NPT Roundtable Discussion Co-hosted by CNS and the Malaysian Mission to the UN

November 5, 2018

On October 25, 2018, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) joined the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations in co-hosting a roundtable discussion on the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (view agenda). The event, entitled “The 2019 NPT PrepCom: What Is to Be Done?” was held at the Malaysian Mission in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly First Committee. The roundtable afforded an opportunity for Ambassador Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob of Malaysia, the chair-designate of the next NPT preparatory committee meeting (PrepCom), to brief delegations on his preparations to date. It also enabled him to hear from NPT states parties regarding their objectives for the current NPT review cycle and the obstacles they foresee to achieving their goals. In addition, the meeting provided delegates a chance to hear from UN High Representative Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu about her office’s plans in the lead-up to the 2019 PrepCom and 2020 Review Conference.  While the meeting was conducted under Chatham House rules, Ms. Nakamitsu’s remarks are available in full online.

Roundtable event photo

The October roundtable is one in a series of diplomatic workshops and dinner salons CNS traditionally organizes each year to assist delegations in preparing for the next PrepCom or Review Conference. They seek to foster an informal exchange of views that goes beyond prepared, and often predictable, talking points. This year’s roundtable fulfilled this goal, providing considerable food for thought with respect not only to challenging issues likely to arise in 2019 but also to the receptivity of states parties to meeting past NPT obligations and assuming new ones. Both of these topics were the subject of extended discussion during a panel on “Major International Developments and Aspirations of States Parties.”

As the roundtable discussion made clear, it will be a daunting task to forge consensus with respect to perennial NPT challenges such as the implementation of Article VI and the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. Not only were the assembled diplomats and experts generally pessimistic that much common ground could be found on nuclear disarmament and regional security matters, some expressed reluctance even to engage in “bridge building exercises” that would appear to paper over very real differences in their national viewpoints. Perhaps most encouragingly, a number of representatives from a diverse set of political groupings were more receptive than one might have anticipated to a discussion at the next PrepCom of nuclear risk reduction measures, as well as consideration of the impact of disruptive technologies on strategic stability within the NPT context.

Roundtable event photo

While the roundtable did little to alter expectations about the difficult challenges awaiting Ambassador Shahrul Ikram Yaakob and NPT states parties at the 2019 NPT PrepCom, it provided a positive antidote to the acrimonious exchanges taking place at the First Committee. The roundtable exchanges at the Malaysian Mission were calm, courteous, and respectful—necessary, if not sufficient conditions for a successful 2019 NPT PrepCom outcome.

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