28 April 2014, Vol. 12, No. 1

Roll forward, not over
Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

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2014 is a year of reckoning for the NPT. Back in 2010, states parties unanimously agreed that in 2014 they would review progress in implementing the Action Plan. But with billion-dollar nuclear weapon modernisation plans in the works, indications that the nuclear-armed five have only been working on a glossary of terminologies rather than what they actually signed up to do, and the continued failure to hold a conference on establishing a weapon of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East, the review of implementation does not look promising.


Fortunately, states parties also agreed that in 2014 they would determine next steps to fully implement article VI in order to achieve an end to the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament. It is upon this commitment to forward progress that all concerned states parties must seize.

Some states parties have apparently started to whisper that the Action Plan should be seen as a long-term roadmap. But most still see it for what it was back in 2010—a short-term plan that was intended to move states parties closer to full implementation of all Treaty provisions over the next five years. Failure to implement past commitments does not justify their indefinite extension. Instead, it should serve as a catalyst for developing new approaches and initiatives to achieve the NPT’s objectives once and for all. Indeed, the 2010 outcome document affirmed that all states “need to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.”

It is crucial that states parties use the 2014 Preparatory Committee to look to the future. They will need to ask serious questions, such as:

  • Have NPT nuclear-armed states violated their unequivocal undertaking to achieve the elimination of their nuclear arsenals because their continued reliance on and investment in nuclear weapons?
  • What are the implications of their refusal to participate in discussions on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons or in multilateral initiatives on nuclear disarmament?
  • What best constitutes effective measures for nuclear disarmament?
  • Can we continue along with steps that for 65 years have failed to achieve the objectives set forth by the NPT?
  • Can the majority of states that have rejected nuclear weapons through nuclear weapon free zone treaties or national policy undertake such effective measures even if the nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent countries try to prevent it?

A key undertaking at this Preparatory Committee is for all states to resume responsibility for implementing article VI. They must clearly signal their intent and resolve to carry forward nuclear disarmament even without agreement from all NPT states parties, following in particular from the conclusions of the Oslo and Nayarit conferences. They should also submit concrete recommendations to the 2015 Review Conference containing additional initiatives and efforts to implement the Treaty and should not simply accept an extension of the 2010 Action Plan as a basis for further work.

Ridding the world of nuclear weapons will take courage. It will take leadership by states free of nuclear weapons. At a time when the nuclear-armed states continue to demonstrate their lack of commitment to pursuing tangible, good faith nuclear disarmament, as international tensions rise, and nuclear weapons lurk in the background behind the use of military force, prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons is an urgent necessity. But doing so is achievable, feasible, and practical.

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