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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 2, April 7, 1997

First NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 2 Getting Started

Written by Rebecca Johnson, with thanks to Sharon Riggle.

The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) Meeting for the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT Parties finally got underway late on Monday, April 7, with the election of Pasi Patokallio of Finland as Chair and adoption of an amended agenda. Early challenges over the allocation of Chairs among the PrepComs and disagreements over the agenda were resolved in prior consultations. Before Patokallio, a representative from the Western grouping of NPT States Parties, could be elected, the head of the Secretariat, Engeniy Gorkovskiy, informed the PrepCom of an 'understanding' reached among States Parties. According to this understanding, a representative of the Eastern European Group of States would chair the second PrepCom in 1998, and a Non-

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1997 NPT Prep Com 

Aligned Movement (NAM) representative would be proposed for the third PrepCom in 1999 and also the presidency of the Review Conference in 2000. Poland and Ukraine later called for the presidency of the Review Conference in 2005 to go to a member of the Eastern Europeangrouping. Few expect the outmoded cold war group system to remain unchanged for that long.

The PrepCom also agreed that states that wished to observe (Brazil, Pakistan and Israel) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could attend open sessions. The opening of the PrepCom was delayed several hours due to the refusal by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia to accept the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as the successor state to Yugoslavia's seat. In the end this dispute and a further problem over the membership of North Korea were allayed by the non-appearance of the representatives of these two countries.

The first full day of the PrepCom was given to a general debate and exchange of views, with statements from 38 delegations: the Netherlands on behalf of the European Union (EU) and associated states, France on behalf of the five declared nuclear weapon states (NWS), Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, China, Russia, the United States, Philippines, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Singapore, Mongolia, South Korea, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Norway, Poland, Malaysia, Switzerland, Japan and Viet Nam.

While each delegation emphasised the major issues that it wanted the review process to address, few tackled the difficult questions of _how_ the enhanced review system should (or could) be implemented. Many stressed the new features of accountability and the necessity for identifying future action, in addition to reviewing the past, but there was a paucity of concrete proposals or ideas for how the new process should operate. South Africa and others had insisted on amendments to the draft agenda to leave it with enough flexibility to consider subsidiary bodies, sub-groups or intersessional working groups and how decisions or debates would be recorded. The United States warned that 'treating the process as a referendum' on the efforts of some of the parties (taken to mean the NWS) or 'giving unequal emphasis to any of the Treaty's goals' (viewed as a reference to nuclear disarmament) 'would be neither productive nor constructive and certainly would not serve our shared interests in creating a meaningful and effective process'.

The PrepCom did not seek to change its rules of procedure at this point. Although main committees will not be established separately in this PrepCom, there was general acceptance of Patokallio's proposal to cluster the issues covered by the Treaty and by the 1995 Principles and Objectives (P&O) according to whether they address nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy or safeguards. Discussion on the nuclear disarmament cluster will begin on Wednesday April 9 in a closed session, from which observers, press and NGOs will be excluded.

How to proceed

Arguing that this first PrepCom was initiating 'a qualitatively different process' than the previous NPT reviews, Canada proposed that each session should produce 'a distilled compilation of proposals, not a consensus document'. Using the structure of the NPT, with recommendations under the preamble and each of the Treaty's ten articles, Canada proposed a 'rolling document' which would be an inventory of 'views, evaluations and proposals...as an evolving basis for eventual negotiations on recommendations to go forward to the 2000 Review Conference'. Backing Canada's ideas, New Zealand also suggested that 'sub-groups' could be appointed to work in more depth on some issues, within the PrepComs and/or intersessionally. South Africa proposed that the Chair could facilitate decision-making by working with a smaller, representative group of about 25 key states, akin to the President's Group set up by the 1995 Review Conference president, Jayantha Dhanapala. South Africa also left open the question of an intersessional subsidiary body to facilitate conclusion of work on security assurances by the year 2000.

The EU considered that the PrepCom 'remains preparatory in nature' with the job of recommending, while 'the Review Conference itself decides', a position strongly echoed by China and the United States. To report from one PrepCom to another, the EU favoured a 'neutral mechanism', such as a Chair's summary not requiring consensus, and proposed that outgoing and incoming Chairs should consult each other in the periods between two meetings. The EU took the view that subsidiary bodies could only be established within the main committees of an actual Review Conference and argued for decision-making at the PrepCom to be based on consensus. Japan also advocated that the PrepComs should produce some form of a Chair's summary report, with annexes, with a final report from the last PrepCom meeting consisting of two parts: review and recommendations. Indonesia, however, preferred that a draft final document be developed as a rolling text and negotiated in the PrepComs, arguing that intersessional meetings 'with no financial implications' could facilitate the negotiations on a rolling text. Indonesia supported consensus-based decision-making, but also proposed that voting could be used if all attempts to achieve consensus had been exhausted.

Where several delegations, including South Africa, New Zealand and Canada, regarded the P&Os as dynamic and updateable yardsticks, Japan argued against revising the P&O. Instead, the Review Conference should aim to formulate a new set of objectives, 'taking into account views expressed in discussions held prior to and during the Conference'. Canada called the P&O a 'means to an end'. The EU, United States, Mexico, China and others stressed that the process was to be centred on the Treaty itself. China said that the P&Os derived from the NPT, which remains the 'source', and also stressed that "'review' is not 'negotiation'", and the NPT process 'should not replace the ongoing or future work of the CD'.

