11 May 2009, No. 6

A glance at the recommendations
Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will

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At the end of the morning meeting on Friday, 8 May, Ambassador Chidyausiku released his draft recommendations for the 2010 Review Conference (RevCon). The recommendations include specific proposals that identify concrete practical actions; stand a reasonable prospect of commanding consensus; address issues related to implementation of Treaty; and build upon earlier decisions such as those at 2000 and 1995. He emphasized that they are not a comprehensive summary of all proposals that have been made to the RevCon, nor do they preclude any other item states parties might want to address.

The document attempts to balance the three pillars of the Treaty. Section 2 focuses on disarmament. It calls for the RevCon to consider adopting an action plan “setting practical and achievable and specified goals, and measures leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons,” such as the CTBT, FMCT, verified reductions, greater transparency, reducing operational status, refraining from qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, etc. It specifically recommends the RevCon “[e]xamine, inter alia, ways and means to commence negotiations, in accordance with article VI, on a convention or framework of agreements to achieve global nuclear disarmament, and to engage non-parties to the Treaty.”

In this context, the Chair’s disarmament recommendations seek a small but definite step forward in the disarmament agenda, beset by a decade of deadlock. Its inclusion of a nuclear weapons convention would, if adopted, for the first time put on the horizon the means for eliminating nuclear weapons.The non-proliferation recommendations do not go as far as those on disarmament, though they do emphasize the importance of safeguards and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Meeting the call of many delegations to this PrepCom who seek to eliminate double standards and political discrimination, this section suggests the RevCon affirm that export controls should be “implemented in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner ... in conformity with articles I, II, III, and IV of the Treaty.” The non-proliferation section also addresses the issue of negative security assurances, where it recommends the RevCon look at ways “to achieve additional assurances that are legally-binding.”

While many governments are justifiably concerned about the emergence of a two-tiered international system, where global rules enforce the division between haves and have nots and where some “responsible” states are trusted with “sensitive” materials while others are not, the strengthening of non-proliferation norms is a worthy objective. In particular, improvements in the safeguards regime will certainly be vital in ensuring confidence in a nuclear weapon free world.

Section 4, on nuclear energy, calls on the RevCon to reaffirm article IV and to “[r]eiterate that restrictions on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy should not be applied for political purposes.” This rather extensive section addresses both the access and security aspects of nuclear energy. It tries to balance these two objectives in a way that supports multilateralization of the fuel cycle while ensuring that states’ decisions in this field, as long as they meet the obligations of the Treaty, do not jeopardize their access to nuclear material and equipment.

The contentious debate between rights and obligations related to article IV will undoubtedly continue, unfortunately distracting attention from dealing with the fact that continued promotion of nuclear power increases the difficulty of achieving or verifying a nuclear weapon free world.

Section 5c, on the Middle East resolution, recommends the RevCon “consider the proposal to call upon the nuclear-weapons States to convene a conference of all states of the Middle East region to address ways and means to implement the Resolution.” This call, along with the one made by Egypt and supported by Russia for the appointment of a special coordinator on the implementation of the resolution, seem to be gaining traction among delegations. However, the special coordinator is not mentioned in these recommendations.

As the indefinite extension of the Treaty in 1995 was bound to the Middle East resolution, the implementation of the goals set forth in the resolution may play a major role in the continued vitality of the NPT regime. As such, failing to adopt serious and practical steps toward this end could begin to jeopardize the objective of achieving a permanent peace in the Middle East through disarmament and diplomacy, rather through the politics of arms racing and antagonism.

Regarding Treaty withdrawal, the document simply recommends that the RevCon acknowledge states’ right to withdraw and consider modalities “under which States parties could collectively respond to notifications of withdrawal.” It does not deal with any specific proposal, such as those suggesting response by the UN Security Council.

In terms of strengthening the Treaty, section 7a recommends the RevCon view the decisions from 1995 and 2000 as “embodying principles, objectives, or means” to promote the Treaty’s universality. Section 1 also deals with this issue, urging the RevCon to “[d]eclare that the Treaty is an expression of fundamental principles of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation that are universal in scope.” This formulation emphasizes the relevance of customary international law, wherein even non-parties are legally bound by the Treaty’s provisions. It also recommends the RevCon call on all non-parties to “adhere” to the Treaty, rather than to call on them to join as non-nuclear weapon states (as urged by the majority of delegations at the PrepComs).

The rest of section 7 focuses on strengthening the review process, recommending that the RevCon consider “establishing a uniform, practical and cost-efficient reporting system for the implementation of the Treaty.” While it suggests the consideration of other proposals, it does not specifically mention Canada’s ideas of a standing bureau or annual meetings.

Though many continue to be cynical about the merits of institutional reform, implementing any of the thoughtful reforms suggested by Canada would almost certainly improve the quality of NPT meetings while providing governments with an additional incentive to take serious their obligations under the broader nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation framework.
Finally, section 8 calls on the RevCon to commend the contributions of civil society and to consider proposals for the enhanced participation of NGOs in the Treaty review process. It also encourages the RevCon to underscore the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation education.

Last Tuesday, several NGOs presented their own set of recommendations to the PrepCom. Many of the NGO recommendations regarding nuclear disarmament overlapped with those of the Chair. The NGOs pushed for farther reaching measures though, calling for governments to eliminate “nuclear deterrence” from their security strategies; to establish international controls on delivery systems and anti-missile systems; and to join the International Renewable Energy Agency. These and other recommendations can be found at www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

Michael Spies contributed analysis to this article.

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