Susi in New York- Update on NPT Review Conference

Discussions continue in New York at the Review of the NPT. Draft reports were released this past Friday, so the focus is now on language. What goes in, what goes out, what will the conference really be putting out? 

On disarmament, the issues were split into two sections- one document was meant to have a backward look, the other to look ahead.  In looking back, Main Commitee 1 (MC1), was supposed to review the implementation of disarmament obligations of the treaty (the exact agenda items allocated can be found here).  There are some okay bits in the backward looking part. It welcomes the Austria Pledge for example, and the conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and new information as a result of those conferences requiring policy changes.

But that won’t stand, if you consider discussions on the document today. In fact, France suggested that nothing related to humanitarian consequences should be included at all. The French intervention was a bit all over the place, I can only wish that it were written- it was comedy gold! They don’t want to include references to meetings that everyone didn’t attend, but they do want to include meetings that only a few were allowed into the room for. They didn’t want to include reference to any future instruments that might not be universal, because without universality nothing is effective, while not reaffirming the traditional call on states outside this very treaty to join. It was bizarre, and by the end of it most of the gallery was coughing to cover their laughter.

There is a sincere pushback against the proposed subsidiary body text, and this is unsurprising- though there isn’t all that much in there to really push against. One delegation told me they want to throw the whole document out, and make it a point to tone down the actions in the main committee text (which are barely stronger than already agreed language from five years ago).

There were some highlights in the discussion, and suggestions to include really useful things. One suggestion by Ireland was to include a specific reference to the role of women as both educators and students in disarmament education because of the disproportionate effect of nuclear weapons on their health.  Mexico suggested that it’s better to have these discussions in the Main Committee so that civil society can be present, and hold states accountable. I can certainly get behind that- it’s stupid to be shut out of the room (unless of course the nuclear armed states are violating the treaty by giving away secret tips to build your own arsenal).

The New Agenda Coalition provided a series of suggestions to comprehensively strengthen the draft, and during the discussion Austria reinforced the importance of keeping the whole humanitarian consequences language inside the nuclear disarmament section. Saying clearly that the conferences have gathered and presented new evidence that there is no adequate capacity to deal with any use of nuclear weapons, and naturally this has policy considerations that must be dealt with.

The Dutch government notes that they want more forward looking action in the document, and to specifically call on the nuclear armed countries for action including deeper reductions. They also want to strengthen the language in the document on reporting. However, when it comes to changes on the issue of humanitarian consequences, they were not very transparent and decided to only submit those comments in writing.

Discussions on the texts will continue for the next few days, with an integrated draft (bringing together the subsidiary and main text expected soon (perhaps even tomorrow), I’m looking forward to the next debate on the issue, and on reporting back.