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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 4, April 7, 1997

First NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 4 Safeguards

Written by Rebecca Johnson.

As the first Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) under the 1995 decisions on enhancing the NPT review process ends its first week, questions about the purpose, powers and direction of the new process remain hanging. What appears to be emerging is a PrepCom process that will regularly air the issues, but where decisions on future action continue to be regarded as the five-yearly prerogative of Review Conferences. There are some disagreements over how to make

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recommendations to further PrepComs. Most delegations are in favour of recommendations being formulated for the next PrepCom, but consider it too early to decide on what to recommend for the year 2000. The battleground for determining the powers and role of the PrepComs has become the debates in the Chair's Consultations of around 25 key states over the reporting products from the PrepComs, i.e. how each PrepCom should record and transmit the sense and outcome of its deliberations to the next PrepCom and to the Review Conference.There is general agreement that working on bracketed language for a rolling should be avoided this early in the process.

The emerging framework is for a three part report. The first part would cover procedures and substance in a descriptive manner. This would either be wholly a factual, technical report of what meetings were held, papers distributed, agreements on procedures and so on; or it could include a description or summary by the Chair of the primary substantial and procedural issues discussed during the PrepCom. It is envisaged that part 2 could contain agreed recommendations to the next PrepCom, such as priority being given to discussion of certain issues. Part 3 is shaping up to be a list, compilation or inventory of the proposals from States Parties put forward during the PrepCom. South Africa had originally suggested this as 'supported and unsupported proposals'. The likelihood is that states will not want to weight them in this way, although some favour identifying the state which originated each proposal. Compiling the proposals would not require consensus, but would be a useful means of indicating to future PrepComs what had been put forward or prioritised by certain countries, without prejudging or recommending future action.

Two key questions are causing most difficulty: whether to identify issues where there is consensus; and whether to group the proposals according to the three clusters (nuclear disarmament; safeguards; and non-military uses), the treaty articles (as proposed by Canada), the 7 themes addressed in the 1995 Principles and Objectives (P&O), a combination of the clusters and the P&O themes, or some other way. The United Kingdom, in particular, seems concerned that if an issue fails to get consensus it might appear to be a step backward from consensus achieved in 1995 or it might be construed that consensus issues are accorded a higher priority. Other states disagree with this interpretation. In their view, if consensus can be obtained on some of the issues, they could be recommended directly for consideration at the Review Conference, clearing the way for more time to be spent in subsequent PrepComs on the issues where there are substantial differences of view. Rolling a consensus position over to the Review Conference would not preclude raising this issue at another PrepCom, if a change in political conditions were to warrant it. Proponents see the approach as a way of enabling the review process to use its time more effectively, by focusing on the more contentious issues. Some believe that the underlying reason for British opposition is concern that without the padding of issues where there is already substantial acceptance, the PrepCom process will focus more and more on nuclear disarmament issues, thereby increasing pressure on the nuclear weapon states.


Friday's closed debate started work on cluster 2 issues, principally safeguards and nuclear weapon free zones. As before, the majority of statements were from Western delegations, which strongly welcomed the work by the IAEA on the 93+2 programme, particularly the recent conclusion of a draft model protocol to strengthen the effectiveness of the safeguards system. The IAEA Board of Governors will be meeting on May 15-16. The Netherlands on behalf of the European Union (EU), as well as Britain, Japan, South Africa, Australia, South Africa, Canada and others urged adoption of the protocol. Prompted by the Iraqi experience, which showed that a clandestine nuclear weapon programme could be developed by an NPT party, notwithstanding safeguards agreements with the IAEA, the Programme 93+2 and draft protocol are aimed at giving the IAEA greater powers to verify the completeness, as well as the correctness of declarations from NPT members and states with related safeguards agreements. Statements by the EU, Canada, Britain, Australia and others also endorsed the export controls applied by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Zangger Committee. The NAM called for 'unilaterally enforced restrictive measures' beyond IAEA safeguards to be removed. As export controls are an over-lap issue between clusters 2 and 3, further statements are expected, so the issue will be dealt with more fully in a future NPT briefing.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Egypt on behalf of the Arab League, of which all members are now NPT parties, following recent accession by United Arab Emirates, Djibouti and Oman, recalled the resolution on the Middle East proposed by the depositary states at the 1995 Conference and called on the PrepCom to address this issue as a matter of urgency. Referring to the 'imbalance between the compliance by all Arab states' with the NPT and 'the risk imposed by Israel's ambiguous nuclear policies and its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities', Egypt, supported also in the general NAM statement, called for full implementation of the 1995 resolution, including accession by Israel to the NPT, placement of its unsafeguarded facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards and early establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction.

