The Challenge of Moving Fast toward a Nuke-Free World


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN

By Ernest Corea

IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

WASHINGTON DC (IDN) – Gloom-and-doom headlines in the waning days of the 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) caused many observers to assume that negotiations would collapse in deadlock, but the Final Declaration of the conference was adopted without dissent. Consensus on potentially contentious issues was a significant milestone on the path toward nuclear disarmament. [P] ARABIC PDF TEXT | JAPANESE PDF | TEXT VERSION

A NPT review conference is held every five years and the previous conference ended in deadlock. At the time, many delegates blamed the collapse of the conference on the previous U.S. administration.


“The NPT could not have suffered another failed review conference after 2005 and it is a tribute to the 172 states parties present (out of a total of 190) that they agreed on a document strengthening all three pillars of the treaty – nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” said Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala, president of the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs and formerly president of the 1995 NPT review and extension conference.




Dhanapala added that “the newly adopted separation of the Final Declaration into a Review section which was ‘noted’ and a Conclusion and Recommendations part – including a 64-point Action Plan – which was adopted by consensus, augurs well for the future.”


The encouraging outcome of the conference, he said, “is a result of new political leadership in the world and a strong current of global public opinion channeled by civil society organisations. This synergy must grow despite obstacles that may arise so that the goal of a nuclear weapon free world is reached sooner rather than later.”


In Dhanapala’s assessment – an assessment shared by several delegates and observers – “the most significant achievement” of the conference “was the agreement on implementing the 1995 resolution on the Middle East – 15 years later – for which the Pugwash Conference had worked hard, convening a specially focused side event during the conference and lobbying many governments on this.


“The convening of a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and the appointment of a facilitator to consult and prepare the conference with responsibilities after the conference are major steps forward.


The acknowledgement in the document of ‘the important role played by civil society in contributing to the implementation of the resolution’ is an encouragement to Pugwash to continue its efforts.”




Dhanapala, who is a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, pointed out that “while an optimum result on nuclear disarmament was diluted by resistance from nuclear weapon states the action plan is, by common consent, an advance over the 2000 Review Conference document.


“All state parties are committed to pursue irreversible, verifiable and transparent policies with the objectives of achieving a world without nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon states will implement their unequivocal undertaking to eliminate their nuclear weapons totally.


“The conference noted the UN Secretary-General’s Five-Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament, which includes negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention while the nuclear weapon states committed themselves to accelerate nuclear disarmament engaging promptly on a number of specific issues.”




In agreement on other key issues:


- the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was reaffirmed and the conference recognised that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons;


- Russia and the U.S. were encouraged to implement the nuclear weapons reduction treaty they signed earlier this year;


- all states were reminded of the need to prevent nuclear proliferation, and “to detect, deter and disrupt trafficking.”


- states which have not yet signed a number of existing agreements that serve as a deterrent against trafficking that includes nuclear terrorism were urged to sign such agreements;


- the importance of Israel joining the NPT regime and placing all its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards was reaffirmed.


- NPT member states were reminded of the obligation to resolve all unresolved issues in their dealing with the IAEA.




The eighth NPT review conference has ended and in whatever way the clean sheet of success might get ruffled in the future, there is no doubt that the outcome of the meeting was, as Dhanapala has pointed out, a tribute to the current political leadership.


Conference President Ambassador Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) worked indefatigably to craft reasonably robust documents on which consensus could be reached, without the sacrifice of guiding principles.


Also hard at work was the current leader of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at the UN, Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz who provided his NAM colleagues with enlightened leadership.


Perhaps the strongest influence, however, was that of a leader who was not even present: President Barack Obama. His groundbreaking speech in Prague over a year ago when he shared with his audience a vision of a nuclear weapons free world has created a trend of public opinion that continues to influence public policy at international gatherings.


This might not last long. Indeed, in nut country there is already a backlash developing. Speed is vital, therefore, in following up the good intentions expressed at what was certainly a positive, even historic, meeting in New York. (IDN-InDepthNews/29.05.2010)


Copyright © 2010 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters


The writer has served as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and the USA. He was Chairman of the Commonwealth Select Committee on the media and development, Editor of the Ceylon ‘Daily News’ and the Ceylon ‘Observer’, and was for a time Features Editor and Foreign Affairs columnist of the Singapore ‘Straits Times’. He is on the IDN editorial board.


Ernest Corea’s previous IDN articles since April 2010:

Supporting Developing Countries to Green Their Industries
Dignified Debate for Judging a Judge
Botched Bomb Attempt Raises Many Questions
Arizona Opens Doors Wide to Racial Profiling
Seeking Global Governance That Inspires and Unites
Challenges Ahead for Security after the Nuke Summit
False Patriotism Jeopardizes Democracy in America
Obama Delivers ‘Waterloo’ to Health Reform Opponents