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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Prepcom Briefing 6, April 7, 1997

First NPT PrepCom: Briefing No 6 NGO Ideas on the NPT

Written by Rebecca Johnson.

Following intensive consultations, a group of key States Parties to the 1997 NPT Review PrepCom had by Wednesday evening resolved most of their disagreements over how to report on their deliberations and recommendations. Only one issue remained outstanding: whether and how to recommend further progress on security assurances, the Middle East resolution and a fissile materials ban. Despite closure of the United Nations on Thursday because of an Islamic Holy Day, the United States, Egypt and relevant others are expected to continue their attempts to find agreed language in time for the draft report to be discussed (and accepted) by all the NPT

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1997 NPT Prep Com 

parties before the PrepCom closes on Friday April 18. The outcome will be covered in NPT Briefing #7 .

NAM Working Paper

The NAM working paper introduced on April 10 by Indonesia ( see NPT Briefing # 3 ) was finally issued. It made general statements on universality, calling for all states possessing nuclear capabilities to accede to the treaty. On non-proliferation the NAM called for all possible efforts to prevent proliferation without hampering the 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy. The NAM wanted NPT parties to recommend establishment of a nuclear disarmament committee in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), 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 statement said that 'negotiations on a treaty banning the production and stockpiling of fissile material' for nuclear weapons and devices should be commenced and a 'universal and legally binding multilateral agreement' committing all states to eliminate nuclear weapons should be concluded. This appears to be a softened form of the linkage exerted by some NAM states in the CD, since the measures are mentioned in the same sentence but without insisting that negotiations must be concurrent (which led two NAM countries to oppose the programme of action endorsed by 28 NAM states in August 1996). The NAM document also confirms that the omission of stockpiles from the statement by Indonesia on April 10, on which I commented in NPT Briefing # 3 , was not significant: the NAM countries continue to call for a fissban that includes stocks.

The NAM encouraged step-by-step reduction of nuclear arsenals as well as effective nuclear disarmament measures.

The NAM called for a legally binding security assurances regime to be 'urgently concluded', referred to 'a protocol annexed' to the NPT, and urged NPT parties to negotiate such an instrument in the NPT PrepCom meetings leading up to the 2000 Review Conference. Acceptance of fullscope safeguards were to be made a condition of new supply arrangements. Nuclear material transferred from military uses should be put under IAEA safeguards. In a reference to export controls, the NAM called for 'unilaterally enforced restrictive measures' to be removed. They backed the nuclear weapon free zone treaties of Tlatelolco, Rarotonga, Bangkok and Pelindaba and welcomed the Central Asian NWFZ initiative undertaken by states in that region. Five paragraphs were devoted to the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, noting that 'no progress has been achieved' and calling for its full implementation. The NAM emphasised their view that the depositary states of the NPT (Britain, Russia and the United States) 'have a special responsibility in this regard, as co-sponsors' of the 1995 resolution, which 'constitutes part and parcel of the package of the outcome' of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.

On organisational issues, the NAM wanted the 1995 decisions to be taken 'as the yardsticks in determining the objectives to be achieved by the Review Conference' in the year 2000. They also called for negotiations to begin in the first PrepCom 'on a rolling text', but there are some differences of view about what was meant by rolling text, with as many NAM countries as Western states opposed to negotiating on bracketed proposals this early in the PrepCom process. Finally, the NAM welcomed the participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), 'which could also make a positive contribution towards the attainment of these objectives.'

NGO Statements on the NPT

As part of this positive contribution, a small number of NGO presentations were made to an informal meeting chaired by Pasi Patokallio during the NPT PrepCom. Most NGO speakers stressed that their presentations were not on behalf of any individual person, organisation or perspective, but instead had been written by various groups of participants in order to share relevant information and a range of ideas and arguments, representing the diversity of approach and opinion within the NGO community on implementation of the treaty. This was difficult enough in the process leading up to and including the two hours of presentations, and I cannot hope to do justice to the wealth of ideas and information in this short briefing either. Statements were given to the delegations and it is understood that they will be available on the internet as well.

Future Responsibility

The opening and closing speeches focused on the threats, risks and actual harm which nuclear weapons inflict on the earth and all living things, from the mining of uranium, through every part of the nuclear fuel cycle, up to the testing and use of nuclear weapons and the unsolved problems of disposing of the radioactive wastes. Reminding delegates that the original inhabitants of what is now New York State believed that the consequences of actions should be considered 'up to the seventh generation', the NGO presentations concluded with a direct quote from the July 8, 1996 advisory opinion of the ICJ, which made clear the judges' opinion that nuclear weapons violated such precautionary principles and endangered the future of all of us.

Regional Security

Addressing articles I and II, some European NGOs raised concerns about the planned enlargement of NATO and about Franco-British nuclear weapons cooperation and the proposed Europeanisation of French nuclear forces. They argued that NATO nuclear programmes were 'a form of horizontal proliferation' and said that the problem of nuclear deployments within NATO had not been fully resolved during negotiation of the NPT and 'could constitute a breach of articles I and II'. Instead of following French proposals for 'concerted deterrence' in the EU, European nations should build a policy of 'concerted disarmament'. To this end, the NGOs who had prepared the statement emphasised the importance of enhancing the role of the OSCE in building security for a 'Europe whole and free'. Supporting progress under article VII on NWFZs, they strongly supported the initiative of a Central Asian NWFZ and called for renewed backing for NWFZs in Scandinavia and Central Europe.

