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NPT Preparatory Committee concludes

The first Preparatory Committee of the latest review cycle for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), held in Vienna the first two weeks of May, was a procedurally smooth affair but clearly showed the challenges ahead. With the nuclear-armed states parties moving ahead with modernisation and developments to their nuclear arsenals and little traction on any of the previously agreed commitments and obligations related to disarmament, it’s unclear how the Treaty’s membership can advance progress.

The one progressive action currently underway, the nuclear weapon ban treaty, is supported by the vast majority of the NPT’s states parties, but is still rejected by states that dangerously valorize nuclear weapons as tools of “security” and “stability”. Despite Russia’s urge for negotiating states to “do no harm” to the NPT, so far, the nuclear weapon ban treaty has not destroyed NPT or its review process. Given that this was the predominant concern of the nuclear-armed states and their nuclear-supportive allies in the lead-up to the first preparatory committee, it seems fair to assume that their other predictions and anxieties about the prohibition treaty may be equally unfounded.

The Chair of the PrepCom, Ambassador Henk Cor Van der Kwast of the Netherlands, received praise but also criticism for his factual summary, produced “on his own authority”. The summary, which has the status of a working paper rather than an agreed outcome of the meeting, was seen by most states as a valiant if flawed attempt to present a balanced view of perspectives aired during this meeting. Given the broad divergence of views on several issues—including the nuclear ban treaty, the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the Middle East, increasingly robust safeguards and non-proliferation obligations, etc.—it was clear from the outset that no one would be fully satisfied with the summary.

One positive development in the factual summary relates to increasing the participation of women in the work of the NPT. The summary reflects that states parties “emphasized the importance of promoting the equal, full and effective participation of both women and men in the process of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” It draws out research brought to the Preparatory Committee by Ireland showing that women’s participation in NPT meetings is lower than in other multilateral forums, and notes that states parties “were encouraged, in accordance with their commitments under United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, actively to support participation of female delegates in their own NPT delegations and through support for sponsorship programs.”

For more details about the work of the PrepCom, please check out our resources online, including our regular reports in the NPT News in Review!