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8 May 2007, No. 6

The Substantive Issue


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It is past time for governments to get on with it. To set a positive example, we are publishing our preliminary substantive analysis of interesting working papers here*. Discussion is arranged by theme throughout the issue, and interspersed with articles. For those concerned about the status of procedural wrangling, please see NIR issue 5, “Today's Menu”, as those options and positions have largely remained the same. In the two five-minute-long sessions today, there was no agreement on the new South African proposal from Friday afternoon (see NIR issue 6, “Actively Waiting”). We hope governments are arriving this morning ready, willing, and able to do what we are doing now.

*We have only included analysis of working papers that have either been distributed by the secretariat or handed directly to us.

Nuclear Disarmament

To date, three working papers address nuclear disarmament in-depth: the New Agenda Coalition's working paper (NPT/ CONF.2010/ PC.I/WP.15), the Non-Aligned Movement's “Nuclear Disarmament” working paper (WP.8), and Japan's “comprehensive” working paper. The New Agenda Coalition, which brought us the 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament in 2000, also lays out the task for this review cycle: “to identify and address particular aspects on which incremental progress is necessary, and should be made, with a view to advancing towards the objective of a nuclear weapon free world.”

The NAC insists that transparency, verification and irreversibility be applied to all disarmament measures. Japan and the NAM call for irreversibility and increased transparency in nuclear weapons reductions and disarmament.

All three working papers recognize the importance of the 2000 Review Conference's disarmament measures, which the NAC says set out “the agreed process for systematic and progressive efforts towards nuclear disarmament.” Even though nuclear weapon states might not like the commitments they made in 2000, trying to ignore them undermines all future work to implement the Treaty’s disarmament and non-proliferation objectives. For if states cannot trust that the agreements they make today will be upheld tomorrow, then one wonders what we are all doing here. Japan calls for governments “to faithfully make progress in implementing” the 2000 disarmament measures, while the NAC calls their implementation “imperative.” The NAM reiterated its call for “a full implementation of the unequivocal undertaking given by the nuclear-weapon States at the 2000 Review Conference.” The NAM further specifies that this “should be demonstrated without delay through an accelerated process of negotiations and through the full implementation of the 13 practical steps to advance systematically and progressively towards a nuclear weapon free world as agreed to at the 2000 Review Conference.”

Japan and the NAC both call for the nuclear weapon states to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapon. The NAC says nuclear weapon states must “remove the launch-on-warning option from their security doctrines by agreeing on reciprocal steps to take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.” We agree that although this is no substitute for irreversible disarmament, it would certainly help us breathe a bit easier in the short term.

All three working papers also discuss nuclear doctrines and threshold for use. The NAC says states “must not adopt doctrines or systems that blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons, or lower the nuclear threshold.” Japan says “[t]he threshold for use of nuclear weapons must be kept as high as possible.” Japan also reaffirmed “the necessity of a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies”, while the NAM says that “lack of progress in diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies further undermine[s] disarmament commitments.” Nuclear doctrines are central to nuclear disarmament. Nuclear weapon states should implement the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission’s recommendation to begin planning for security without nuclear weapons.

The NAM and the NAC also criticize the development of new nuclear weapons. According to the NAC, “[s]tates should not develop new nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons with new military capabilities or for new missions, or the replacement or modernization of their nuclear-weapon systems.” All the nuclear weapon states are currently developing new nuclear weapons and/or systems, or modernizing current systems. Some are doing so faster and more comprehensively than others.

The NAC calls on the US and Russia “to show leadership in the nuclear disarmament process by extending START, upgrading SORT to include verification and negotiating further reductions including destruction of warheads and to include tactical nuclear weapons in future negotiations.” Japan encourages the US and Russia to “fully implement” SORT “and to undertake nuclear weapons reductions beyond those provided for by the Treaty.” The NAM notes that reductions in deployments cannot replace irreversible cuts and the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Japan also encourages the other nuclear weapon states to reduce their nuclear arsenals, without waiting for the US and Russia.

Costa Rica submitted a working paper containing a model nuclear weapons convention, discussed in another article. The NAC notes that “a nuclear weapon free world will ultimately require the underpinning of a universal and multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument or a framework encompassing mutually reinforcing sets of instruments.” The NAM reiterates its call for “[t]he negotiation of a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons with a specified time frame, including a nuclear weapons convention.”

Institution Building

Contrary to the seventh Review Cycle of the NPT, few working papers have been distributed thus far that relate to strengthening the institutional capacity for the NPT. Perhaps in the fifteen or so additional working papers that have been submitted but not yet distributed, these issues will be raised more significantly. In the papers that have been circulated, there have been a number of references to better reporting (as called for in Step 12 of the 13 Practical Steps agreed in the 2000 Final Document), the Conference on Disarmament, and significant institutional suggestions in the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention.

The Non Aligned Movement (NAM) paper on “procedural and other arrangements” (NPT/CONF.2010/ PC.I/WP.6) recommends that the current policies and intentions of the nuclear weapons states should be included in addition to the "specific and complete" reporting on issues and principles called for in the 13 steps. Japan's comprehensive working paper also calls for States parties to submit reports on their disarmament obligations that are "as detailed as possible". Egypt's working paper (WP.14) also suggests that states develop reporting mechanisms "in accordance with guidelines to be agreed between member states" that would allow "effective scrutiny of measures taken by each state to secure its full compliance with all treaty articles and steps taken by each to achieve treaty universality". Japan's comprehensive working paper also calls for more detailed reports by states parties.

The NAM also suggests that new institutions of the Treaty would further strengthen or enhance the review process, though they do not detail what these new institutions could or should be. It is possible that they are referring to the Canada's 2005 review cycle proposal on creating a standing body for the NPT (NPT/CONF.2005/PC.III/WP.1).

In the working paper submitted by Costa Rica on a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (WP.17), there are numerous references to building relevant and needed institutions during the process of agreeing to either a nuclear weapons or a framework convention, either in a single convention or a package of agreements. The MNWC envisages an agency, comprised of a Conference of States Parties, an Executive Council and a Technical Secretariat. The responsibilities would include verification, ensuring compliance, and decision-making. The working paper also includes suggestions on financing such an agency, as well as processes related to dispute settlement that incorporate the International Court of Justice.

As noted by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, the NPT has the weakest institutional capacity for implementation of all the disarmament treaties, even though it is the most important. Governments need to strengthen this capacity during this review cycle.

- The Reaching Critical Will Team

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