The NPDI states: Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, met in Hiroshima in April 2014 for their eighth Ministerial Meeting. They produced a lengthy outcome document, with twenty-nine arduously negotiated paragraphs. The outcome document builds on previous NPDI ministerial statements, but still seems to forget the national responsibilities leading towards nuclear disarmament of some of these countries.
Although the previous NPDI ministerial statement encouraged all states to participate in the Nayarit conference on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, this time around NPDI members seem to be quite hesitant. While it is clear that the NPDI fought hard for compromise language to agree “it is in the interest of all nations that the nearly 69 year record of non-use of nuclear weapons be extended forever.” They appeared unable to do more than “take note” of Austria’s offer to host a third conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. It is encouraging, however, that a number of NPDI members have already publicly committed to attending the Vienna meeting, although whether they will present ideas for overcoming the global disarmament deadlock before, or during that session is unknown.
There are still seven NPDI members who currently rely on nuclear weapons in their security strategies. As NATO members, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Turkey share in the alliance agreement to keep nuclear weapons as long as nuclear weapons exist. This calls into question their stated “commitment to achieving the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.” Especially as one of the emphatic elements of the NPDI efforts has been to call for the reduced role of nuclear weapons in security strategies, as agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
These countries should demonstrate leadership by fulfilling their 2010 NPT Action Plan commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security strategies. They could take this kind of positive step by issuing national declarations that their security arrangements do not include a nuclear retaliation option, and publicly recognise that retaliation with nuclear weapons would cause immediate casualties in the thousands (or millions) it also has the potential to cause environmental destruction leading to global famine. The NPDI members must clearly state that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.
Germany’s report to this NPT (NPT/CONF.2015/PC.III/2) includes mention of Action 1 (not to do anything that contravenes the Treaty), yet does not note the role Germany plays as a host nation to US nuclear weapons, does not reflect the German efforts since 2010 to have those weapons removed, nor does it include any forward looking plans towards ending the questionable practice of nuclear sharing in this regard.
As the NPDI members have made the issue of reporting on the Action Plan one of their significant themes, it will be interesting to see how they assess the reports that the Nuclear Weapons States will be making at the NPT Prepcom. It will also be quite interesting to see how the nuclear armed countries report on their modernisation plans or if they simply forget to include that information. Ending the nuclear arms race, includes ending efforts to make existing nuclear arsenals more usable- and the NPDI doesn’t seem to include this in its calls for further disarmament action by the nuclear armed countries.
It is an unusual time for the NPDI overall. Now is the moment that the group may be thinking about what next, after the 2015 Review Conference. One option, is for the NPDI states to move closer to the middle ground. That middle ground has changed, and significantly. This was seen clearly during the Nayarit Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. During the final plenary session, the General Exchange of Views, over 70 States took the floor. Of those, only five or so raised concerns with any new approaches to address the longstanding deadlock on multilateral nuclear disarmament. The overwhelming majority called for action, and a significant percentage called for negotiations on a new legal instrument. The average response, mathematically, is to call for the start of negotiations on a new legal instrument. In doing this, the NPDI has the opportunity to participate thoroughly in the global rejection of nuclear weapons, and engage with the nuclear armed states as a the bridge builder it aspires to be.
This article also appeared in the News in Review.