Safety Controls on Nuclear Materials

Looking at the control of weapons-usable nuclear materials, concerns were raised about IAEA safeguards and the effectiveness of article III. Considerable information on the military and commercial stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) was provided, noting the broad consensus among NGOs that 'the possession of these materials, especially in large quantities and in direct-usable form, present continuous proliferation concerns.' The technical and political pros and cons of different approaches on a fissile material production ban and methods for disposing of weapons-usable materials were discussed, concluding that 'there is an urgent need to reduce access to weapons-usable nuclear materials.'


The participating NGOs addressed the article IV provision with a detailed examination of the claim of nuclear power to be clean, cheap or safe, questioning how this short-lived and dangerous technology could possibly be described as an 'inalienable right'. The facts and figures piled up into a damning indictment of the subsidies which have distorted the high investment and running costs of the 495 nuclear plants (in only 33 countries), their safety record and the continued failure of the industry to find safe means of storing its radioactive products. Concerns were also raised about shipments of nuclear materials and liability. It was noted that reprocessing at present rates would create stockpiles of separated plutonium 'which may well exceed military stockpiles within the next decade.' Since article IV actually benefits fewer than one-sixth of NNWS parties, it was suggested that research, technology transfer and assistance in a range of energy choices should be offered as a more appropriate fulfilment of the legitimate desire of developing states to have reliable energy production in their own hands. Providing such alternatives would give practical meaning to the original intentions of article IV and be consistent with the commitments on sustainable development made in Agenda 21 adopted in 1992 in Rio.

Indigenous People

A powerful statement was made on behalf of the indigenous people whose homes and livelihoods had been devastated by nuclear production and testing, including the Western Shoshone, Kazaks and Uighurs, as well as the Micronesians, Maohi and Australian aboriginal peoples in the 'liquid continent' of the Pacific. Linking the nuclear abuse of these peoples with deprivation of their liberty by economic and military colonialism, a direct appeal was made for peace and justice so that the indigenous peoples could give their children a future free of colonialism and nuclear weapons.


Since there is no relevance in addressing article V, a detailed analysis of various planned programmes for nuclear testing under the CTBT was provided instead. Covering the 'safety and reliability' programmes of the NWS, the statement provided information on subcritical tests, laboratory testing, inertial confinement fusion, pulsed power thermonuclear tests, and cooperation among certain NWS on 'theoretical, numerical, and experimental simulation methods'. The speaker noted that the B61-11 earth-penetrating nuclear bomb was recently certified in the USA without underground nuclear testing and urged the NPT parties 'to seek binding commitments by the NWS not to deploy new-design nuclear weapons, or nuclear weapons modified to have new or improved military characteristics or capabilities or to perform new military missions.' They were also urged to redefine stockpile stewardship as: 'passive caretaking of existing arsenals under safe conditions and international safeguards, while they await disablement and dismantlement pursuant to article VI of the NPT.'

Deep Cuts

Three challenging approaches were made on article VI, which could be viewed as alternatives or as complementary. One proposed a 'deep cuts' programme, to 'reduce the nuclear forces of the weapon states to immobilised, multilaterally monitored arsenals of 100-200 warheads each as a final trial stage before complete elimination.' The main steps were 'no increase commitments'; dealerting of nuclear weapons; exchange of data on nuclear forces, including holdings of warheads and missiles; verified fissile materials production ban; 'direct immobilisation' (sequestration and storage) of the entire operational nuclear forces of all the weapon states; the dismantlement of all warheads covered by reduction agreements, with transfer of the fissile materials to internationally monitored storage, precluding reuse for weapons; and the inclusion of reserve and substrategic warheads in dismantlements, so that 'a process of genuine downward moving disarmament can take place.'

Nuclear Weapons Convention

The group of international lawyers, scientists and disarmament experts which had launched a model nuclear weapons convention on April 7 presented an overview of its concepts and provisions. Emphasising that the draft convention was to invite thinking about the 'coordination across state boundaries, political bodies and various industries' necessary for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the drafters outlined their 'comprehensive, incremental approach, including concrete step by step measures'. Brief explanations were made on the negative and positive obligations, definitions, verification provisions and implementing organisation, underlining that 'nuclear disarmament may take many steps but will need to include a convention or conventions on total elimination.' The drafters offered their model convention, saying that 'when one undertakes a journey it helps to have some idea of the nature of the final destination.'

Amendment for Universality

Another speaker said it was the responsibility of all the states which had supported resolutions on nuclear disarmament in the UN or CD to 'force negotiations upon those who will not negotiate'. Pointing out the power of one third of the NPT parties to call an amendment conference, the statement challenged NPT parties to make good their demands for nuclear disarmament and universality by confronting the declared_and_undeclared nuclear powers with an amendment converting the NPT into a nuclear weapon convention. 'The countries that are not in the NPT, especially those like India, Pakistan and Israel, who hide their nuclear weapons behind demands for global or regional disarmament, would be faced with a simple choice.' This could 'push the lever' that would start the negotiating process for everyone; and 'with the whole world watching the closing scenes of the nuclear age, no country would be prepared to go it alone.'