2 May 2005, No. 1
The world is watching
Susi Snyder & Rhianna Tyson | Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
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Today at the United Nations, highlevel officials from across the globe will open the seventh Review Conference of the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (NPT), widely regarded as one of the most crucial reviews in the Treaty’s 35yearlong history.
Close to 2,000 nongovernmental organizational (NGO) representatives have registered for this Conference, dwarfing the number of those who attended the past Preparatory Committee conferences and even the 2000 Review Conference. These organizations are truly representative of civil society, comprising women, youth, hibakusha (atomic survivors), mayors, educators, physicians, indigenous people, grassroots organizers, nuclear lab watchers, think tank analysts, national lobbyists and any other group fearful of the wrath wrought by the nuclear age. They have come in droves to be the living proof that the world wants complete, irreversible, verifiable nuclear disarmament. Civil society attention to the efforts undertaken at this Review is tremendous, both in New York and around the world. Those not able to come to New York are closely watching to see what happens will there be a balanced outcome document, or will this Review Conference dissipate into an ineffective talk shop, paralyzed with inaction like so much of the international disarmament machinery?
Undoubtedly, “compliance” will be the most oftheard word in the halls of the UN this year. It is understood that the US is likely to turn every discussion into one on Iran’s and other NonNuclear Weapon States’ (NNWS) compliance with the nonproliferation obligations, spelled out in Article II of the Treaty. Meanwhile, NNWS, impatient with the lack of progress on the disarmament front, will vigilantly highlight the need for Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) to comply with their disarmament obligations, articulated in Article VI. If a Final Document is to be reached, all States parties, led by the very capable President of the Review Conference, Ambassador Sergio Q. Duarte of Brazil, must strike a balance between these core issues under the NPT.
Throughout these next four weeks, States parties will be examining ways to strengthen the Treaty, hopefully in all its aspects. The 2002 withdrawal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea marred the world’s faith in the Treaty’s efficacy, leaving wounds which have engendered many substantive discussions on the issue of withdrawal and ways to prevent or ameliorate possible future withdrawals. Among the proposals to strengthen Article X include a GermanFrench proposal which requires countries that withdraw from the NPT to return nuclear technology that was given to them under Article IV of the Treaty.
Other pertinent issues also warrant substantive focused discussions, including negative security assurances, the Middle East, verification, nuclear testing, universality and the nuclear fuel cycle. The Conference will have the opportunity to debate the various proposals put forth by governments, nongovernmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations, which tackle each of these issues as a way to strengthen the Treaty as a whole.
Then of course, there is the issue of the 13 Practical Steps, a unanimously agreed upon plan of action adopted at the 2000 Review Conference. Some, including the US and France, are insisting that this consensusbased agreement is no longer relevant and should not be regarded as a road map to a nuclear weaponfree world, as many hoped it would be. Yet the majority of the world’s governments, empowered with the full support of the NGOs, refuse to let this hardwon agreement be cast aside by the States which continue to revere these genocidal, ecocidal and suicidal weapons as vital to their national security.
As of yet, however, no agreement has been reached on an agenda. Lack of consensus on this primary procedural task may negatively affect the amount of time paid to these critical issues.
However, if the people of the world have any say in the matter as is our right the Review Conference will fulfill the mandate conferred upon it by the Strengthened Review Process; it will look back at the past five years, assess the efficacy of the Treaty, and seek ways to turn this thirtyfiveyear old agreement into a true vehicle for freeing our world, forevermore, from the plague of nuclear weapons.