The 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in
Given the 10 years of stalemate that followed the 2000 review conference, including the 2005 meeting, which failed to produce agreement on any substantive issue, this is both an unprecedented success and a glimmer of hope for the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime. Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), a group of 118 developing nations and the largest bloc of treaty members, called the timing of the conference a “historical juncture,” citing “stronger political will…aimed at the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”
The positive outcome stems in good part from the unique constructive exchange that developed between the governments and diplomats before and during the conference. In their closing statements, many delegations credited the success of the conference to an improved atmosphere among member states, created by the active promotion of disarmament and nonproliferation in the lead-up to the conference. U.S. President Barack Obama’s April 5, 2009, speech in
• the positive atmosphere achieved at the May 2009 NPT Preparatory Committee;
• the 15th
• the “G8 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and Peaceful Uses of Energy: A Contribution to the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” which the Group of Eight issued after its meeting in
• the well-timed nuclear security summit in
These events created the necessary positive momentum for the review conference. When the NPT parties convened in
The constructive nature of their statements and their willingness to seek common ground reflected this determination, as did the ability of the five nuclear-weapon states to reach agreement on a joint statement early in the conference. The strong leadership exhibited by the president of the conference and chairs of the Main Committees and subsidiary bodies, along with their wise use of committee work to push the agenda forward, helped to channel this goodwill and overcome obstacles posed by parties keen to protect their status or resist criticism. However, a great deal more was required to achieve success. The parties had to negotiate difficult understandings; the most notable example is the language in the final document on steps toward establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the
An Acceptable Compromise?
Participants in the conference witnessed and welcomed the emergence of new leadership, expressions of determination, and strong political will to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons, articulated by public figures, intellectuals, and civil society in nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states.
Although the issuance of a final document was a big improvement over the 2005 review conference, which did not produce one, it was the result of many compromises. The version of the document to which the parties ultimately agreed was a pale shadow of the plan of action presented by Egypt on behalf of the NAM countries on the total elimination of nuclear weapons and of the NAM’s comprehensive working paper on all three pillars of the treaty—nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy—and on the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, which called for a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in that region. Unfortunately, many of these proposals were watered down by key states during the negotiation process, which tended to move consensus toward the lowest common denominator. Negotiations on implementing the 1995 Middle East resolution on a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were particularly challenging as states-parties had to balance the differing levels of commitment and the depth of concern expressed over this issue, especially by states in that region. As some of the delegations remarked in their closing statements, these compromises, mainly between non-nuclear-weapon states and the nuclear-weapon states, were necessary to secure what was a relatively good outcome.
Failure Not an Option
Negotiations and consultations over the four weeks of the conference were inclusive and transparent. They covered a wide range of issues that were of crucial importance to the treaty’s credibility and effectiveness as well as to the security and aspirations of states-parties. We negotiated and agreed on three forward-looking action plans on nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation, and the inalienable right of all states to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. These plans further reaffirmed the critical importance of achieving the universality of the treaty and of putting into action an effective process to implement the 1995
In 1995 the treaty was extended indefinitely as part of a grand bargain. At that time, the nuclear-weapon states also repeated their resolve for total elimination of nuclear weapons by agreeing on a program of action that included some concrete steps toward disarmament. This program was fleshed out at the 2000 review conference in the form of 13 “practical steps” toward nuclear disarmament, which were vigorously pursued by the New Agenda Coalition. The coalition, which consists of
At the review conference, the
Thus, the resulting commitments made at this year’s conference were translated into an action plan on the three pillars, including proposed steps for implementing the 1995
The Significance of the 13 Steps
The 2010 action plan asks states, for the first time, to take specific actions in support of the three pillars. The wording of these points reflects the intent that they serve as benchmarks for measuring progress and an assurance that there will be accountability at future meetings. Transforming the lofty goals of the NPT debates into concrete benchmarks is a necessary step forward.
Much of the debate in May centered on how the 13 steps could be updated and pursued with a renewed commitment. Support by the United States and other nuclear-weapon states for the 13 steps was at its lowest ebb during the 2005 review conference, but the election of Obama has reversed this trend. By committing the
Those steps are by far the most comprehensive commitments that the nuclear-weapon states have ever made on nuclear disarmament. They form a clear road map for those countries to fulfill the provisions of Article VI of the NPT on measures relating “to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,” measures such as bilateral arms control between the United States and Russia, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the negotiation of a fissile material treaty, de-alerting of nuclear weapons, no-first-use commitments, negative security assurances by the nuclear-weapon states, irreversible disarmament, and an unequivocal commitment to work toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. These steps are essential, although not sufficient, for any conceivable and workable plan to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Moreover, they are part of the only universally agreed and politically declared action plan for nuclear disarmament within the framework of the NPT.
