Report and Assessment of the PrepComm Meeting for the 2005 NPT Review

Tasneem Jamal

Douglas Roche

The Ploughshares Monitor Summer 2002 Volume 23 Issue 2

An exercise in frustration, the first meeting [in April 2002] of the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 Review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) dashed the hopes raised at the 2000 Review for serious progress on nuclear disarmament. Not only did the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) step back from their “unequivocal undertaking” to negotiate the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, the PrepComm could not even agree on how implementation reports will be made. Extensive wrangling over a timetable for the PrepComm meetings signaled the deep divisions persisting in the international community on the future of nuclear weapons. With the United States openly admitting that its new approach consists of nuclear and non-nuclear offensive systems and stating that it “no longer supports” some of the 13 Practical Steps agreed to in 2000, the NPT has been severely wounded.


Following the Indefinite Extension of the NPT in 1995, annual Preparatory Committee meetings were established for each subsequent five-year review. The 2000 Review strengthened the process by providing continuity from one PrepComm to the next. The PrepComm was instructed to factually summarize the discussions at its first and second sessions and transmit it forward. Only at the third (and fourth, if held) sessions, would the PrepComm attempt to produce a consensus report containing recommendations to the 2005 Review Conference.

Each session of the PrepComm was instructed to consider principles, objectives. and ways to promote the full implementation of the Treaty as well as its universality. To this end, each session is to consider specific matters of substance, with particular reference to the Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Disarmament agreed to in 1995, including this central passage:

The determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapons States of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goals of eliminating those weapons, and by all States of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

The PrepComm was also instructed to take into account the Resolution on the Middle East adopted at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. This resolution, aimed at Israel, calls upon all states of the Middle East that have not yet done so, without exception, to accede to the NPT as soon as possible and to place their nuclear facilities under full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The PrepComm was further instructed to consider outcomes of Review Conferences, including developments affecting the operation and purpose of the Treaty. At the 2000 Review, a big step forward was taken through securing from the NWS “an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” This commitment was embodied in a program of 13 Practical Steps which all States Parties agreed to to manifest their systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI of the NPT.

The first session of the PrepComm met at the United Nations in New York, April 8-19, 2002 under the chairmanship of Ambassador Henrik Salander of Sweden; 137 States Parties (of the 187 total) attended. The second session will be held April 28-May 9, 2003 in Geneva (the Chairman will be Ambassador Laszlo Molnar of Hungary); the third April 26-May 7, 2004 in New York; the Seventh Review will be held May 2-27, 2005 in New York.

The New Agenda vs. NWS

While the PrepComm generally operated in a low-key atmosphere, the tension between the New Agenda countries (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden) and the Nuclear Weapons States (the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China) surfaced early. The NA, coordinated at this time by Egypt, held out for a timetable that would focus on reviewing progress made in the implementation of the 13 Practical Steps. The US in particular resisted such a concentrated approach. The dispute, revolving around whether actual “reports” would be considered, overflowed into the 1995 Middle East resolution, which itself was stepped up in the 2000 Final Document, which named Israel (as well as Iraq and North Korea). Egypt wanted a concentrated debate on the Middle East problem. In the end, the PrepComm agreed to a timetable that allowed, without particular concentration, a debate on all these topics. Chairman Salander inserted into the PrepComm Report this statement to ensure there would be no backsliding from 2000: “Nothing in the indicative timetable of which we have just taken note alters the status of the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference.” However, while the status of the Final Document is not in doubt, the continuing agreement to it by the NWS is.

The United States: nuclear offensive systems

The US tried to reassure the PrepComm that it is proceeding down the nuclear disarmament path. The US pointed to its dismantling of more than 13,000 nuclear weapons since 1988, and further reductions of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to a level between 1,800 and 2,200 warheads over the next decade. However, the US has stated that it “no longer supports” two of the 13 Practical Steps: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The pull-back from two of the 13 Steps is the tip of an iceberg now in the way of the nuclear disarmament course. The iceberg was revealed in US Ambassador Eric Javits’s comment, stemming from the US Nuclear Posture Review, which reemphasized the continuing importance of nuclear weapons. Whatever the precise political status of the Nuclear Posture Review, Ambassador Javits made plain US policy when he said:

The new US approach will consist of nuclear and non-nuclear offensive systems, active and passive defences, and a revitalized defence infrastructure. These elements are interrelated, but have one thread in common – a reduced reliance on nuclear weapons.

Reporting requirements: Canada’s efforts

The 2000 Final Document requested reports from countries “on the steps they have taken to promote the realization of the goals and objectives of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.”  (See below) While this reporting was agreed to in the 13 Practical Steps adopted in 2000, the scope, frequency, and format of reporting were not specified. Thus states brought different views to the PrepComm. The New Agenda countries wanted specific, detailed reports on the implementation of Article VI, while the Western NWS, led by the US, held out for only the most general “submissions”. Among the few states that submitted reports, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Poland, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Germany all used different formats.

Canada took a leading role in trying to advance some standardization. First, it submitted a working paper, suggesting reports on the implementation of the whole Treaty be submitted by each country to each PrepComm. Canada followed this up by submitting a report on the Treaty, article by article.

In an attempt to broker a compromise formula, Canada offered to hold, before the 2003 PrepComm, informal open-ended consultations in Geneva. Several Western States supported this proposal, although Switzerland noted that, so weak is the NPT implementation system, there are no funds and no services available for the holding of such important consultations. South Africa commented that the kind of consultations Canada was proposing went outside the NPT review process, another example of a process that is far from strengthened. The UK and France expressed skepticism about the exercise, and the US said that any attempt by states “to dictate the format and timing of reports is doomed to failure.”


To say that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is in crisis is an understatement.

