NPT PrepCom crashes in disarray Print
Justice News
Monday, 17 May 2004 10:35
The Third Session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2005 Review Conference of the Nonproliferation Treaty closed in disarray around 8 pm Friday May 7, 2004
*Confusion and Anger as NPT Meeting Closes in New York *

**The Third Session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2005 Review Conference of the NPT closed in disarray around 8 pm Friday May 7, 2004, with adoption of o­nly parts of its final report containing the most minimal agreements to enable the 2005 Review Conference to take place. States Parties were unable to take decisions o­n important issues such as the agenda and background documents, in large part because the US delegation was determined to oppose and minimise references to the consensus final document from the 2000 Review Conference, which had resulted in the ground-breaking 13-step plan of action o­n nuclear disarmament.  The United States, actively abetted by France and Britain, with the other nuclear weapon states happy to go along, wanted to rewrite the NPT's history by sidelining the 2000 Conference commitments, at which they had made an "unequivocal undertaking& to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals". A majority of other states, by contrast, wanted the 2005 Review Conference to build o­n both the groundbreaking agreements from 2000 and the decisions and resolutions from the 1995 Review and Extension Conference.

The meeting, chaired by Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadinigrat of Indonesia, was expected to be difficult, but was made more so by the ideological US obstruction to anything that mentioned the CTBT or the 2000 agreements.  The nonaligned states, frequently spearheaded by South Africa, a key player in both 1995 and 2000, refused to capitulate, though far too many of the western non nuclear weapon states appeared ready to roll belly up and settle for a lowest common denominator trade-off.  Most notably, as the meeting went through its motions, a significant number of parties showed preference for 'waiting out' the problem, in the hope that time, further consultations and, most importantly, more constructive political circumstances (which many associated with possible regime change in the United States in November), might make consensus more reachable before the 2005 Conference opens.

Throughout the meeting, there was much stating of positions, but little stomach for confrontation or compromise. After two weeks of lacklustre debates, with much repetition and very few new ideas, the last day of the meeting turned into a bad-tempered shambles that ended in near farce, with a series of confused decisions taken without interpretation, with the majority speaking English but two delegations insisting o­n French. The PrepCom even failed to abide by its own rules whereby, if discussions have been held in closed session, the meeting is opened to the public for formal decisions to be properly taken.

Along with the rest of civil society, the Acronym Institute was outside the room throughout the long day, gleaning information from a series of frustrated delegates as they wandered back and forth for cigarettes or coffee.  As debates went round and round in circles, messing up earlier agreements o­n access for nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), adding and subtracting words to slide just o­ne outstanding - but importantly context-establishing - paragraph o­n the agenda past the US blockage, it was clear that many delegates, including, some complained, the Chair, had lost the plot.  Their confusion about what they were doing even extended to the final decisions, as illustrated by contradictory reports of what occurred at the end.
President-Elect Ambassador Sergio Duarte of Brazil may have to wait some time before there is full clarity about what was decided and what he will have to do over the next year to create the conditions for the Review Conference to get to work in May 2005. Certainly, the PrepCom failed to agree any substantive recommendations and refused to annex the Chair's summary of the meeting, which will be issued merely as a chair's working paper, with no authority. The Chair's summary, issued late o­n Thursday evening, was - as with its predecessors - challenged by several states, including the United States and Iran. Canada was angry that the summary had failed to mention initiatives o­n strengthening the Treaty's enforcement mechanisms; there were complaints that text o­n nuclear energy and safeguards provided by the Vice Chairs had been ignored. Illustrating the difficulties of walking this Chair's tightrope, the summary provoked grumbles from some states that it too closely resembled the chair's summary issued by Ambassador Laszlo Molnar of Hungary the previous year, while others complained that it read like a NAM (non-aligned states) document, of which Indonesia is a prominent member.

As it turned out, however, the chair's summary was little more than a sideshow, paling into insignificance as states parties realised they were in danger of not being able to take the necessary decisions to enable the 2005 Conference to be held. After much to-ing and fro-ing it appears that the disputed parts of the report dealing with the more fundamental issues of agenda, background documents and subsidiary bodies will now be turned into a chair's working paper that will be forwarded together with the bare bones of a report that were agreed.

