All that’s gold doesn’t glitter
The 2015 NPT Review Conference limps to a conclusion on Friday. What started as a welcome opportunity to bring the evidence from the three HINW conferences and the renamed Humanitarian Pledge into the NPT as a clear path to the fulfillment of the treaty’s nuclear disarmament goals is ending with a cynical rejection of this game-changing initiative by the nuclear-armed member states.
The divisions between the nuclear-armed states and their allies on the one hand, and the vast majority of member states who have emphasized the fundamental importance of the humanitarian impact movement and the Humanitarian Pledge on the other, appear to be irreconcilable. Successive drafts of an already weak outcome document, as it relates to Article VI and disarmament, have been weakened still further, to the point where even the perceived gains in the 2010 Action Plan have been diluted almost beyond recognition.
Reaching Critical Will has meticulously tracked the evisceration of the MC1 document line by line in its daily NPT newsletter, and I highly recommend the editorials by Ray Acheson for a better understanding of just how the nuclear-armed states have guaranteed that this Review Conference would fail and the resentment this has caused among the non-nuclear member states, whose voices have been essentially squelched.
As things stand, there will either be no outcome document or else an extremely weak one that says none of the things most NPT states wanted to say, and that endorses none of the things they wanted to do to hasten the day when nuclear weapons are banned and eliminated.
This failure—assuming it is a failure (spoiler alert: narrow assumption)—has to be placed at the doorsteps of the nuclear-armed NPT states. They and their nuclear-dependent allies are the ones who have refused to allow a consensus to emerge around the overwhelming majority view that the pace of nuclear disarmament is too slow, that a more effective framework and timelines are required, and that the evidence of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons must be the basis for prohibiting and eliminating them.
As Xanthe Hall wrote yesterday, all that glitters is not gold. By the same token, all that’s gold doesn’t necessarily glitter. There’s another way of looking at this Review Conference as anything but a failure. The states who have come together around the Humanitarian Pledge — 96 of them as of today — and the larger group of 159 that signed onto the Joint Humanitarian Statement are frustrated, angry, and appear prepared to advance the goals of the Pledge on their own. The nuclear-armed states have attempted to disenfranchise the large majority of nuclear-free states who are now committed to taking matters into their own capable hands. We need to respond quickly and persuasively at the end of this Review to ensure they start a new, more effective process without delay.
There should now be no question about one thing: the NPT, by itself, cannot deliver a world without nuclear weapons. ICAN’s campaign to ban and eliminate them—in concert with the states, international organizations, and civil society groups who no longer intend to be bullied and misled—can and will. The nuclear-armed states are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of morality, and the wrong side of the future. The ban treaty is coming, and then they will be indisputably on the wrong side of the law. And they have no one to blame but themselves.