NGOs on Nukes: Day 3 of the NPT PrepCom

April 25, 2013

The second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) continued on Wednesday. The morning session was set aside for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to address the PrepCom, while the afternoon saw the continuation of general debate and the beginnings of discussions on Cluster 1 issues.

NGO Briefings

The morning session featured presentations from a number of civil society organizations. In the past, during the time allotted for NGOs to address the conference, interested representatives collaborated on presentations and statements to deliver to the plenary. This year, however, the PrepCom experimented with a new format, which included several main presentations and a moderated panel discussion. Ward Wilson, director of the Rethinking Nuclear Weapons project at BASIC, discussed what he views as several myths about nuclear deterrence and the value of nuclear weapons. This was followed by presentations from Mayors for Peace and from a hibakusha, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima. Ban All Nukes generation (BANg) and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation also delivered a statement on behalf of young people from around the world. The session concluded with the aforementioned panel discussion, featuring speakers from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Reaching Critical Will, Global Action to Prevent War, and Project Ploughshares. Delegates were invited to engage with the speakers and ask questions, but few did so.

General Debate

The afternoon session kicked off with a few final opening statements, delivered by Ghana, Namibia, Kuwait, Argentina, and Algeria, among other States Parties, as well as OPANAL. Perhaps the most remarkable statement of the afternoon was delivered by South Africa on behalf of 74 states, which focused on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear weapons. This is a significant increase from the 16 states who signed on to the statement on the same topic delivered by Switzerland at last year’s PrepCom, and indicates the growing popularity of this approach to disarmament issues among non-nuclear weapon states and the increased prominence of the issue in the wake of the conference held in Oslo.

Cluster Discussions

Immediately after the final opening statement was delivered, the PrepCom moved on to discussions of clustered issues, beginning with Cluster 1 issues, which primarily consist of implementation of those provisions of the Treaty pertaining to disarmament. The rules of procedure differ slightly during this portion of the Conference; delegations are not required to submit their statements in advance, and the Chair determines the speaking order based on who wishes to be recognized.

Several of the regional groups, including the NPDI, the NAC, the NAM, and the European Union, spoke first. All were somewhat critical of the lack of progress that has so far been made on disarmament, although some expressed this criticism more strongly than others. Speaking in its national capacity, Egypt commented that the P5 would need to establish a “time-bound phrased framework” (that is to say, a timeline) for nuclear disarmament by 2025, a deadline which they repeated several times. Iraq reiterated the importance of such a time-bound framework. France and the United Kingdom also spoke; their statements emphasized the disarmament initiatives they had already undertaken. France observed that it had cut its air-based nuclear force by a third since 2008 and noted that it was important for the P5 to agree on a “glossary” of common terms in order to report on disarmament. The United Kingdom emphasized its efforts to develop transparency in its nuclear policy through the initiative with Norway on disarmament verification and noted that it is working with Brazil to develop a disarmament-focused dialogue. Both P5 states noted that they are committed to the “step-by-step” approach to nuclear disarmament, with France arguing that “recent initiatives” (generally understood to mean the humanitarian approach to disarmament) undermine this step-by-step method and, by extension, the NPT itself.

Side Events

The side events on Wednesday included a discussion on civil society’s role in banning nuclear weapons, a particularly relevant topic for the day given the NGO presentations as well as the fact that the humanitarian initiative statement specifically mentioned civil society outreach as a key area for the future.

Additionally, U.S. Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller and Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Anatoly Antonov gave a presentation on the implementation of the New START treaty and its verification regime. The U.S. presentation is available online.

Finally, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs hosted a discussion on reducing alert rates of nuclear weapons, which featured delegates from several De-Alerting Coalition countries as well as NGO experts.

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