The world's governments met in Geneva at the end of April to discuss progress in meeting nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation goals set at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2010.
The NPT Preparatory Committee meeting ('PrepCom') is the second meeting aimed at paving a way for the next NPT Review Conference, which will take place in 2015. Almost all the world's governments are parties to the NPT, with the exception of India, Israel, and Pakistan, which have never signed the Treaty, and North Korea, which announced its withdrawal from the Treaty in 2003.
At the time of writing 77 nations attending the PrepCom had signed a statement sponsored by the South African government calling for further work to identify the humanitarian impacts of nuclear-weapons use. The nations said that they were “deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons”, emphasising “the incalculable human suffering associated with any use of nuclear weapons, and the implications for international humanitarian law”. The statement called for all states to attend an international conference on the issue which is scheduled to take place in Mexico in 2014.
In its statement to the PrepCom the UK announced that it had commenced work with Brazil to develop a dialogue that will focus on how nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states can work together most effectively to find a way forward on building the conditions for further action on disarmament, and also revealed that it had hosted a P5 Technical Experts Meeting in Vienna in March 2013 to identify areas for future P5 collaboration on verification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said that there is “still much work to be done” in taking forward the Action Plan agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference and stressed the need for the Treaty to be responsive to the challenges posed by countries like North Korea and Iran, “whose activities are an increasing threat to regional and international security”. He said that the UK “fully supports” the objective of a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone and is “committed to our role” in convening a regional conference to discuss the issue.
Former Armed Forces Minister Sir Nick Harvey, speaking at a fringe meeting during the conference, described the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system as “a fantastically expensive insurance policy” that “no longer makes sense” and “is based on “outdated and ludicrous” ideas about deterrence.
“Our defence and security policy “needs to move with the times rather than continue to drift along from its cold war configuration. We remain configured to cold-war-scale state-on-state warfare. All political parties now need to debate whether Trident can continue to be justified”, he said.
In the week before the PrepCom meeting the Permanent Five members of the United Nations – the five nuclear-weapon states recognised in the Non-Proliferation Treaty – met in Geneva chaired by the Russian Federation to take forward the 'P5' process that commenced with a meeting in London in 2009 and continued with further meetings in Paris in 2011 and Washington in 2012.
The P5 meeting discussed an approach to reporting on progress in meeting the NPT Action Plan at the 2014 NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting, and agreed to continue working on this issue led by France. There was also discussion on development of a glossary of key nuclear terms under China's leadership, and agreement to submit the glossary to the 2015 NPT Review Conference. The P5 also shared information on their experiences in verification and resolved to continue such exchanges, and received a briefing by the Russian Federation and the United States on implementation of the New START Treaty. The P5 plan to hold a fifth conference in 2014.
For a full report of the conference proceedings and copies of conference papers please visit the Reaching Critical Will website.