By Daryl G. Kimball
Days before the Jan. 4 start of the 10th review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), states-parties postponed the meeting yet again due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. They acted by consensus after officials from the United Nations said the world body could not safely support what was supposed to be a month-long, in-person event.
In a Dec. 30 letter to the states-parties, the president-designate of the conference, Gustavo Zlauvinen, said he will ask the UN Secretariat to place a tentative hold on the dates of Aug. 1–26 for the rescheduled meeting, assuming the pandemic abates. “A formal decision on the dates will need to be taken at a later time, but not later than 3 months before the opening of the review conference,” he wrote.
Repeated COVID-related delays are preventing the states-parties from a pivotal opportunity to address a growing array of nuclear dangers.
In an opinion essay published on Dec. 25, UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote that “the existential threat that cast a shadow over the first half of my life no longer receives the attention it should. Nuclear weapons have faded from headlines and Hollywood scripts. But the danger they pose remains as high as ever and is growing by the year.”
“What happens in the NPT negotiating rooms in January matters to everyone—because any use of nuclear weapons will affect everyone,” Guterres said. “I hope people everywhere will push governments to step back from the abyss and create a safer, more secure world for all: a world free of nuclear weapons.”