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Political Analysis of the 2005 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Monday, 04 July 2005 07:18

Political Analysis of the 2005 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.:
  The Seventh Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, failing to agree on any substantive item, showed the deep fissures in the international community on nuclear weapons. Despite an urgent appeal for action by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who painted a picture of a nuclear catastrophe in one of the great cities of the world, the delegates of 153 countries could not rise up above petty disputes over the Conference agenda and at times sank into acrimony.

"Deadly Deadlock", a political analysis of the 2005 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was written by Canadian Senator Emeritus Douglas Roche, O.C., Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative and former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament.

www.PEJ.org/documents/2005NPTpoliticalanalysisDouglasRoche.pdf
www.douglasroche.ca
www.middlepowers.org

Summary

The Seventh Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, failing to agree on any substantive item, showed the deep fissures in the international community on nuclear weapons. Despite an urgent appeal for action by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who painted a picture of a nuclear catastrophe in one of the great cities of the world, the delegates of 153 countries could not rise up above petty disputes over the Conference agenda and at times sank into acrimony.

The United States blocked any reference to the commitments made by the nuclear weapons States at the 1995 and 2000 Reviews. Iran blocked proposals to limit access to the nuclear fuel cycle by non-nuclear States. Egypt blocked a weak text on universalization of the NPT because of the Western States? failure to take action against Israel, which is not a party to the NPT and has unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. As a result of the failure to agree on anything, North Korea remained unpunished for leaving the Treaty and announcing its possession of nuclear weapons.

Fully 15 days of a 20-day conference were consumed by procedural battles, which became an abuse of democracy and left the majority the victim of an obstreperous minority who hijacked the Conference. Excessive devotion to consensus, in which a dissenting State exercises a virtual veto, derailed what would have been decisive steps forward had a vote been taken. Political will to isolate the U.S. on the one hand, or Iran on the other, was not strong enough to counter the constant subverting. The major developments of the Treaty, which occurred with the promises made in 1995 when the NPT was indefinitely extended and the "unequivocal undertaking" for total nuclear disarmament through a programme of 13 Practical Steps made in 2000 were reduced, literally, to an asterisk.

Not even the P-5 (the major nuclear weapons States, the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France and China) could agree among themselves and failed to issue their customary statement; Russia balked when the U.S. refused even to mention the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, of which it is the principal hold-out.

The New Agenda Coalition, carrying the hopes of many who remembered its sterling performance at the 2000 Review, was sundered because of diverging views within the Coalition on how vigorously to pursue nuclear disarmament and also because of the aggressive conduct of one of its members, Egypt. The European Union, now numbering 25 nations, replaced it in effectively putting forward a range of moderate positions.

Despite the disarray, the Review Conference was far from pointless. A strong majority of States wanted to move forward on strengthening the NPT, and many excellent proposals were made, not least Canada?s call for annual substantive meetings and a permanent NPT secretariat. Conference documents can be found at www.un.org/events/npt2005/

The dire condition of the NPT review process awakened a desire in a number of like-minded States to find a way around the procedural roadblocks. A paper, presented by seven NATO States, led by the Netherlands, calling for specific steps for nuclear disarmament, showed a growing disenchantment within NATO on Washington?s rigid nuclear policies. Provided they are now willing to rise above diplomatic frustration, it may be possible for like-minded States to start a fresh approach to examine the legal, political and technical requirements for negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons free world.

A new, forward-minded approach to implement the fullness of the Treaty would certainly be supported by civil society, which turned out in abundance. A march through Manhattan to Central Park on the eve of the Conference drew 40,000 persons. Nearly 2,000 NGOs were on hand at various stages of the Conference, the largest representation ever. Mayors for Peace, led by Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima sent a delegation of 100 Mayors and representatives of cities, and this movement is poised to take hold in cities around the world. The Women?s League for International Peace and Freedom, which maintains, through Reaching Critical Will, a highly informative website www.reachingcriticalwill.org/ produced a daily news journal. The 15 speeches given by NGOs at the one session they were allowed to address were filled with knowledge and passion, outshining the drab speeches of most delegates, who frequently appeared to be merely going through the motions.

Presidents and Prime Ministers must now become involved in pressing for nuclear disarmament to avert what the U.N. Secretary-General?s High-Level Panel said was a coming "cascade" of proliferation. At present, nuclear disarmament discussions are operating at too low a level in politics and diplomacy. With the exception of the Russian President, not a single national leader either showed up or sent a personal message.

A new round of meetings culminating in the next NPT Review Conference in 2010 now starts. The NPT, as it stands, is wounded. But it remains the fundamental pillar of the nuclear non-proliferation regime providing the legal basis for international verification of nuclear materials and the elimination of nuclear weapons. Whether it can withstand much more undermining will depend on those States that really believe in nuclear disarmament now acting. The approaching summit of the 60 th anniversary of the U.N. offers a new opportunity to the 170 world leaders who will attend. If they fail to act, Annan warned after the Conference ended, "their peoples will ask how, in today?s world, they could not find common ground in the cause of diminishing the existential threat of nuclear weapons."

Last Updated on Monday, 04 July 2005 07:18
 

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