Looking Backward and Forward: Day 1 of the 2013 NPT PrepCom

Administrative Proceedings

The PrepCom meeting was opened by Ambassador Peter Woolcott (Australia), the Chair of last year’s meeting. Ambassador Woolcott asked the States Parties to elect Ambassador Cornel Feruta of Romania, who was selected by the Eastern European Group, as Chair of this year’s PrepCom. The election was uncontested.

Ms. Angela Kane, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, then addressed the Conference. She noted that the review process, which consists of Review Conferences held every five years as well as annual Preparatory Committee meetings, does not exist to reaffirm the status quo and is not an empty ritual. Rather, it is a diagnostic instrument to assess the treaty’s health and a means for making prescriptions. She noted that a key part of the process was for States Parties to fulfill their reporting requirements, and pointed out that the UNODA has created a repository page on its website to facilitate this reporting and serve as a database. Finally, she expressed her hope that the deliberations taking place over the next two weeks would create an environment that is conducive to the implementation of all States Parties’ commitments under the treaty. She hoped that the negotiations would signal the States Parties’ resolve to move away from nuclear weapons and would delegitimize not just their use but their existence.

Ambassador Feruta then took the opportunity to address the Conference as well. He noted that much of the work of the PrepCom had already been done in his meetings with States Parties during the weeks and months leading up to the Conference. In his view, there were three tasks to accomplish for a successful PrepCom: to diagnose challenges, which was done before the session started; to debate, which will occur over the next several days; and to deliver a product at the end of the session. He told the States Parties that he planned to listen to them, but that they also needed to listen to each other.

The Ambassador also noted that Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey will serve as the Chair-elect for the next PrepCom and that the 2015 Review Conference will take place in New York City from 27 April to 22 May.

General Debate

The general debate provides the opportunity for States Parties to make general statements regarding their overall views. These statements are available on the Reaching Critical Will website. (This year’s conference is notable in that it uses the UN’s Paper Smart system, which means that hard copies of documents are only printed on demand and that statements and other documents can be uploaded online much more quickly and officially.) Statements were made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the European Union, the Arab League, the Vienna Group of 10, and the New Agenda Coalition. There were also statements from 18 countries and from the IAEA.

It is sometimes difficult to identify common themes during the first day of general debate, as these opening statements are intended to be simply an overview and may not address all of the issues that are of critical concern to States Parties. However, it does appear that there will be some major points of contention. The current status of negotiations on a Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other WMDs in the Middle East is one such point; several statements blamed the convenors for the postponement of the 2012 Conference to begin these negotiations, arguing that they had dragged out the process unnecessarily. Other statements, however, disputed this perspective and noted that it would be necessary for all of the states in the region to work together for the Conference to take place in the future. This will evidently be a major area for discussion over the next two weeks. It is also clear that non-nuclear weapon states intend to push for greater progress on disarmament; there is little resistance from the NWS on this, although several of them did point out that all States Parties are responsible for disarmament and that “general and complete disarmament” is not limited to nuclear weapons. While a few states mentioned nuclear safety and security as areas where progress had been made or where more could be done, these do not seem to be such hot-button issues as they were in the 2012 PrepCom.

In short, there were few surprises during the opening day of the conference. General Debate will continue tomorrow, as more States Parties deliver their opening statements.

Comments Are Closed