process which would explore the legal, technical, institutional and political requirements for a nuclear-weapons free world,” the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) considered that: “this process could be guided, but would not be bound by, the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention circulated by the UN Secretary-General. The Nuclear Weapons Convention provides a non-discriminatory approach which builds on currently existing mechanisms, such as the CTBTO and IAEA — and fills in the gaps.

Noting that “the eradication of all nuclear weapons is our only assurance that they will never be used,” Indonesia talked of the need to “work intensively together to produce a universal nuclear weapons convention with a specific timeline for the attainment of complete nuclear disarmament.”

Switzerland argued: “ultimately, the question of banning nuclear weapons by a new convention — as proposed by the UN Secretary-General — must be addressed. Switzerland expects the final document of this conference to reaffirm the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons, and to encourage the discussion on a convention to ban nuclear weapons…  In addition to military and legal considerations, Switzerland’s aim is to bring the humanitarian aspect to the heart of the current debate on nuclear disarmament. In fact, it is necessary to ask the question at which point the right of States must yield to the interests of humanity. In the long term we must outlaw nuclear weapons, specifically by means of a new convention as the UN Secretary General has proposed.”

Brazil considered “commitment to the goal of concluding a Nuclear Weapons Convention outlawing this category of weapons entirely, with a well-defined timeframe, in line with the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions” to be a necessary component of a “successful outcome of the work in this Main Committee I”

Chile argued that states “should support the Secretary-General’s five-point plan and, in particular, lay the foundations for preliminary discussion of a Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”

Mexico “expects that as a result of this conference we agree on … the reaffirmation of the unequivocal commitment by the NWS to achieve the destruction of their nuclear arsenals and to negotiate a convention that prohibits these weapons with a timeframe that provides certainty to the international community.”

Austria noted: “Moving from the dream of a world free of nuclear weapons to actual global zero will take time and much effort. There are several promising ideas, like UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s five-point plan. Austria supports this plan and believes that the most effective way to move towards “global zero” is through a universal legal instrument, a ‘Nuclear Weapons Convention’, equipped with a strict multilateral verification mechanism.”   Austria recalled how it had been “at the forefront of initiatives resulting in conventions banning mines and cluster bombs. The Austrian government and the legislature — which recently adopted a formal resolution on a world without nuclear weapons — will examine closely how disarmament is dealt with at this Conference. If there is no clear progress towards “global zero”, we will discuss with partners the feasibility of a global instrument to ban these weapons. The NPT remains the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. But a static regime that has lost its vision may benefit from fresh ideas.”

New Zealand, one of the Western countries to consistently vote in favour of the annual UN General Assembly resolution on a convention, welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s “strong push in his five-point plan for progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons”.

Senegal The NPT would be reinforced if this Conference would express the commitment to move towards achieving a general nuclear weapons convention, in fulfilment of Article 6 of the NPT.

Holy See: “[T]he world has arrived at an opportune moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear weapons free world. For this reason, preparatory work should begin as soon as possible on a convention or framework agreement leading to the phased elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Iran made several statements which in different ways referred to the need to “realize the humane aspiration for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as well as the peaceful use of nuclear energy” and in several different ways called for “adoption of a legally binding instrument on the full prohibition of production, stockpiling, improvement, proliferation, maintaining and use of nuclear weapons.”  In a further statement, Iran expressed “the firm belief that early negotiation [of] a Nuclear Weapons Convention shall be started. In this regard we reiterate our call for the establishment, as the highest priority and as soon as possible, of an ad hoc committee with negotiating mandate on nuclear disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament. Such negotiations must lead to legally prohibit, once and for all, the possession, development, stockpiling of nuclear weapons by any country and provide for the destruction of such inhuman weapons.”

Yemen urged a ban on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and ultimately their complete elimination.

Egypt has made several statements referring to the need for a comprehensive approach to accomplish nuclear disarmament. Complaining that “the implementation of the Treaty in the field of nuclear disarmament remains below expectations”, Egypt argued that this “confirms the need to create a legal framework to eliminate nuclear weapons through the conclusion of an international legally binding convention to eliminate nuclear weapons in a specified timeframe.”

Costa Rica, which submitted a civil-society-drafted model nuclear weapons convention to the United Nations in 1997, considered it “important to explore new paths that can lead us towards a world free of nuclear weapons, a goal that has been hindered by the fragmentation and inconsistency of the instruments we have available today”.

Lichtensteinsupports the long-term goal of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, in line with the Secretary-General’s five-point plan. This Conference should prepare the ground for such a project by adopting a Program of Action including concrete goals to be achieved within set time-frames.”