Several statements welcomed conclusion and signature of the Pelindaba and Bangkok Treaties, which established NWFZs in Africa and South-East Asia respectively, although problems remain regarding accession to the Bangkok protocols by certain of the nuclear weapon states. The Marshall Islands, on behalf of the South Pacific Forum, expressed 'satisfaction at the permanent cessation of French nuclear testing' in the region and welcomed the signing of the protocols to the Treaty of Rarotonga by France, the United States and Britain. The Forum called for further assistance in cleaning up contaminated nuclear test sites, resettling displaced people and restoring the affected areas to economic productivity, stressing the need to exercise the precautionary principle with regard to nuclear matters.

The Kyrgyz Republic introduced a working paper welcoming the initiative of five states (Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) to establish a NWFZ in Central Asia. Their initiative, contained in the February 28 Almaty Declaration, was welcomed by Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. New Zealand pushed for more positive consideration of the concept of a nuclear weapon free Southern Hemisphere. In an attempt to allay suspicions articulated during the PrepCom by Britain, that this initiative was an 'attack on the freedom of the high seas', New Zealand said the aim was to promote shared goals and enable the parties to the four zones covering the Southern hemisphere to work together more effectively, and 'we envisage no additional legal commitment beyond the existing treaties'.

More on Nuclear Disarmament

During Friday, more information and statements became available to expand the information provided in NPT Briefing # 3 on the nuclear disarmament debates. In addition to urging early entry into force of the CTBT, Sweden proposed that concrete steps identified by the Canberra Commission could and should be undertaken immediately, including taking nuclear forces off alert and removing nuclear warheads from their delivery vehicles. Japan made the same proposals and also invited the NWS to provide a report on their progress towards nuclear disarmament, as suggested in the 1996 UN General Assembly resolution 51/45G. Ambassador Laurence Edwards of the Marshall Islands stressed the need to 'start negotiations, as a matter of some urgency, on a Nuclear Weapons Convention', suggesting that this could be assisted through establishment of an intersessional working group under the auspices of the NPT review process. Edwards warned that if progress were not made towards eliminating nuclear weapons, 'the whole system of non-proliferation might be at risk'.

NPT Briefing # 3 reported in error that Britain, United States and France had objected to concerns raised by South Africa concerning the implications for NPT commitments of the planned expansion of NATO, if it maintained its present nuclear policies. Only Britain responded directly on this matter. I am also informed that NPT Briefing # 3 slightly over-stated the proposal by Finland for transparency regarding tactical nuclear weapons, which was explained to me verbally (since NGOs are excluded from the meeting room and no written statement was available). I apologise, and reiterate the need for greater access by NGOs to this enhanced review process, which would increase transparency, confidence and the accuracy of our reporting.

Although the anticipated working paper from the non-aligned movement (NAM, comprising more than a hundred nations) has not yet been circulated, it is understood that the present draft calls for the Conference on Disarmament to establish a nuclear disarmament committee 'to commence negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time, including a Nuclear Weapons Convention.' The nuclear disarmament committee was to 'take into account' the G-28 programme of action in CD/1419 (August 8, 1996). The NAM also wanted a treaty banning the 'production and stockpiling of fissile material' (fissban) for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices. Calling on the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to adopt a flexible approach on nuclear disarmament and express their commitment 'to undertake a step-by-step reduction of the nuclear threat and a phased programme of progressive and deep reductions of nuclear weapons', the NAM intend to show that their demands for a time-bound framework and nuclear weapon convention are complementary with further bilateral and plurilateral progress by the NWS on reducing their arsenals step by step.

Discussion will continue on Monday in closed plenary on cluster 2 issues. It is expected that Patokallio will conduct further Chair's Consultations with the group of around 25 key states on decision-making, recommendations and reporting procedures. Debate on the 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy will begin on Tuesday.