Debbie Grisdale and Sarah Estabrooks
Report from the seventh NPT review conference.
In a three-hour session, attended by more government delegates than any meeting to date at this Review Conference it appeared, the NGOs presented 15 statements to wrap up the General Debate. Featuring speakers from Australia, Germany, Iran, Japan, Korea, the Marshall Islands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and United States, the presentations were prepared through a collective process among a larger community of NGOs, including Project Ploughshares and Physicians for Global Survival.
After an overview by Xanthe Hall of IPPNW, the presentations proceeded with a series of analytical assessments of challenges to the NPT including recommendations for the delegates, and statements representing “people’s voices.” Daniel Ellsberg represented Mordechai Vanunu in a statement about whistleblowers and Tony de Brum of the Marshall Islands spoke to the legacy of nuclear testing in the South Pacific. Satoru Konishi, a Hibakusha from Hiroshima , made a stirring appeal for nuclear abolition on behalf of the victims of nuclear weapons and recounted his horrifying experience as a victim of the atomic bomb. Helen Caldicott of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute spoke about the impact of nuclear energy on our environment and health, and Carol Naughton of BASIC called for an end to NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements. Western States Legal Foundation and Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy cooperated to prepare an extensive assessment of compliance with the three components of Article VI – cessation of an arms race, nuclear disarmament, and general and complete disarmament.
Project Ploughshares contributed to a statement about transparency and accountability in the NPT process, including the 2000 requirement for states parties to commit reports and the issue of NGO access to the Review Conference. The recommendations on NGO access were particularly relevant in light of the experience to date.
Wednesday morning saw intense negotiations over an agenda, still not approved as the General Debate was set to wrap. In adjourning the NGO session, however, President Duarte announced a meeting of the General Committee (an administrative committee) and immediately to follow, a short plenary meeting. Judging from the immediacy of the announcement, it appeared that a compromise has been reached in the agenda debate. Indeed, an agenda was approved, which avoids the procedural arguments with a footnote. Under the agenda item on the review of the work of the Treaty, an asterisk leads to a Presidential statement, which states: “It is understood that the review will be conducted in the light of the decisions and the resolutions of previous Conferences, and allow for discussion of any issue raised by States Parties.” All documents can be seen at: http://www.un.org/events/npt2005/documents.html
They’ve cut it down to the wire to approve an agenda and now have just over two weeks for substantive committee work. The division over agenda language does not bode particularly well for the working bodies, where major format and content issues remain – including the treatment of decisions made at the 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences, the number of focused ‘subsidiary bodies’ and the issues they will address, not to mention the disarmament/non-proliferation balance, Iran’s compliance, and North Korea’s status in the Treaty. Now that it’s time to work, it remains to be seen what can be accomplished.