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IPPNW, ICAN bring abolition message to NPT PrepCom

May 22, 2008

By John Loretz

John LoretzWhen nuclear weapon states give themselves credit for dismantling aging and outdated strategic weapons, while maintaining silence about their investments in programs to build 21st century arsenals, what are non-nuclear-weapon states to think?

Do non-nuclear -weapon states have an obligation to uphold their end of the bargain under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), whether or not the nuclear-weapon states ever make good on their own commitments?

Can global expansion of the nuclear energy industry take place without jeopardizing the entire non-proliferation regime?

When will the promise of the NPT be fulfilled through the negotiation and adoption of a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) to abolish the only weapons capable of destroying humanity?

These questions [see answers below], among others, were raised loudly by IPPNW and representatives of more than 60 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who participated in the second Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2010 NPT Review Conference in Geneva.

More than a dozen doctors, medical students, and staff guaranteed a strong IPPNW presence at the PrepCom, promoting the Convention among diplomats and other NGOs, attending ICAN workshops, organizing a “Nuclear Weapon Free – My Cuppa Tea” event, and taking part in a simulation game to negotiate an NWC. Former co-president Gunnar Westberg presented an IPPNW paper on the climate effects of regional nuclear war, during a formal NGO session in the PrepCom assembly hall.

Unlike the failed 2005 Review and the 2007 PrepCom, where procedural wrangling effectively prevented substantive discussion, many state delegations openly pressed the nuclear weapon states to make deeper, faster, and more permanent cuts in their arsenals, while insisting that the non-proliferation terms of the Treaty (Articles I and II) must go hand-in-hand with disarmament (Article VI).

The not-so-hidden agenda of nuclear energy supplier states—led most aggressively by Russia and the US—to use the Treaty as a staging ground for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and the development of multinational uranium enrichment centers was even more apparent at this PrepCom than it was a year ago in Vienna. The beleaguered US-India nuclear technology deal, which seriously undermines the non-proliferation goals of the NPT, became a focal point of across-the-board NGO opposition to the so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy enshrined in Article IV.

Nevertheless, this was a PrepCom that ended without substantive decisions or official recommendations. Any hopes for a positive outcome in 2010 now hinge on the decisions made at the 2009 PrepCom in New York.

Click here to download a full PrepCom report, including the text of Dr. Westberg’s presentation

[ANSWER KEY: 1) What else can they think? The nuclear weapon states are far from compliance with Article VI. 2) Yes. But can anyone wonder why they are losing patience with the double standard? 3) No. 4) As soon as civil society demands it loudly and effectively enough.]

6 Comments
  1. postpartisanitalia permalink
    September 26, 2009 10:32 am

    The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention simulation was organized by BANg (Ban All Nukes generation) the European youth Network for Nuclear Disarmament.
    See:
    http://www.bang-europe.org/newyork09.html
    http://www.un.org/disarmament/education/docs/SGReport63contributions/NGOs/INESAP.pdf

  2. May 20, 2009 1:29 pm

    Wonderful internet site!! Will visit soon.

  3. John Loretz permalink*
    June 9, 2008 12:08 pm

    The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention simulation was organized by German students who participate in something called the International Law Project. They got much-needed support from Regina Hagen of INESAP and from IALANA. On the day of the simulation game in Geneva, Tilman Ruff and Xanthe Hall of IPPNW were recruited to serve as the co-chairs of the “negotiation,” to fill in for a diplomat who had taken ill. This is a project well worth replicating, but I think in practice we need to defer to the international lawyers, who have the expertise and training to organize such events properly.

    The issue of nuclear energy is a difficult one. The industry and its government supporters are aggressively making the case for global expansion of nuclear energy as an answer to global warming. But a compelling argument has been made against taking the nuclear path on both environmental and economic grounds. While today there is certainly a legal right to develop nuclear energy — NPT Article IV calls it an “inalienable right” without explaining why — that does not necessarily make it the right thing to do. IPPNW’s International Council passed a resolution in 1999 opposing nuclear energy not only because of its unavoidable links to nuclear weapons development, but also because of the inherent health and environmental dangers made manifest by Chernobyl. At both the 2007 and the 2008 NPT PrepComs, IPPNW joined other NGOs in calling for an International Sustainable Energy Agency that would channel global investments into clean, safe, renewable forms of energy that can meet the real need for economic development in the global south while ending our reliance on both fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

  4. June 8, 2008 6:36 am

    Dear John, in my opinion IPPNW should develop a realistic strategy to make more effective our activities in the PrepComs. Because the use of nuclear energy for civil purposes in the world is bad but energetically necessary, we could help every diplomatic subjects to develop international rules to separate scientifically, diplomatically and even in terms of military international actions of global police, the civil and the military use of nuclear energy. Also, IPPNW should recognaisse clearly the right of every country to reach and develop the tecnics to make energy from nuclear power plants. This, even if we, personally, consider much more safe to make energy in other naturalistic ways. I hope that you understand deeply my point of view and my considerations. Best greetings from Italy Michele

  5. June 1, 2008 9:07 pm

    Nice report John. I really like the idea of a “simulation game to negotiate an Nuclear Weapons Convention.” I’ve been quite involved in the past in Model UN activities, and also in pushing for conceptual rethinking and substantive revisions of the United Nations Charter. And some of the very few characters who work on those issues have, a few times, convened a “Model UN Charter Review Conference” — where students simulate not participating in the UN of today, but designing the UN of tomorrow. Each time, it has served as a powerful tool for engaging the interest of the young. A group of some 300 Latin American college students just did this a few weeks back in April at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico.

    So we should think about staging similiar “Model Nuclear Weapons Convention Negotiations.” These, too, could serve as a powerful tool for engaging the young — not just in the goal of abolition, but in strategies and tactics for making abolition happen.

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