The most significant evidence for their relevance was the 2010 review conference itself, during which one of the key challenges was the nuclear-weapon states’ reaffirmation of the 13 steps. The refusal to make this reaffirmation in 2005 was deemed a critical reason for the failure of that meeting.
Timebound Nuclear Disarmament
One of the most significant outcomes of the 2010 review conference is the decision to focus on achieving “time bound disarmament,” agreed in principle and contained in a limited way in the final document. It requires the nuclear-weapon states to report to the 2014 NPT Preparatory Committee on their progress in achieving nuclear disarmament, a welcome addition to the 13 steps. The frustration among the non-nuclear-weapon states over the complacent attitude of the nuclear-weapon states toward implementation of disarmament measures was very evident in May. Many states expressed a skeptical view of the new disarmament momentum and said that the proposed measures were merely cosmetic. Credible commitment to disarmament requires that disarmament plans have time limits attached and that states are genuinely held to account for their record in concrete achievements.
The concept of nuclear deterrence, with its doctrines of continuous deployment and threatened use of nuclear weapons, also came under heavy criticism at the conference. Arguing that “it is high time that the lure of nuclear weapons is ended,” Indonesia’s foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, challenged such doctrines in his opening statement on behalf of the NAM and called for negotiations on a comprehensive multilateral treaty to ban nuclear weapons and provide for their elimination in accordance with an action plan with benchmarks and a time frame. Switzerland, which organized a side meeting with the Monterey Institute of International Studies to launch the findings of a new study on delegitimizing nuclear weapons, questioned whether any use of these weapons could ever be regarded as legitimate and called for the “humanitarian considerations” to be put at the heart of the nuclear debate, a point endorsed by others in later discussions. Brazil highlighted the enduring problem that nuclear weapons have “a more basic meaning, enhancing power and a sense of dominance” for their possessors, which constitutes “a serious obstacle to the democratization of international relations…[and] international peace and security.” Some 125 countries supported initiating a process leading to multilateral negotiations on a convention banning nuclear weapons, taking this concept from the margins to the mainstream.
Nonstrategic nuclear weapons were challenged from all sides. Following a brief mention by the European Union of the need for short-range armaments (variously described as tactical, prestrategic, or substrategic) to be reduced and eliminated, Germany led nine other countries (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden) in a call for increased transparency and the inclusion of nonstrategic nuclear weapons in the bilateral U.S.-Russian negotiations and in broader multilateral arms control and disarmament processes. In support of this proposal,
Implementing the 1995 Resolution
One of the dominant issues at the conference was the review of progress made in achieving a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the
• the prohibition of all weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, chemical, and biological—in all states in the Middle East;
• the provision of assurances by all states in the region toward the full implementation of this goal, in an equal and reciprocal manner to fulfill this end; and
• the establishment of proper verification measures and modalities to ensure the compliance of all states of the region without exception.
At the 2010 review conference, the NPT parties for the first time accepted the importance of a process leading to full implementation of the 1995 resolution, beyond simply wishing its conclusion. They endorsed concrete and substantive practical steps, including the convening of a conference in 2012 by the UN secretary-general and the co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution, in consultation with the states of the region, on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, to be attended by all states of the Middle East. A facilitator with a mandate to support implementation and assist in the convening of the 2012 conference will be appointed, and a host government will be designated. The facilitator will report to the 2015 NPT Review Conference and its preparatory committee meetings.
The goal of a nuclear-weapon-free zone or, more generally, a WMD-free zone in the
Nuclear-weapon-free zones in Latin America and the Caribbean (established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (Treaty of Bangkok), and Africa (Treaty of Pelindaba) have all progressed through similar stages as they have come into force. These can be summarized as:
1. prenegotiation phase (outlining principles and preferences that assist common understanding of the parameters the zone would take);
2. negotiation of a treaty text (targeted negotiations based on formulating a legally binding text);
3. setting agreed verification models and the role of the IAEA;
4. entry into force (signing and ratifying);
5. institution building and additional accessions; and
6. step-by-step implementation of all treaty commitments, maturity of the treaty and regime, normalization; entry into assumed “normal behavior.”
