Skip to content

NPT Review day two: set speeches on the pillars and studied silence on the NWC

May 4, 2010

Day two of the NPT Review conference lacked the drama of the opening session, as the general debate settled into a pattern of statements from Member States and state groupings calling for steps to strengthen all three pillars of the NPT. In fact, the pattern was so evident that, with very few exceptions, we seemed to get the same basic statement more than 30 times over the course of several hours.

The template went something like this: we endorse the goal of a world without nuclear weapons (but have varying perspectives on how hard and how quickly to push for that); we welcome the New START by the US and Russia; we see the new US Nuclear Posture Review as a step in the right direction, although it could have gone further; we insist upon entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and completion of a treaty to ban fissile materials (in one form or another); we like nuclear-weapon-free zones and want to see more of them, especially in the Middle East; we think safeguards against proliferation have to be strengthened; we want stricter enforcement of non-proliferation rules (if we’re upset about Iran) but we don’t want that done in a discriminatory way (if we think the US and its allies are picking unfairly on Iran); and every last one of us wants to make sure that nuclear energy is available to everyone who wants it, even if it’s the most ill advised, most costly, and most dangerous energy option on the table (okay…they didn’t say that last part, but the NGOs will later this week).

Norway and Germany broke momentarily from the pattern, calling for the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in NATO and for the eventual removal of tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, but NGO representatives from those countries with whom I spoke this evening expressed disappointment that their delegations hadn’t taken an even stronger stand.

Despite the near-unanimous appeal for a concrete action plan leading to a nuclear-weapons-free world, there was virtually no mention of the most well developed plan for actually achieving that goal: a Nuclear Weapons Convention. While the Convention has been gaining support steadily among civil society groups, parliamentarians, and even many states who endorse it year after year in General Assembly resolutions, there has been what looks very much like a deliberate silence on the Conference floor, with the exception of a few brave states such as Austria, Switzerland, and the Non-Aligned Movement.

The most active discussion of the Convention is once again taking place at NGO side events, including one today sponsored by ICAN and chaired by Tim Wright, the campaign’s NPT strategy coordinator, who has been working for several months to improve the understanding of the NWC in the diplomatic community and to promote discussion of it at the Review Conference. Speakers at the event included Regina Hagen of the International Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP) who explained the technical provisions of the Model NWC, and Tad Daley, a writing fellow with IPPNW whose new book Apocalypse Never, makes the case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention and what he described as the global governance architecture to make it stick.

I’ll follow my own pattern, and end today’s entry with two notable quotes from the general debate.

“I would like to reiterate my country’s hope to see the international community, in particular the Nuclear Weapon States, commit themselves resoutely to a process aiming at the denuclearization of our planet and to the dismantling of nuclear arsenals…”

— Mourad Medelci, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Algeria

“We must abandon the illogical assertion that nuclear weapons are good for some to possess and bad for others.

“Millions of people around the world are reeling under the grinding and dehumanizing conditions of poverty and hunger. Sadly, on the other hand, billions of dollars are spent in weapons whose very purpose is to kill and maim indiscriminately in a massive scale.”

— Gyan Chandra Acharya, Ambassador of Nepal to the UN

  1. Michael Christ permalink
    May 5, 2010 2:47 pm

    The Non-Aligned Movement, which has long supported negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, represents 2/3 of the total membership of the United Nations. What is needed is for more European states to embrace the best opportunity the world may ever have to outlaw and abolish nuclear weapons under strict and effective controls. After Obama’s Prague speech, Europe has run out of excuses for not finding the courage to demand that negotiations begin to end this threat to human survival.

  2. May 5, 2010 10:04 am

    Great updates, John. What a frustration it must be to hear all the good words from a much larger slice of the international pie than ever before, but than see the best and most immediate working solution so collectively and purposefully ignored.

    I wish you and the team all the luck in the world pushing for greater adoption of the NWC. Its time has come. Let’s hope it does not pass.

    I can’t give much, but if a small contribution to IPPNW helps your efforts, count me in for a $100.

    *for full disclosure. The author of this comment may consult for IPPNW a little. 😉

  3. May 5, 2010 4:11 am

    Thanks for doing this blogging – I’ll be following it closely. I was really concerned about the RevCon, and was feeling a bit sick that there was clearly going to be no mention of it at all in the media (apart from Amy Goodman); so I was really glad to be alerted to this site.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: