5 May 2005, No. 4

Proving the pessimists wrong
Felicity Hill | WILPF

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Conference President Duarte concluded the third day of General Debate at the NPT with an announcement that he was unable at that stage to elaborate on negotiation developments, specifically on the formulation of the agenda. He hopes to make an announcement at the plenary at 10 a.m. on Thursday about how the Conference might proceed after the General Debate concludes. With 56 speakers down and 40 more to go, it is possible that at the current rate, the General Debate may conclude earlier than envisaged and the real work of the Conference will begin.

The statement made today by The Bahamas on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) recalled the optimism that emanated from the 2000 meeting, an optimism that has yet to make an appearance at this Review Conference thus far. However, at this very early stage, Austria was quite right to not just speak of the challenges to the NPT regime, but to also set a challenge to the States Parties in New York to prove the pessimists wrong about the potential for action on nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and a successful Review Conference.

Brazil asserted that there is no excuse for the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons or their development and acquisition, emphasizing that a balance must be struck between action on the disarmament obligations of the nuclear weapon states and the nonproliferation obligations of the NonNuclear Weapon States. Brazil stressed that “further strengthening of safeguards should be assessed in the light the wider disarmament and nonproliferation context.”

Saudi Arabia recalled a report tabled at a previous NPT PrepCom in Geneva on steps that should be taken to establish a nuclearweapon free zone in the Middle East (NPT/CONF.2005/PC.11/30), maintaining that Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is a major obstacle to peace in the region, as well as a threat to international peace and security.

Other statements delivered on day 3 included Bahrain, Greece, Hungary, Venezuela, The Holy See, Samoa on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, Guatemala, Chile, Syria, Qatar, Spain, Croatia, Moldova, Tunisia, Yemen, Belgium, and Myanmar, which are all available on the very useful website of the UN’s NPT website.

While statements are being read in the General Assembly Hall, NGOs divide their time between listening to governments and to experts and other officials attending the conference. Over 100 mayors have come to New York to monitor the proceedings, and today they held a lunchtime event in the General Assembly. The public gallery was full of NGO representatives and the press, while the conference floor, where the government representatives sit behind their country’s nameplates, was virtually empty. Mayor Itoh of Nagasaki held up a picture of his city on August 9 1945 and said that the majority of the world’s citizens, including 66% of US citizens surveyed, want the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and called on States to take action in the name of their own citizens to end the nuclear age.

The Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mayor Akiba and Mayor Itoh, presented more than 8 million signatures to President Duarte calling for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Yoko Ono, the artist survivor of the Tokyo fire bombings during World War II, closed her statement by saying that, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality. Imagine Peace”.

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