Up to now, the
Serious engagement in good faith by
Early steps toward denuclearization beyond the closure of Dimona would logically fall in either of two areas: dismantlement of facilities at Dimona or disclosure of information on stocks of special fissionable material and the placement of the facilities under IAEA comprehensive full-scope safeguards prior to destruction. It is still widely believed that Israel is operating the Dimona plutonium-production reactor and that it is possible that it is used also for tritium production. The reactor at Dimona, if it has not outlived its useful life, in theory could be modified for power production by linking it to the electricity generating system, with its fuel then safeguarded by the IAEA.
In this regard, the example of
The mention of
However, with the adoption of the documents, the
The next two years will have to be devoted to the success of the conference. It is a significant opportunity. Viewed strategically and handled carefully, it could advance the broader cause of peace and security in the region. The process of establishing a WMD-free zone in the
The agreement to hold the 2012 conference on the Middle East zone is important for achieving the universality of the NPT and for
At the conference, all states recognized how much they have at stake in a continuing and stronger NPT regime. It was this recognition, along with the compromises that found their way into the final document, that is perhaps the most fundamental success of the conference: the recognition of the broader common interest on which the NPT rests. A more genuine and candid conversation about nuclear disarmament between officials and experts from nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states is needed. There has not been such a conversation for a long time. All the opportunities that can exist to make this happen should be utilized. Representatives of civil society who can inject valuable information, insights, and perspectives, as well as provide bridges, should be invited to help build trust, better understanding, and open horizons.
The final document as approved by the conference represents the critical framework on which all states-parties to the treaty must vigorously build in the near future. It aims at the earliest possible realization for a world free from nuclear weapons, where policies of deterrence have no place and where the horrible threat posed by nuclear weapons to human lives on our planet no longer exists. There is obviously a particular responsibility here for the nuclear-weapon states. In this context, it is important to realize the objectives of the
1. full and prompt implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments by the nuclear-weapon states, aiming at the total elimination of nuclear weapons by 2025;
2. continued focused and dedicated efforts to achieve at the earliest possible time the universality of the treaty, recognizing that universality is a key requirement for the treaty’s effectiveness and the global realization of its objectives;
3. prompt commencement of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention as the route to realizing a world free from nuclear weapons by the year 2025;
4. commencement of negotiations on a legally binding instrument to provide non-nuclear-weapon states with global, unconditional security assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons;
5. reaffirmation of the inalienable right of non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to pursue their national choices in the area of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including their right for the nuclear fuel cycle, without undue restrictions that would contradict Article IV of the treaty; and
6. reaffirmation that voluntary arrangements and confidence-building measures undertaken by states-parties should not be seen as turning into legal obligations, as that would affect the balanced commitments and obligations of the states-parties in accordance with the treaty.
The NPT regime has done its best for 40 years to contain nuclear threats, but the message from the 2010 review conference is that dealing with nuclear weapons dangers in the 21st century will require establishing a truly universal approach. Above all, the NPT requires the inclusion of
The NPT is a potentially powerful instrument to reach help that end. At the 2010 review conference, after a long pause, the parties showed signs of using that potential. The 2010 conference therefore has laid the building blocks for a constructive engagement by all concerned parties to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the
Dr. Sameh Aboul-Enein is deputy ambassador of
1. Maged Abdelaziz, Statement on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement to the 2010 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, May 28, 2010, http://isis-online.org/uploads/conferences/documents/NAM_final_statement_28May2010.pdf (hereinafter Maged Abdelaziz statement).
2. 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Resolution on the
5. See, for example, International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” December 2009; George Perkovich and James M. Acton, eds., “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2009, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/abolishing_nuclear_weapons_debate.pdf.
6. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, Statement on behalf of the
8. Carol Naughton, “NPT Day 5: Nuclear Disarmament and Civil Society Presentations,” May 10, 2010, http://acronyminstitute.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/day-5/ (Ambassador Luiz Filipe de Macedo Soares of
21. Article IV.1 states: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.”
24. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by the President on a New Beginning,” June 4, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Cairo-University-6-04-09/.