Thirty-two years after the Treaty came into force, there are still 31,000 nuclear weapons in existence. The reductions in operationally deployed strategic weapons mask the fact that there are thousands of remaining nuclear weapons in various forms. They remain central to the military doctrines of the NWS. The US Nuclear Posture Review foresees a war-fighting role for nuclear weapons.

The promises made by the NWS at the 1995 Indefinite Extension of the NPT (“systematic and progressive efforts”) have been abandoned. The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, calling for the conclusion of negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, has been ignored. The “unequivocal undertaking” toward total elimination, given by the NWS at the NPT 2000 Review, has been pushed aside.

The entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime, is blocked. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has been abandoned. The development of a National Missile Defense (NMD) system is proceeding. Space weapons are on the horizon. The US Space Command has presented its 21st-century vision: “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment; integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.”

While the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the placing of nuclear weapons in space, has not been directly challenged, the intention to weaponize space, with a military system which integrates nuclear and non-nuclear offensive systems, augers ill for the NPT. Nuclear weapons are a declared component of US plans for full-spectrum dominance. The Nuclear Posture Review states:

Nuclear weapons play a critical role in the defense capabilities of the United States, its allies and friends. They provide credible military options to deter a wide range of threats, including WMD and large-scale conventional military force. These nuclear capabilities possess unique properties that give the United States options to hold at risk classes of targets [that are] important to achieve strategic and political objectives.

There is now abundant evidence that the US is proceeding in the NPT review process in bad faith, contrary to the “good faith” negotiations required by Article VI of the treaty. The morality, legality, and pragmatics of this situation require world attention. Yet little is being said. The US has even been able to reject the demands of the New Agenda countries, which have emerged in recent years as the strongest voice for nuclear disarmament. The NATO countries and associated States (e.g., Australia, Japan) are virtually silent at the wreckage of the arms control and disarmament agreements carefully built up over the past three decades.

Faced with a constantly modernized US nuclear arsenal and new high tech systems of which missile defences are only one part, existing nuclear weapons states are likely to retain their nuclear stocks. And more states, seeing that nuclear weapons are the currency of power, may follow India’s, Pakistan’s, and Israel’s recourse to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The danger of a nuclear catastrophe grows.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 did bring more change than was realized at the time. The resulting “war against terrorism” has catalyzed military machinery everywhere. Political momentum is escalating the preparation for, and involvement in, wars. Immediately after September 11, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said efforts to implement fully the relevant treaties to stop the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction should be “redoubled.” In the case of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is not multiplication of effort we are witnessing, but subtraction.

How can the NPT be saved from further erosion and eventual collapse? Under Secretary-General Dhanapala has put the answer squarely: “The disarmament community must … rekindle the public campaign for nuclear disarmament.”

A session devoted to the presentation of 14 statements by NGOs showed clearly the advanced sections of civil society are highly informed and strongly motivated. Their presentations put to shame the government speeches. But the obstacles to “rekindling” are enormous. The general media ignore the issue, the public is uninformed, and the foundations that funded nuclear disarmament work for the past several years are cutting back their interest and funding in this area. Even other elements of the civil society movements (e.g., development, environment, human rights) seem oblivious to the nuclear danger (and its impact on their own work); thus there is little amalgamation of the totality of civil society strength to make a dramatic effect on the NWS.

The “culture of war” mentality of governments does not, of course, paralyze those who continue to work valiantly for a “culture of peace.” Resistance to war and escalating military budgets is beginning to surface, and may gradually rise if there are no more terrorist attacks on the US or its allies.

The original rationale for strengthening middle-power governments to press the NWS to fulfill their commitments is now more apparent than ever. The NWS, including the US, are not impervious to the opinion of important governments. Even though these middle-power governments themselves are not feeling any heat from their electorates, they understand what is happening to the non-proliferation regime and several are, in fact, deeply concerned. The New Agenda statements have demonstrated this. Middle-power governments need to hear, at this challenging moment, from informed civil society leaders who have the ability to bring forward strong arguments for specific actions to save the NPT. Most importantly, these civil society groups can encourage and buttress the efforts of like-minded governments.

Such civil society action does not require (although it would be helped by) large amounts of money, media headlines, or street marches. But it does require immense will power and strategic planning.


Further information on the NPT reporting requirement

The Final Document of the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference called on all States parties to provide regular reports on the fulfillment of their obligations under the treaty. States were called to report on two specific issues: progress toward implementing Article VI by completing “effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”; and progress toward a Middle East nuclear weapons-free zone. However, this document did not offer any standard to which States parties should adhere or a specific process to follow.

In January 2002 the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) held a two-day roundtable in Ottawa to address the NPT reporting requirement. This event brought together experts, government officials, and representatives of the NGO community in advance of the April Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference. The purpose of the roundtable was to examine how States parties could fulfill the reporting requirement, and to provide concrete recommendations to the Government of Canada.

Participants discussed the scope, format, and content of the reports and the venue for their presentation. Several recommendations were made, but finally participants felt that the reporting framework should be designed in consultation with several states, to avoid imposing one design on all states or alienating those with nuclear weapons. Consultation with NGOs and consideration of reporting models for other international conventions were also recommended.

It was agreed that the reports must have real value in furthering the goals of the NPT, providing detailed and regular updates on progress towards its implementation. Participants suggested that Canada could play a leadership role in moving the issue forward by initiating debate at the PrepComm to begin discussions on format, structure, and content.

At the first Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2005 Review Conference, Canada was one of only ten States to submit reports on their efforts to implement the NPT. Among these, there was no consistency in format or content. Canada presented a working paper, taking into consideration the results of the January seminar, and led discussions on the reporting question.

Spread the Word