3 May 2010, No. 1

Challenges and choices at the 2010 Review Conference
Ray  Acheson | Reaching Critical Will

Complete PDF of this edition.

Government officials from the 189 countries that are party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are gathered at the United Nations to review the implementation of the world’s most widely adhered to multilateral disarmament agreement. They are joined by well over a thousand non-governmental representatives from 121 different organizations from around the world, primarily representing a range of peace and disarmament interests and constituents.

They are all are here because the NPT Review Conference is an opportunity for governments to make concrete and substantive progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It is a chance for governments to work together cooperatively in the interest of a shared humanity and planet. They also have an opportunity to work with civil society to ensure that the words of the Conference become reality.

There are plenty of obstacles on the path to a “successful” Review Conference—the definition of which varies widely from country to country and group to group. The 2005 Review Conference was a failure because of its inability to achieve and substantive outcome document and the acrimonious environment in which it conducted its work. After a year of rising expectation for disarmament, pressure is high this year for the Conference to conclude with a substantive outcome that sees meaningful commitments to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

The government officials mandated to negotiate an outcome for this Review Conference and the civil society representatives interested in holding them accountable are not the only ones paying attention. Corporate, academic, and political spheres of power within many countries each have economic, political, or social interests in the outcome. Following the money can offer an important illustration—with global military expenditure reaching USD 1.464 trillion in 2008 and nuclear-armed states spending billions on their nuclear programmes every year, the trend is toward increasing armament, not disarmament; toward perpetual war, not peace.

Yet most civil society organizations and governments attending this Conference argue that nuclear weapons do not provide security. Nuclear weapons cannot respond to the world’s converging crises of climate change, famine, drought, poverty, and infectious disease. Instead, the development, deployment, and proliferation of nuclear weapons increases global tensions, disparities, polarization, and environmental degradation. It also squanders the economic, political, and human resources that could otherwise be used to confront and solve the collective crises we face.

In order to save our planet from the direct and indirect consequences of nuclear weapons, most civil society voices will be continuing to encourage all governments at the NPT Review Conference to work towards negotiations of a nuclear weapons convention (NWC), which would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons—thus fulfilling the requirements of article VI of the NPT. A NWC would also close article V and fill in the gaps left in articles II and III.

Most government and non-governmental representatives will also be encouraging the cessation of investments in nuclear weapon programmes and of nuclear weapon research, development, testing, and component production, as a way to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons within and between countries. And they will be pushing for an end to nuclear “sharing” and nuclear “umbrella” arrangements that extend the shadow of these weapons over wide expanses of the globe.

The decisions taken at this Review Conference are directly relevant to building a more politically, economically, and socially just world in which the majority of the world’s people are empowered to live a healthy, dignified, and productive life. The Conference can thus demonstrate the true commitments of governments, whether it is to corporate and political elitism or to true collective security—to lucre or survival.

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