May 2012 E-News

During the first two weeks of May, Reaching Critical Will was active at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) preparatory committee in Vienna. The RCW team—Ray, Beatrice, Gabriella, Mia, and Lily—produced the daily NPT News in Review, full of reports, analysis, art, and more, and maintained the RCW website with all primary documentation from the meeting. RCW also organized daily briefings between governmental and NGO representatives and facilitated NGO presentations to the meeting. Finally, we launched our two latest publications—Assuring destruction forever: nuclear weapon modernization around the world and the 2010 NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report.

See below and online for details about the NPT PrepCom, which gave a relatively smooth start to the new NPT review cycle.

Now we are back in our respective offices in New York and Geneva, where we covering the Conference on Disarmament and preparing for the upcoming arms trade treaty negotiations, among other things. This E-News contains information of some of our upcoming activities.

In peace,
Ray Acheson, RCW Project Director

In this edition:

NPT PrepCom concludes with warnings for disarmament

From 30 April to 11 May, states parties of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) met in Vienna, Austria for the first preparatory committee (PrepCom) of the 2015 review cycle. Reaching Critical Will actively contributed to the process, providing daily reporting and analysis of all official meetings and side events through the NPT News in Review; archiving all statements, documents, and reports; coordinating civil society presentations and other activities; and more.

The chair of the PrepCom, Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia, submitted a factual summary of the meeting as a working paper, which will be forwarded on to the 2015 Review Conference. This summary mostly reaffirms the 2010 NPT action plan, which still requires serious implementation efforts. However, it also carries some issues forward, highlighting new opportunities for advancing the agenda throughout this review cycle (see NPT News in Review No. 9).

The PrepCom itself, unfortunately, did not do much to advance the agenda. States parties neither conducted a thorough review of implementation-so-far of the 2010 action plan nor did they utilize all of the time at their disposal to begin exploring options for moving forward. Many governments and civil society experts expect that the next Review Conference will need to make significant advances on a range of critical NPT issues, especially nuclear disarmament, in order to sustain the credibility and integrity of the Treaty. With a few exceptions, this PrepCom did not begin to engage with this difficult task.

One particularly important initiative at this PrepCom, however, was the 16 country statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament, which calls on nuclear weapon states “to give increasing attention to their commitment to comply with international law and international humanitarian law.” The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are becoming increasingly important for giving impetus to their elimination, especially in a financial and environmental climate in which it is not only the use of nuclear weapons that has negative and lasting impacts on the safety and security of humanity and the planet, but also their continued possession and modernization.

Yet, while the majority of participating delegations demanded an end to modernization of nuclear weapons and called for their irreversible, verifiable, and transparent elimination, including through the full implementation of article VI of the NPT, there were signals emanating from some states during their concluding remarks that full implementation of article VI is in as much danger as ever. While most other delegations were thanking the Chair, his team, and the Secretariat for their excellent work in facilitating a remarkably smooth meeting, the Russian and Chinese delegations both warned that the unilateral (i.e. US) development of anti-ballistic missile programmes will effectively preclude multilateral nuclear disarmament. They called for the international community to focus on “creating the conditions” for nuclear disarmament by maintaining “strategic stability” and “undiminished security for all”.

Not only are these warnings concerning for the possibility of nuclear disarmament and for the future credibility of the NPT, but they stand in stark contrast to a world increasingly unified in its demand for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the call for “undiminished security for all” overlooks the fact that it is the current state of affairs—the continued possession, modernization, and potential use of nuclear weapons—that creates undiminished security for all, not their elimination. The idea is absurd that the retention of nuclear weapons and the continuous threat of their use through “deterrence” policies provide security to any state. No weapon that poses a threat to the survival of humanity can legitimately provide security. As the 16 states said at the beginning of the PrepCom, it is of great concern that “the threat of nuclear annihilation remains part of the 21st century international security environment.” They questioned the “utility of these instruments of mass destruction to confront traditional security challenges” and argued that they are “useless in addressing current challenges such as poverty, health, climate change, terrorism or transnational crime.”

Overcoming the counter-intuitive security paradigm of the nuclear weapon states will be necessary for achieving nuclear disarmament. And demanding their compliance with article VI throughout the 2015 review cycle will be necessary for ensuring the continued integrity of the NPT. Just as non-nuclear weapon states are expected to comply with their non-proliferation obligations regardless of external security circumstances, so too must the nuclear weapon states comply with their disarmament obligations. The most important—and only real—condition for a world free of nuclear weapons is nuclear disarmament.

On the final day of the meeting, states parties adopted a procedural report of their work. States parties also decided that the second PrepCom will be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 22 April–3 May 2013.

Nuclear Abolition Day: 2 June 2012

2 June 2012 marks Nuclear Abolition Day, a global day of action for the elimination and outlawing of nuclear weapons. Check out the website maintained by the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for suggested actions and great videos.

Ten seconds is all it takes.

ATT negotiating conference: information for NGOs

The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will meet at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City from 2–27 July 2012. The aide memoire for NGO participation is now available online. Accreditation for organizations has now closed. Mandatory online pre-registration for participants through accredited organizations closes 22 June 2012.

Please see the RCW website for more information about the ATT, including the following Reaching Critical Will materials and publications:

Upcoming Events

Conference on Disarmament 2012 Session: Part Two
14 May–29 June 2012 | Geneva, Switzerland

Nuclear Abolition Day
2 June 2012 | Global

Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence
11–17 June 2012 | Global

Arms Trade Treaty negotiating conference
2–27 July 2012 | New York City, USA

Featured News

Norway announces conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons
In late April, Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre announced that Norway will host a meeting in Oslo in 2013 on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Referring to the increasing momentum towards a ban on nuclear weapons, including the resolution “Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons” adopted at the Red Cross/Red Crescent's Council of Delegates meeting last November, Mr Støre announced to the Norwegian parliament that “a conference in Oslo to highlight different aspects of nuclear weapons as a humanitarian problem” is scheduled to take place next spring.

Recommended Reading

Nuclear Famine: A Billion People at Risk—Global Impacts of Limited Nuclear War on Agriculture, Food Supplies, and Human Nutrition, IPPNW and PSR

Richard Falk, “Nuclear Weapons are Not Instruments of Peace!,” Foreign Policy Journal, 11 April 2012.

Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash, “Restarting disarmament,” openDemocracy, 4 May 2012.

Tarak Barkawi, “The bomb, civilisation, and the human race,” Al Jazeera, 9 May 2012.