OEWG Observations

The Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) established late last year by the UNGA for ‘taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations’ recently concluded the second of its three 2016 sessions. Several aspects of its work warrant reflection as the dust settles.

By Tim Caughley

A feature of the most recent session of the OEWG was its refreshing inter-activity—at least, by comparison to the set-piece monologue of other forums in which nuclear disarmament is discussed such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC).

Challenges afoot for the NPT

With the next round of discussions of the open-ended working group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament imminent, it may seem premature to look ahead twelve months to the first preparatory meeting for the new review cycle of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). But a thoughtful article just published by Robert Einhorn, suggesting some improvements to NPT procedures, provides good cause to do so.

By Tim Caughley

Describing the current review process of the NPT as unsatisfactory, Einhorn writes that it ‘produces high drama and intense diplomatic activity, but rarely contributes to the strengthening of the NPT regime. All NPT parties are frustrated with it’. It is time, he believes, to try something new.

The not so open-ended working group?

When the UN General Assembly decided to establish another Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament last fall, it stressed the importance of inclusiveness and welcomed ‘the participation of all Member States’. But how inclusive is the OEWG really?

By Aasmund Skjetne & Torbjørn Graff Hugo

According to the Indian delegation to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the OEWG is not very inclusive at all. In their view, it ‘does not include all representative groups of states, in particular states whose interests are specially affected’. The fact that all the nuclear-armed states voluntarily decided to boycott the first session of the OEWG is apparently seen by New Delhi as a sign of exclusion. Moreover, India believes that ‘the OEWG, established outside the CD with an unclear mandate and with the GA Rules of Procedure, may not lead to an inclusive process or productive outcomes’.

Nuclear disarmament open-ended working group (1)

This blog and the following one contain comments made by UNIDIR (Tim Caughley) on introducing UNIDIR paper OEWG Brief No. 2 during the Open-ended Working Group meeting in Geneva on 22 February 2016.

By UNIDIR

I am not going to try to outline the features of OEWG Brief No. 2. Instead, and consistent with the Chair’s wish that the OEWG be as interactive as possible I will a try to identify [see next blog] what seem to me to be some pressure points deserving discussion in this forum. Before doing so, I have four general comments.

The year ahead

As a new year gets underway, this ‘state of play’ report comments briefly on multilateral nuclear disarmament developments in 2015 and sets the scene for discussions in 2016.  It also reflects on possible trends and outcomes. 

By Tim Caughley

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT): The five-yearly Review Conference in May 2015 ended after four weeks without any agreed result. The rate of progress on nuclear disarmament remains a hot issue in the NPT. A new five-year review cycle has begun, but its first meeting will not place until 2017. For the NPT, 2016 is thus a ‘gap’ year, leaving space for other forums such as the Open-ended Working Group (discussed below). Incidentally, the 2020 NPT Review Conference will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Treaty’s entry into force.

Another Gap

The parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) were unable to reach any agreement at their month-long 2015 Review Conference ostensibly because of Middle-East politics. The parties were also far apart on how to deal with nuclear disarmament.  In the Humanitarian Pledge, a new dynamic has emerged.

By Tim Caughley

‘The whole plan to have the non-nuclear-weapons powers accept responsibility for preventing the destruction of mankind by renouncing nuclear arms is in disarray’. So said Alva Myrdal (Swedish minister for disarmament during the NPT negotiations and former Nobel Peace Prize winner) in 1976. The recent five-year review of that treaty has done little to dispel that conclusion.