Complying with Article VI of the NPT: Reports to the Review Conference

Tasneem Jamal

Sarah Estabrooks

The Ploughshares Monitor Summer 2005 Volume 26 Issue 2

The multilateral arms control and disarmament regime is, in essence, a set of good faith agreements between states. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), with 1891 states parties, is one such good faith instrument. Although it is widely considered the cornerstone of the nuclear arms control and disarmament framework, the NPT lacks firm timelines for its implementation, a permanent body to monitor and act on political developments, and sufficient verification measures to ensure compliance.

To counter its institutional weaknesses, efforts to enhance transparency and build the means to strengthen accountability for progress toward the Treaty’s implementation have been promoted by a number of states parties in recent Treaty Reviews. The 1995 Review and Extension Conference promoted a “Strengthened Review Process,” an initiative described by the Canadian Ambassador as “permanence with accountability.”

At the 2000 Review Conference (RevCon), states parties acknowledged that increased transparency is one measure to compensate for the Treaty’s institutional shortcomings. They agreed to submit regular reports outlining efforts to implement the disarmament requirements of the Treaty.2 The Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) were tasked with a special responsibility to enhance transparency of their nuclear weapons arsenals.3

The reporting mandate laid out in the Final Document of the 2000 Review Conference was put into practice over three Preparatory Committees (PrepComs) leading up to the 2005 Review Conference. Since the 2000 Review, 48 states parties have submitted a total of 102 reports on implementation of the disarmament obligation outlined in Article VI of the Treaty. This record provides the basis for an assessment of NPT reporting.4

At face value it appears that after three PrepComs and a RevCon the NPT has seen little progress toward the institutionalization of a reporting commitment. The record of reporting to date shows modest growth in terms of numbers of reports submitted, and only limited evidence of a commitment to submit reports at every available opportunity. The 2005 Review Conference saw a high of 35 submitted reports, and for the first time two of the nuclear weapon states, China and Russia, submitted reports as official conference documents. Seventy-five per cent of states listed in Annex 2 of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty as possessing a nuclear capability have submitted at least one report.


Table 1: The Record of NPT Reporting

Year     Number of reports
   by NWS
2002      11        0
2003      28      19      0
2004      28      8      0
2005      35(5)      9      2


Despite the slow growth in reporting activity, the quality of the submissions to date offers grounds to be optimistic that this transparency measure is gaining the support of states parties. Although the reporting mandate outlined in 2000 calls for reporting primarily on the disarmament obligation of Article VI, a growing number of states – led by Canada and New Zealand – are reporting on implementation of the entire Treaty. At the 2005 Review Conference China and Russia adopted this approach, with Russia providing an article-by-article report, and China reporting on the three ‘pillars’ of the Treaty: disarmament, non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The scope of these reports is consequently broader and suggests that all elements of Treaty implementation are ultimately related to the obligation to bring about nuclear disarmament.

Some states have suggested that the practice of reporting could become repetitive over time and offer little increased value to the stream of statements in a typical NPT meeting. Reporting in 2003 for the first time, South Africa commented on repetitive reporting, noting that “the Preparatory Committee should make every endeavour to ensure that this does not take place as a matter of rote. The Preparatory Committee should endeavour to ensure that a seemingly endless procession of largely repetitive prepared statements and reports does not lull us into a sense of complacency in which we would come to believe that all is well.”

In an apparent attempt to avoid repetition after reporting in 2002, in 2003 Germany explained in its opening statement: “We have at this time decided not to submit a national report, which would have repeated in essence our last years [sic] contribution.” In 2004, Belgium provided an extremely brief report, essentially an addendum endorsing the 2003 statement, adding only that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol entered info force for Belgium in 2004. As prominent members of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), and listed in Annex 2 of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as possessing a nuclear capability, Belgium and Germany could have at the very least reported on resolutions supported and contributions to various arms control bodies. The arms control and disarmament framework includes a wide range of activity at both the national and international levels upon which states parties can report to demonstrate deliberate effort to fulfill the Article VI obligation of nuclear disarmament, without becoming repetitive.

The reports submitted early in the Review process were highly rhetorical, expressing general concern and commenting on developments and trends. While useful in demonstrating submission to the reporting requirement and therefore general compliance, such statements did little to enhance accountability. This practice has changed over the four years of reporting, as increasingly states account for specific initiatives and activities that directly advance nuclear disarmament, such as:

  • Agreements reached and legislation passed, particularly pertaining to IAEA safeguards and CTBT ratification;
  • UN General Assembly votes and resolutions, diplomatic demarches and bilateral meetings, and work in the CD;
  • Specific disarmament initiatives including education programs, training sessions, and conferences held;
  • Programs related to nuclear facilities safety, materials disposal, and CTBT verification; and
  • Funding for cooperative non-proliferation and disarmament efforts, typically relating to Russian nuclear materials and facilities.

There is a discernable trend toward reports that are more factual, detailing actual events and actions taken, instead of relaying advocacy and argument. These activity-focused reports make a significant contribution to transparent accountability by demonstrating measurable progress toward nuclear disarmament. States parties to the NPT are mutually accountable for the implementation of the Treaty, and yet the Treaty provides limited means for assessing compliance. Transparency is essential for accountability, and reporting is one transparency measure that can provide a means for monitoring compliance. Reports can be an effective tool to assess compliance with Treaty obligations if they account for tangible and measurable progress toward its implementation. It is in the interests of all states parties to prepare substantive and detailed reports that demonstrate national compliance with the Treaty.

As states adopt this reporting approach, providing detailed, quality statements, the issue becomes one of quantity. With participation by more states parties, reporting can become a means to assess compliance, and in turn build confidence in the Treaty.

In principle, submitting to the reporting obligation provides states parties with a way to demonstrate their commitment to the Treaty and, by so doing, strengthen the sense of broad, mutual participation in its implementation. When reports provide detailed accounts of holdings, disarmament initiatives and policies, diplomatic actions, and declarations of compliance, they become a measuring stick by which to assess long-term progress. Collectively, such reports provide an assessment of the Treaty’s health and of movement toward its full implementation. And finally, as the quantity of reports increases and the quality of content included in the submissions becomes more focused and detailed, reports will help build overall confidence in the Treaty and in the commitment of states parties to its objectives.



  1. This figure includes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which has announced its withdrawal from NPT membership.
  2. The 2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document, Step 12: “Regular reports, within the framework of the strengthened review process for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, by all States parties on the implementation of article VI and paragraph 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on ‘Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament’, and recalling the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 8 July 1996.”
  3. The 2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document, Step 9.b: “Increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to the nuclear weapons capabilities and the implementation of agreements pursuant to Article VI and as a voluntary confidence-building measure to support further progress on nuclear disarmament.”
  4. The record of NPT states parties reporting has been assessed through official conference documentation, acquired during the NPT PrepCom process and through the online archives of Reaching Critical Will.
  5. Figures as of 8 June 2005. Because of the delay in translating official UN documents, it is still possible that additional reports will be submitted.


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