Sara is a CND Campaigns Officer who represented CND at the NPT Review Conference
After a month of statements, meetings and secret negotiations, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference ended on May 22nd without any agreement. These summits are held every five years and should result in a consensus ‘final document’. But this time, the 191 states which have signed the NPT failed to agree on a statement.
The fundamental and persistent clash at the Review Conference was the lack of disarmament progress by the nuclear weapon states, with the non-nuclear weapon states pushing for concrete targets. However, it was another issue which ultimately scuppered the talks. Diplomats identified the main obstacle as the failure to move forward with a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East. Washington accused Egypt of being ‘unrealistic’, while Cairo in turn blamed the US, UK and Canada for rejecting their demand to set a date for a conference to make progress on this, with or without Israel’s participation.
Prospects for a strong statement from the conference had looked bleak anyway, with original draft texts being rejected by the nuclear weapons states for being too strong. NGOs agreed to the contrary – they were too weak. The main problem with the process used for agreeing on text was that it overwhelmingly reflected the views of the very small minority of signatory states who own nuclear weapons. These five countries (the US, UK, France, Russia and China) dominated the negotiations, insisting that the current security situation didn’t allow for them to disarm.
The hundred states that signed a pledge at the conference calling for a ban on nuclear weapons disagreed however. The humanitarian initiative from where this originated is definitely gaining momentum, but as some observers noted, it may not amount to much unless a nuclear weapons state signs up. Costa Rica was in a more positive mood as they delivered their closing remarks, saying ‘Despite what has happened at this Review Conference, there is no force that can stop the steady march of those who believe in human security, democracy and international law’. CND will continue marching, despite the events of the last month at the UN.