NPT prospects: is the world looking for what it can’t get?

The final week of the five-yearly review meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has commenced. Its eventual conclusion will shape how much of the world sees what the regime is really for—to ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons, or seek to preserve them for a few. Either prospect has major implications for the NPT’s health, and the chances of a safer and more just world free of the threat of nuclear devastation.

By John Borrie

In our last post, Tim Caughley described the nature of the nuclear disarmament discourse halfway through the four-week NPT Review Conference underway at United Nations headquarters in New York. Subsequently, after almost a fortnight of largely set-piece national and group statements, there were signs that delegations were getting down to more interactive engagement.

Once more unto the breach

States need to reflect carefully on the impacts on the health of the NPT if current levels of dissatisfaction over the implementation of article VI are left to fester.

By Tim Caughley

The NPT Review Conference has moved into its final fortnight after two weeks devoted to set-piece national and group statements uttered largely as expressions of their formal, public position on key issues of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. That phase has given way to one in which flexibility on those matters is being teased out in more intensive, interactive sessions mainly closed to the public. The objectives of the chairs of those meetings are to broker compromise and deliver consensus—i.e., unobjectionable—outcomes.

A battle of narratives

After eight days of diplomatic manoeuvring at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, the expectation gap about the NPT’s ability to deliver nuclear disarmament shows no sign of decreasing.

By Magnus Løvold and John Borrie

In the months leading up to the 2015 Review Conference in New York, many observers believed that the chances for achieving a consensus outcome document were, on balance, slim. The last Review Conference in 2010 was widely seen as a success as States Parties, to the surprise of many, managed to overcome the crisis created by the failed Review Conference in 2005. In the NPT’s 2010 final outcome document, States Parties agreed upon a 64-point Action Plan containing a wide range of commitments across the NPT’s three pillars.

Fill the legal gap—the latest endorsement

Renewing the call for prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons

By Tim Caughley

The build-up to next month’s five-yearly review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) has already produced a number of headlines and statements of intent. From nations that do not possess nuclear weapons there has been a call to NPT state parties to ‘fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons’ (Austrian Pledge, 9 December 2014). The initiator of the call, Austria, has noted that while other categories of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are banned—chemical and biological weapons—nuclear arms are not. For their part, the five state parties to the treaty that still maintain nuclear arsenals (the NPT5) have said that they merely anticipate a ‘consensual, balanced outcome which would do much to enhance [their] continuing efforts to strengthen the NPT’ (NPT5 Joint Statement, 6 February 2015).

Talking to the hand

The criticism launched against the idea of a ban treaty has so far been lacking both evidence and logic.

By Kjølv Egeland

The Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna showcased the increasing diplomatic attention to the call for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. An obvious metric of this apparent traction for a ban treaty was the large number of states that supported the commencement of negotiations on a treaty whether the nuclear-armed states like it or not. Another was the more vocal and organised opposition to a ban treaty. The potency of an idea is often best measured by the reactions it provokes.

2015: An end to speculation?

2015 looks to be a decisive year, not least for the humanitarian initiative. But what else is on the horizon?

By Magnus Løvold

In January 2014, the stage had already been set for the humanitarian initiative. Preparations for the Nayarit conference were in their final stages, and rumours about a follow-up conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Vienna had been all but confirmed by the Austrian Government’s 2013 – 2018 Work Programme. States and organizations working to promote a humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament had a good idea of what 2014 would bring, and the remainder of the year was, according to one observer, “mere logistics and implementation”.