9 May 2014, Vol. 12, No. 10

Editorial: Open spaces
Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

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Reactions to the Chair’s draft recommendations to the 2015 NPT Review Conference foreshadowed challenges to come. The nuclear-armed states seem unwilling to accept anything more than a reprint of the 2010 outcome document, while the vast majority of states are increasingly unwilling to postpone action on disarmament. The recommendations will not be adopted by the PrepCom, which is just as well given their inadequacies. But the signal from this meeting is that states that want measurable and meaningful progress must be willing to take a stand in 2015.

France and the United Kingdom complained that the text “drifted away” from the language of the 2010 outcome document. Their refusal to accept recommendations that go beyond 2010 indicates serious trouble for the RevCon. The vast majority of countries cannot be expected simply to allow the action plan to roll over for another five years, especially given the failure of the nuclear-armed states to meet their obligations.

Reaching Critical Will’s NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report 2014 documents a 56% failure rate amongst nuclear-armed states in meeting their obligations. These five states have not been holding up their side of the bargain. They are preventing the effective implementation of the Treaty. Yet they seem to expect the 184 other states parties to accept a five-year extension of these exact same obligations. To what end? Are states more likely to undertake these actions in the next five years than they were in the last five? How will nuclear-armed states be held accountable for their failures in 2020 any more than they will be in 2015?

The Chair argued that if he had tabled recommendations simply containing the same language as 2010, states would not have taken it seriously. Yet this is apparently the only thing that the nuclear-armed states are willing to take seriously, which is probably why the draft recommendations do not go far beyond 2010.

Ambassador Golberg of Canada noted that most of the cluster 2 and 3 recommendations reflect only a verbatim reproduction of the 2010 action plan, without any attempt to seek greater implementation or stronger commitments. The Arab Group said the section on the Middle East did not meet even their minimum expectations—while on the other hand, the US delegation suggested that the language in the recommendations could prevent the Middle East conference from being held.

The disarmament recommendations contain only a few updated items that build upon 2010. The Non-Aligned Movement, New Agenda Coalition (NAC), Austria, and Brazil demanded that these be strengthened. Ambassador Kmentt of Austria argued that the recommendations must reflect the urgent need for progress, while the NAC emphasized the importance of the Review Conference mapping out further actions for nuclear disarmament.

Mounting frustration over the deadlocked approach to nuclear disarmament reflected in the draft recommendations demonstrates the need for the pursuit of actual effective measures. The possibilities set out in the NAC’s working paper on article VI provide a much more constructive basis for work at the 2015 Review Conference than the draft disarmament recommendations circulated on Wednesday. What is needed now is a forum to seriously discuss the options set out in the NAC paper. Since consensus could not be reached on the draft recommendations, the space for more ambitious proposals in 2015 is wide open. States parties must fill this space with bold commitments that advance the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

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