The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Preparations for the 2010 Review Conference

Tasneem Jamal

Ernie Regehr

The Ploughshares Monitor Summer 2008 Volume 29 Issue 2

There is widespread agreement on at least one point regarding the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): its outcome will have a major impact on the long-term effectiveness of the Treaty. While similar sentiments have been expressed about other disarmament conferences that subsequently failed, this time there is a growing sense of foreboding that the current global nuclear deadlock cannot long continue without catastrophic consequences.

From April 28 to May 9 States Parties to the Treaty met in Geneva as a Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to try to ensure a positive result in 2010.1 The meetings generated elements of agreement and convergence, according to two close observers, Ray Acheson of Reaching Critical Will and Michael Spies of Arms Control Reporter.2 They identify six items on which there are prospects for agreement. (It is important to remember that, in 2010, the United States will be under a new Administration and Iran may also have a different President.)

1. Revitalizing the practical steps to nuclear disarmament

The 2000 NPT Review Conference agreed on 13 “practical steps” toward disarmament. Since then some states have rejected them, but at the 2008 PrepCom most states agreed that they still constitute a clear road map for the implementation of Article VI, the Treaty’s disarmament article. A number of working papers built on the 13 steps as the most effective means toward genuine disarmament progress.

2. Increasing transparency through reporting

Step 12 of the 13 steps calls for regular reporting by states on progress made in implementing Article VI. Ploughshares’ report Transparency and accountability, which was distributed at the PrepCom, sets out details of reporting to date and proposes a move toward agreed reporting standards in the future. Although reporting levels are still modest, observers note that there continue to be calls for the transparency, accountability, and confidence-building that reporting encourages. Acheson and Spies propose that at the next PrepCom efforts be made toward developing a legally binding mechanism for reporting.

3. Implementing the 1995 resolution on the Middle East

The establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East was central to the 1995 indefinite extension of the NPT, and a well-received working paper by Egypt set out a number of concrete ways in which the 1995 Middle East resolution could be implemented. Broad support for those measures and specific ideas for advancing them would go a long way toward restoring confidence in the NPT.

4. Establishing a standing NPT secretariat

Canada has been a strong advocate of building up the institutional infrastructure of the NPT and this year joined other states in supporting the development of a standing
secretariat to coordinate and manage the NPT’s meetings and processes. Most other Treaties have the benefit of ongoing secretariats.

5. Disarmament and nonproliferation education

Japan has long been a champion of disarmament education and this year was joined by other delegations in emphasizing that a major push in public disarmament education could be instrumental in creating the conditions for a nuclear weapon-free world.

6. Fissile materials treaty

A treaty to halt all production and stockpiling of fissile material for weapons purposes has long been a priority item on the global disarmament agenda, but this work has been held up in the UN Conference on Disarmament. A German working paper proposes ways to get beyond the current deadlock and provides a framework for further attention in the preparations for 2010.



  1. For the first time in more than a decade Canada did not include any nongovernmental advisors on its delegation.
  2. The website of Reaching Critical Will, a project of the Women’s League for International Peace and Freedom, provides links to all the documents of the PrepCom. Its daily “News in Review” provides an overview of developments. The above summary is based on Final Edition No. 9.
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