30 April 2007, No. 1

Now's the perfect time
Susi Snyder | Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

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Welcome to Vienna, the home of the International Atomic Energy Agency, located in a country whose Parliament voted unanimously to reject nuclear energy. Over four hundred governmental officials and three hundred NGO representatives have registered to participate in the first meeting of the eighth review cycle of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. We arrive shuffling stacks of new ideas, our suitcases full of visions for a better world,  to take this opportunity to strengthen our  collective security.

Ambassador Amano of Japan has been working hard to gain consensus on an agenda for this conference, and he is reportedly close to success. Although states parties will not be taking  substantive decisions at this meeting, they can start  by agreeing on an agenda, debating the pressing issues, presenting and discussing innovative working papers and developing strategies to deal with disagreements. Any state that uses procedure to block discussions at this meeting is delivering a clear signal to the world that it believes preventing such discussions is more important that the Treaty itself.

It is well known that the 2005 NPT Review Conference ended without any substantive outcome because a few states parties used procedural arguments to prevent discussions on critical issues, resulting in seventeen days of procedural delay. This Preparatory Committee comes at a time when multilateral disarmament diplomacy has moved past the repeated failures of 2005 and into the modest incremental successes of 2006, but is still in crisis mode.

Delegates to this PrepCom have an opportunity to continue the trend of positive outcomes exemplified in the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference, and in advances made in the Conference on Disarmament, which is inching closer to negotiating a Fissile Materials Treaty.

This first Preparatory Committee is supposed to be a place to discuss the most important issues of the review cycle, so states and NGOs focus on discussing ideas and circulating proposals. The Non Aligned Movement, chaired by Cuba, will be presenting more than a half dozen working papers. The NGO community has brought ample food for thought, including a launch today (1:30pm, Conference Room A) of Securing Our Survival, an updated case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Reaching Critical Will is launching an updated Model Nuclear Inventory, providing factual information on states' weapons and fissile materials holdings; and Nuclear Disorder, a civil society response to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Report will be distributed.  These inputs generated by NGO experts are intended to stimulate and nurture the discussions that will lead to action to fully implement the NPT and rid the world, once and for all, of these weapons of terror.

During this review cycle, there are opportunities for significant changes in global power structures and perceptions. It is not enough for states parties to repeat rhetoric while nuclear weapon states move towards qualitative improvements in their arsenals. NPT states parties must examine all aspects of this treaty, reflect on the achievements of the past, and recognize that now is the perfect time to make a path forward to a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

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