Growing Anxiety About the Crucial 2020 NPT Review Conference

By Santo D. Banerjee

Photo: Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. UN Photo/Milton Grant.Photo: Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. UN Photo/Milton Grant.

NEW YORK (IDN) – The survivors of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Mayors of the two Japanese cities whose inhabitants have experienced first-hand the mind boggling cruelty of nuclear weapons, representatives of other civil society organizations as well as the United Nations are increasingly concerned about the fate of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. [2019-10-27 | 20] JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | SPANISH

‘Nihon Hidankyo’ representing the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki handed over the “Appeal of the Hibakusha”, calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons, to Sacha Llorenti, the First Committee President of the ongoing 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, UNODA on October 11.

Assistant Secretary General, Toshiki Fujimori, of Nihon Hidankyo, ‘Japan Confederation of A-and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations’, submitted the appeal, a symbolic representation containing more than 10.5 million signatures.

The First Committee President Mr Llorenti, who is Bolivia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, expressed his gratitude for the effort Mr. Fujimori and Nihon Hidankyo had undertaken towards the gathering of support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Troubled by the outcome of the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), the Mayor of Hiroshima Kazumi Matsui and his Nagasaki counterpart Tomihisa Taue, president and vice president of the Mayors for Peace, issued on May 10, 2019 a Joint Appeal calling for finding a "common ground on the NPT" – Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – because the global interest embodied in the Treaty is in the national interests of all countries and all peoples worldwide.

"We view the NPT as one of the most important treaties of the post-World War II era. With a membership just short of the United Nations Charter, this treaty embodies a near-global consensus on the basic proposition that international peace and security would be strengthened in a world free from the existence or proliferation of nuclear weapons," said the appeal.

The objective of the landmark international treaty NPT is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

NPT represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. On May 11, 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely. A total of 191 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States; USA, Russia, China, Britain and France. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty’s significance.

Ahead of the 2020 Review Conference April-May at the UN headquarters in New York, the PrepCom has met three times: in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The third session was specifically mandated to make every effort to produce a consensus report containing recommendations to the Review Conference, taking into account the deliberations and results of its previous sessions.

"We have a lot of work to do, especially since next year is the 50th anniversary of the NPT," Malaysian Ambassador Syed Mohamad Hasrin Aidid, who chaired the preparatory committee sessions, told the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the sidelines of the PrepCom.

Dr Rebecca Johnson, founder of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy and author of ‘Unfinished Business’, told IDN, ”we need to bring into force the new UN Treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons use, production and deployment for everyone, and strengthen all aspects of the international security regimes that we need to protect humanity from nuclear and climate catastrophes that are looming over us."

Expectations for the outcome of this year’s NPT Preparatory Committee were low at best. Not surprisingly, given the nuclear powers’ reliance on their genocidal and omnicidal arsenals and pressures building for nuclear weapons proliferation, these expectations were not exceeded, said Dr. Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security, Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Peace & Economic Security Program, and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau.

He added: “With the U.S. and Russian withdrawals from the INF Treaty, the future of the New START Treaty in doubt, and each of the nuclear weapons states committed to spending massive fortunes to upgrade their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems, humanity is on the verge of an extremely dangerous unrestrained nuclear arms race.”

Also the UN is genuinely apprehensive about the 2020 NPT Review Conference. In opening remarks at James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and Mission of Malaysia NPT Diplomatic Workshop on October 18, UNODA chief Ms. Nakamitsu said: “We are faced with a dual dilemma when it comes to the NPT. Not only is time running short … but there is also little evidence that positions are converging. The goings on in the First Committee are testament to the fact that, indeed, quite the opposite is occurring.”

The First Committee deals with disarmament, global challenges and threats to peace that affect the international community and seeks out solutions to the challenges in the international security regime.

Common ground is in short supply at precisely the time when we need it most, she added. “A combination of deteriorating relationships between nuclear weapon states (NWS), dangerous rhetoric about the utility of nuclear weapons, modernization campaigns that are, in effect, a qualitative arms race and regional conflicts with nuclear dimensions have created a dangerous context in which the possible use of a nuclear weapons is all together greater than it has been since the darkest days of the Cold War.”

Now is, therefore, an opportune time to remind States parties that the NPT is common ground. From the core supporters of the TPNW to NWS and their allies alike, the NPT is recognized as an intrinsic element of our collective security and an instrument from which all States parties continue to derive significant value.

In the face of a troubling international environment, ensuring that the security and other benefits provided by the Treaty remain intact should be every States parties’ number one priority, particularly as the 2020 Review Conference – the fiftieth anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force – “presents both a symbolic and practical opportunity for States parties”.

She appealed to all Sates to avail of the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to the NPT and a world free of nuclear weapons; to demonstrate the implementation of all obligations undertaken to attain this goal; to strengthen non-proliferation measures against evolving challenges; and, also to return the world to a path that reduces nuclear dangers through practical steps in disarmament.

The UN’s concern about the 2020 NPT Review Conference derives from the fact that the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, ended without the adoption of a consensus substantive outcome.

After a successful 2010 Review Conference at which States parties agreed to a final document which included conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions, including the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, the 2015 outcome constitutes a setback for the strengthened review process.

The setback lies in the fact that the 2015 outcome does not ensure accountability with respect to activities under the three pillars of the Treaty – non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology – as part of the package in support of the indefinite extension of the Treaty in 1995.

Amid uncertainties looming over the forthcoming NPT appraisal and the debate over whether that Treaty and the TPNW are compatible or conflicting, the Nobel Peace laureate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is sanguine about its coming into force.

The TPNW was adopted by the UNGA on July 7, 2017 and opened for signature on September 20, 2017. It will enter into force 90 days after the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession has been deposited.

According to ICAN, before the end of September 2019 on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, 12 states took a significant step by signing or ratifying the UN Treaty, during a special High-Level Ceremony at the UN Headquarters in New York. Subsequently, the Treaty now has 79 signatories and 32 States Parties.

ICAN says, the Treaty is almost two-thirds of the way to its entry into force, and this momentum is expected to continue. “Several countries have confirmed to ICAN that their ratifications are imminent, and campaigners around the world will not stop until every country is on board.” [IDN-InDepthNews, 27 October 2019]

Photo: Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. UN Photo/Milton Grant

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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