Lebanon said “our joint endeavor to stave off any possible nuclear tragedy in the future should be boosted by further strengthening the international legal system in this regard … Let us start negotiations on crucial international instruments such as the Nuclear Weapons Convention and the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).”

Tunisia quoted from the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice and argued that a Nuclear Weapons Convention would enable the nuclear weapons states to comply with their obligations to reduce and gradually eliminate their nuclear weapons under strict and international control.

Mongolia considered that “the Secretary-General’s five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament is a balanced, realistic and promising initiative to which we extend our full support.”

Kenya expressed its “conviction that there is need to commence early negotiations leading to the conclusion of an international convention for the total elimination of all nuclear weapons.”

Colombia said: “The international community has witnessed the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, those deadly weapons of mass destruction have not been banned. The only way to free ourselves from that threat is to achieve the complete elimination of nuclear arsenals. That is where the importance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty lies, as the only multilateral instrument that creates the obligation for States that possess nuclear weapons to adopt measures to put a stop to the race to acquire and develop this type of armaments and reach full nuclear disarmament. For this reason we insist in the urgency of [an] international legally binding instrument that prohibits the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.”

Cuba agrees that, “as a transcendental outcome of this Conference, the adoption of a clear plan of action to comply with the implementation of all the provisions of the Treaty is required, particularly with respect to the nuclear disarmament obligations. The Plan shall establish a concrete schedule for the gradual reduction of nuclear weapons in a transparent, irreversible, verifiable and legally binding manner. We must ratify this Plan for the complete elimination of these weapons by 2025.”

Malaysia “has and will continue to do its part to realize a nuclear-weapon-free world” and cited two relevant initiatives: “At the international level, since 1997, we have submitted a resolution to the First Committee reminding all States of the Advisory Opinion of the ICJ, which reaffirms the nuclear-weapon States’ disarmament obligation under Article VI of the Treaty. Therefore, all States should fulfil this obligation by commencing multilateral negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention at the earliest possible date. In this connection, Malaysia calls on all States to undertake the preparatory process through an ad hoc working group or committees for a nuclear weapons convention.”

Qatar stressed the importance that the Conference adopt the Action Plan of the States Parties to eliminate nuclear weapons, which was presented by the Non-Aligned Movement … We hope that we will not wait long before we celebrate a universal treaty for disarmament and prohibition of nuclear weapons, for this has legal and political importance.”

Ecuador supported the NAM working paper and emphasised the importance of a treaty objective to give coherence to nuclear disarmament efforts.

Thailand “supports the UNSG’s five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament of 24 October 2008…”

Day 8: Divisions over safeguards

Posted by Carol Naughton,  Senior Associate, with input from Rebecca Johnson

A short plenary was called for the NPT Review Conference Chair, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) to announce that issues relating to institutional deficit and reform and related proposals for strengthening the review process  would be addressed in Subsidiary Body 3, chaired by Ambassador Jose Luis Cancela (Uruguay), which will also deal with issues relating to withdrawal from the NPT and Article X.  As Acronym has all along argued, combining them in SB3 ought to provide for a more coherent debate on this basket of institutional issues that if they had been divided between Committee II and SB3.

Main Committee II – Safeguards, regional issues and NWFZ

The first session of Committee II followed much the same pattern as the General Debate as nation after nation delivered prepared statements with no interaction between delegations. While no-one challenged the IAEA safeguards system as such, divisions over the Additional Protocol became quickly apparent. Many statements discussed the importance of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ), with strong expressions of support for the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on creating a NWFZ in the Middle East.

Safeguards and Additional Protocol

Article III of the NPT states:

1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe of Japan noted that 165 states have now concluded comprehensive safeguard agreements (CSA) and all nations who spoke agreed that safeguard agreements are essential to ensure that there is no diversification of civil nuclear programmes to non-peaceful use. Ambassador Antonio Guerreiro of Brazil summed up the sentiments of the committee in saying that the “universalization of comprehensive safeguards is an urgent necessity”.

Dr Joan Mosley of New Zealand said that much had changed since the NPT system had been established, that the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements (CSA) were no longer enough on their own to verify compliance, and that “the Additional Protocol is the key tool in this regard and forms the contemporary verification standard”. This in itself is not so controversial, and indeed 99 states, according to Japan, have now ratified the Additional Protocol. However the argument, as stated by Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia, that the Additional Protocol, “should be established as a condition of supply for all nuclear material and equipment” sets others’ teeth on edge.