Japan and Indonesia argued that from now on PrepComs and the Review Conference should be held in New York (for continuity, participation and to keep costs down). Switzerland wanted past precedent to be followed, with the Review Conferences and at least some of the PrepComs being held in Geneva.

The major issues

Although the EU, China and the United States stressed that there should be balance among the main issues, it was clear from the statements of Mexico, Switzerland, South Africa, Malaysia, Algeria, Indonesia and many others that nuclear disarmament was the highest priority. The importance of universality was also emphasised, but with few practical ideas for bringing the few remaining hold-out states on board. France made a statement on behalf of itself, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States which expressed 'our determination to continue to implement fully all the provisions of the Treaty, including those of article VI.' The NWS also reaffirmed their commitment to early entry into force of the CTBT and to immediate negotiations on a ban on the production of fissile materials (fissban).

Nuclear Disarmament

Many delegations (especially NAM) referred to important milestones in 1996: concluding the CTBT by September; the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in July; the Canberra Commission report in August; the statement from 61 retired Generals and Admirals in December, and so on. Many states also encouraged ratification of START II and welcomed the Helsinki Summit agreement by the US and Russia to initiate START III negotiations. Russia and the United States listed their achievements in reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fissile materials. Several delegations argued for immediate implementation of measures identified by the Canberra Commission, such as taking nuclear forces off alert, removing warheads from missiles, ending deployment of non-strategic weapons outside the NWS territories, and for all the NWS to commit to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons.

South Africa put on record its concern about the 'non-proliferation implications' of the planned expansion of NATO and consideration of 'the future role of nuclear deterrence in the context of the European Defence Policy'. Concerns about NATO were also expressed by China and Belarus, with both China and Russia emphasising that nuclear weapons should only be deployed on the NWS' own territory.

Opinion was divided over what the PrepComs and review process should do on nuclear disarmament. NAM countries, including Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, Ghana, Algeria and Iran, pushed for an ad hoc committee and for negotiations to commence in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) based on the 20-year timetable identified in the programme of action supported by 28 of the 30 NAM countries in the G-21. Malaysia called for negotiations to start in 1997 with a view to early conclusion of a nuclear weapon convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination. The commencement of negotiations on a nuclear weapon convention was supported by 115 states, including China (which reiterated support in its statement), in a vote in the UN General Assembly in December 1996 (51/45M). The call was endorsed by a majority of the European Parliament on March 13, 1997. To coincide with the opening of the NPT Conference, several NGOs on Monday launched a model nuclear weapon convention at the UN, to show how the technical and legal complexities might be worked out. Russia reiterated its 1996 proposal for a Treaty for Nuclear Security and Strategic Stability.

Western delegations, including the declared NWS, prioritised commencement and early conclusion of a fissban in the CD. Referring to the P&O, many urged that fissban negotiations should begin immediately on the basis of the Shannon report and mandate agreed in March 1995. Indonesia, Iran and Vietnam also identified a fissban as an important step to accomplish in the CD. NAM countries such as Peru and Algeria continued to push for the fissban to include stocks.

Security Assurances, the subject of a UN Security Council resolution (UNSC 984) just prior to the NPT Conference in 1995, were also mentioned by many delegations. South Africa wanted the NPT process to address this issue, arguing that they should 'provide a significant benefit' to NPT parties and 'an incentive' to those who have so far refused to sign the Treaty. Several countries agreed, with Egypt and Viet Nam suggesting that an instrument with legally binding security assurances could be adopted by the 2000 NPT Review Conference as an annexed protocol to the Treaty. Ghana called for the CD to work on making security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states legally binding, while Algeria, Indonesia and Iran considered further negotiations important but did not specify the venue.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZ) were also mentioned by several delegations. Many referred with satisfaction to recent successes, including entry into force of the Treaty of Tlatelolco covering Latin America and the Caribbean, and the signing of the Treaties of Pelindaba (Africa) and Bangkok (South East Asia). Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic called for Central Asia to be declared a NWFZ, as supported by their countries plus Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in the Almaty Declaration of February 28, 1997. Belarus and Ukraine called for a NWFZ in Central and Eastern Europe. Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Syria and Iraq all urged Israel to join the NPT and participate in creating a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.


Many delegations from all groups emphasised the importance of strengthening IAEA safeguards and supporting the implementation of the 93+2 programme, which had been given added impetus by the recent agreement on a model protocol, due to be adopted on May 15.

Nuclear Energy

Several delegations made passing reference to the importance of nuclear cooperation for 'peaceful purposes'. Australia, Japan, Mongolia and others referred positively to the Convention on Nuclear Safety and hoped-for progress on a Convention on the safety of radioactive waste management and spent fuel. Liability, physical protection of nuclear materials and illicit trafficking were also raised.

Iran raised export controls as 'private, secretive and non representative', saying that they were used to discriminate against non-nuclear-weapon states of the South. South Africa summed up the more widely held view that export controls are an 'essential component' of the global non-proliferation regime, but also endorsed greater transparency, in order to 'lend increased confidence and credibility to the system'