Who is Afraid of Consensus?

Jayantha Dhanapala
August 29, 2016

Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala writes a new CNS Issue Brief in defense of consensus as an indispensable goal of the review process of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Ambassador Dhanapala wrote this brief as a response to the April 2016 Issue Brief by Robert Einhorn, a former high-ranking official with the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations, which suggested that NPT state parties abandon the pursuit of consensus in favor of a summary report that notes the various positions taken by NPT parties at the quinquennial review conferences.

Such a proposal, argues Ambassador Dhanapala, is “unhelpful” in its aim of strengthening the NPT review process: “NPT review conferences that restate differences among treaty parties without resolving them through the search for consensus would be acting contrary to the interests on global peace and security,” he writes. 

Rather than “circumscribe the review process”particularly the decision-making process agreed upon at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference (over which Ambassador Dhanapala presided as conference president)—Dhanapala argues that the treaty can be strengthened by focusing on three developments: the withering of Article VI (disarmament) commitments, the lack of “serious” efforts in the Middle East, and the “disastrous” consequences of “opportunistic” nuclear-weapon state behavior on the norm of nonproliferation.

Read the Issue Brief.

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