In May 2010 nearly 190 nations gathered at the United Nations for the eighth Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.
They unanimously adopted a final document, including an ambitious 64-point action plan that detailed steps for strengthening non-proliferation norms, reducing nuclear dangers and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons. Perhaps the most ambitious agenda ever produced by an NPT Review Conference, the plan still did not address some pressing challenges, such as the North Korea’s nuclear weapon capabilities and status. The plan also poses tough questions: which of the 64 steps should be given priority and how to undertake them?
To address this issue and help put the plan into action, the EastWest Institute and the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan held a High Level Consultation on “Prioritizing the NPT Action Plan” at the United Nations on September 9.
The event opened with remarks by Francis Finlay, EWI’s Chairman of the Board, and His Excellency Kairat Umarov, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Recognizing Kazakhstan’s precedent-setting elimination of nuclear arms in 1991, Finlay further identified Umarov as a “leader in nonproliferation and disarmament efforts.” (click here for remarks by Francis Finlay and Kairat Umarov)
Kairat Umarov and Francis Finlay
Umarov spoke on issues he called vital for the success of the next NPT Review Conference in 2015, three of which became focus points in the discussion, namely: the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by “influential states”; the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East; and the support of regulated, peaceful use of nuclear power.
The following panel of experts, all of whom were involved in the successfully concluded NPT Rev Con, included:
- His Excellency Libran N. Cabactulan, Ambassador E. and P. and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations (speech)
- Mr. Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations (speech, courtesy of the United Nations)
- His Excellency Ambassador Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary, Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) (speech)
- The Honorable Susan F. Burk, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, United States Department of State (speech)
- His Excellency Maged A. Abdelaziz, Ambassador E. and P. and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations
The panel members, moderated by Dr. W. Pal Sidhu, EWI’s Vice President of Programs, identified their “top three priorities” among the final document’s 64 point action plan. All panelists agreed that the 2010 final document was a “historical achievement” and had helped to “reset” the Treaty. However, there was also concern that if progress was not made following the reset it would seriously endanger the future of the Treaty.
Action 5, which calls for the nuclear-weapon States to “commit to accelerate concrete progress on the steps leading to nuclear disarmament,” emerged as the highest priority. Significantly, Action 5 asks states to report progress on specific tasks to a Preparatory Committee at 2014 – showing a commitment not only to accountability and transparency, but to the NPT’s ongoing process. In fact, prioritizing the continued health of the NPT – which once broken, as an audience member pointed out, would be impossible to reconstitute – became one of the afternoon’s few clear guiding ideas.
Similarly, while ratification of the CTBT by key states and its entry into force was considered a priority, there was also an appreciation that this could not be guaranteed in the near future.
Finally, the proposed 2012 Middle East conference to implement the 1995 NPT Rev Con resolution on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons was also identified as a high priority. The panelist discussed the significant challenges in this endeavor, particularly the constructive participation of Iran and Israel. The speakers also identified key actions which would be essential to ensure that the conference is held at all. One such was the requirement of the appointment of a high-profile facilitator who did not come from either the permanent member states of the UN Security Council or the middle and who would be equally acceptable to Iran, Israel or the Arab states. There was a consensus that to ensure a successful conference, the states involved will have to address the various challenges either formally or informally at the track 2 level.