In view of the confusion and the lack of reliable documentation o­n the decisions, a more substantive analysis will be published by the Acronym Institute o­nce the decisions have been clarified and the statements and documents have been further analysed.

The NPT PrepCom opened at the United Nations in New York o­n April 26, 2004, and ran for two weeks.  The meeting was required to come up with recommendations for the 2005 Review Conference, but seemed just to go through the motions, managing o­nly to adopt a timetable of work at the end of the first week. o­n Friday, April 30, the decision was taken to enable NGO representatives to attend and receive statements and documents from the so-called 'cluster debates', o­n the non-tranfer and acquisition of nuclear technologies and nuclear disarmament, safeguards, and nuclear energy for non-military purposes. The objections to the timetable centred o­n whether there should be 'special time' allocated to the issues of security assurances (in accordance with which the nuclear weapon states commit not to use nuclear weapons to attack states without nuclear weapons) and the Middle East.

It was finally decided to fold the security assurances discussion into a session devoted to consideration of the practical pursuit of nuclear disarmament measures, and to include the Middle East question in a session o­n regional issues. For 'equity' among the three 'pillars' of the NPT, it was also decided to devote a session to 'the safety and security of peaceful nuclear programmes'.  Symptomatic of the lack of real progress at this PrepCom, it turned out that many statements to these special sessions merely repeated, with slightly more detail or argument, o­n points already given in general debates.

As anticipated (see my Disarmament Diplomacy 76 article o­n "The NPT in 2004: Testing the Limits"), the main focus of interventions from the United States has been noncompliance by North Korea and Iran and the need for stricter measures to deal with NPT parties who use the Article IV provision o­n nuclear energy to fulfil nuclear weapon ambitions. At the same time a large number of states, including many US allies, highlighted the importance of fulfilment of disarmament obligations - with emphasis o­n core agreements such as the CTBT - while also raising concerns about new developments in nuclear weapons or doctrines.  States lined up to support Additional Protocol, and suggestions were put forward for how to manage nuclear fuel cycle supply, restruct exports in sensitive technologies and materials and provide better institutional tools for states parties to strengthen the treaty's implementation.

The General debate heard interventions from: Mexico o­n behalf of the New Agenda Coalition; New Zealand; Ireland o­n behalf of the European Union; China; Britain; Algeria; Mexico; Malaysia o­n behalf of the Group of Non-Aligned States Parties; Australia; Peru; Indonesia; South Africa; Egypt; Bangladesh; Republic of (South) Korea; Switzerland; Japan; Syria; Venezuela; Canada; Belarus; Kazakhstan; Bahamas and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The General Debate continued o­n Tuesday and Wednesday with statements from France; Brazil; the Holy See; the United States (John Bolton); Norway; Iran; Russia; Viet Nam; Burma/Myanmar; Cuba; Ukraine; Morocco; Egypt o­n behalf of the Arab Group; Nepal; Chile; Argentina; Serbia and Montenegro; Mongolia; Saudi Arabia; Kyrgyzstan; Cuba; Nigeria and Ecuador.  As a result of the decision to open the cluster debates to NGOs, these statements are also obtainable from the website of

In o­ne three hour session, the PrepCom was addressed by thirteen civil society representatives, including the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Senator Patrik Vankrunkelsven from Belgium, the Mayor of Kiev, Olexandr Omelchenko, the Hon Bill Perkins, the Deputy Majority Leader o­n New York City Council and attended by a host of others. The full texts of the NGO statements, as well as a daily news review with summaries of the many civil society panels held during the first week, are also available from

The 2005 Review Conference will be held from May 2 to 28. A fuller analysis of the third PrepCom will be published in Disarmament Diplomacy 77, due out in June. ==================
Rebecca Johnson
Senior Advisor, Commission o­n Weapons of Mass Destruction <>
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Executive Director
The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
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Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2004 10:35