The Additional Protocol was developed to strengthen safeguards and provide powers to inspect undeclared facilities following revelations about Iraq’s extensive nuclear weapons programme in 1990-1.  Brazil asserted that “the balance of obligations upon which the NPT is founded also includes the manner through which its commitments are to be verified. The Additional Protocol is not part of that bargain.”  The basis for much of the opposition against the Additional Protocol is the view that until the nuclear weapon states fulfill their disarmament obligations under the NPT, it is not realistic to expect the non nuclear weapon states to take on yet more verification measures.

A further concern is coded in statements that the IAEA is the “sole, competent authority responsible for verifying and assuring compliance” with safeguards obligations under the NPT, the subtext being that information obtained through other intelligence or inspections should not be admissible.  This is a particularly sensitive issue for some NPT parties, including Iran and other states that believe they have been accused of noncompliance on the basis of US or other intelligence sources, the issue has become one of the ritual NAM demands.  In this regard, Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt, proposed on behalf of the NAM states that the outcome document of the review conference, “should acknowledge that it is fundamental to make a distinction between legal obligations and voluntary confidence-building measures, in order to ensure that such voluntary undertakings are not turned into legal safeguards obligations.”

While it was not completely clear from Egypt’s statement, there is a suggestion that the Additional Protocol is itself considered to be voluntary, on the basis that states can choose whether to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to their CSA.  While some states do appear to hold this position, others dispute this characterisation, pointing out that Article III does not specify the precise nature of safeguards agreement that non-nuclear weapon states must negotiate with the IAEA and adopt, and that this was to enable safeguards agreements negotiated in the 1960s to be updated and modernised so as to provide confidence in the IAEA safeguards regime over the NPT’s lifetime, taking into account technological and other developments.

The “Vienna Group of 10” or G-10, comprising Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, known as have submitted seven working papers to the Review Conference, each of which addresses issues that are particularly worked on in the Vienna diplomatic circuit, such as nuclear safety, the CTBT, export controls, nuclear energy, physical protection and illicit traffickingcompliance and verification and multinational fuel cycle approaches, offering draft language for possible provision in the outcome document(s) of the Conference.

NWFZ and the Middle East

The importance of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ) is recognised by all nations and many welcomed efforts aimed at establishing NWFZ in all regions of the world. The subsidiary body to this committee will look especially at the 1995 resolution on the Middle East but many nations took time in their Committee II statements to express their commitment to achieving implementation of this resolution, which Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned States called “an essential element of the outcome of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and of the basis [on] which the NPT was indefinitely extended, without a vote in 1995”.

Egypt argued that the final outcome document should not only underscore the importance of Israel’s accession to the NPT; as long as it remains a non-NPT party, there should be “a commitment by each State Party to the Treaty to strictly prohibit the transfer of any nuclear-related equipment, information, material and facilities, resources or devices, and the extension of know-how of any kind of assistance to and cooperation with Israel in the nuclear fields.”

Calling for “cooperation and consultation” and intensified efforts “aimed at establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East”, Egypt’s statement to Committee II appeared to jump over its key demand for an international conference to “launch negotiations, with the participation of all States of the Middle East”on a NWFZ in the Middle East, calling instead for “the establishment of a Standing Committee composed of members of the Bureau of the 2010 Review Conference to follow up intersessionally the implementation of the recommendations concerning the Middle East and to report to the 2015 review Conference and its Preparatory Committees”.

While Egypt has set the target date of 2011 for this Conference, Mr Jesus Domingo of the Philippines called for such an international conference to be held “at the earliest possible time”.

For the United States, Dr Glyn Davies lent weight to the goal of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction and the implementation of the 1995 resolution, calling for “concrete, realistic measures… that take due account of full compliance by regional states with the Treaty, IAEA safeguards obligations and all relevant UNSC resolutions”.

Among the many statements that raised concern about Iran’s nuclear programme, the European Union said that “the proliferation risks presented in particular by Iran continue to be a matter of grave concern”. While acknowledging that Iran has the right to develop and use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, the EU called on Iran to “engage seriously with the international community in a spirit of mutual respect, in order to find a negotiated solution”, warning that if it does not do so it will isolate itself further.

While most countries sought a negotiated solution to the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear programme, with emphasis on full compliance with the relevant IAEA and UNSC resolutions, France called for “the strongest response from the international community”.

Following its detailed statement to Committee II, Iran added a brief history of its development of nuclear research reactors and inspections by the IAEA, arguing not only that the IAEA is the “sole competent authority”, but also that “there should be no undue pressure or interference in the Agency’s activities” and that there should be a “mechanism for protection of confidentiality” of the IAEA’s verification process and a “legal mechanism for the settlement of disputes…”

NPT Day 5: Nuclear Disarmament and Civil Society presentations

by Carol Naughton (Senior Associate) with input from Rebecca Johnson.

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.

Civil Society presentations

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.