NPDI: What Now? What Next? event report

In an event organised by PAX and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the question of NPDI: What now, what next was examined on Friday. Speakers included Japanese Ambassador Sano, Australian Ambassador Woolcott, Dutch Ambassador van der Kwast and Australian director for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Tim Wright.

Ambassador Sano provided a brief overview of the recent NPDI ministerial meeting in Hiroshima. Explaining that the outcome statement included a call for all political leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a way to best understand the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Woolcott elaborated on the NPDI expectations of nuclear armed states reporting. He indicated that the reports received at this Preparatory Committee meeting are a first step, but still have significant shortcomings. Woolcott went on to elaborate that they should provide annual reports, with an increasing level of detail. In fact, the original working paper NPDI put forward with a model is the level of detail desired. He also indicated that the efforts to develop a glossary, especially to clarify definitions of “active”, “inactive”, “retired” and “warhead”.

Ambassador van der Kwast presented on the recent Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague and the relationship between this parallel process and the NPT itself. He also highlighted the important role of academia, civil society and industry while elaborating on the success of the Nuclear Knowledge and Industry Summits that took place alongside the NSS.

Tim Wright recognised that the NPDI, definitely not a ‘like-minded’ group, must have intensive debates behind the scenes. From an outside perspective, the tensions among the group are evident, especially between those who do and those who do not rely on nuclear weapons in their security strategies. He elaborated, stating that the elimination of nuclear weapons will require their stigmatisation and delegitimisation, and it was difficult to see how the NPDI members are creating the conditions for elimination when a majority of them do not appear willing to devalue these inhumane weapons.

There was an intense discussion following the four presentations. Raising questions and ideas including non-nuclear deterrence models, a ban on low-threshold nuclear weapons and whether the NPDI should continue as a non-like minded group at all. The question of whether the NPDI would continue into the next Review Cycle, was difficult to respond to on the part of many of the NPDI delegations present, some assume that of course, this group will roll over along with the action plan, whereas others reflected that just rolling over the action plan might not be the most effective stepwise approach.

Susi Snyder from PAX, chaired the session, and summed up the discussion noting that the NPDI clearly has divergent views, and while they are putting forward a significant number of working papers and other statements (including with ministerial involvement) there is still a question of whether quantity replaces quality.