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  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, Review Conference, April 24, 2000

The 2000 Review Conference on the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(April 24-May 19, 2000)

Update from WILPF - April 24 2000
Update # 1: Taking Opportunities

By Felicity Hill, Director, WILPF UN Office

While spirits have lifted thanks to Russian ratification of START II and the CTBT, the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference starting today will still be tough. The road to the May 19 consensus text assessing the progress of the past five year period and outlining a forward looking action plan for the next five years will be hampered by tension between the Nuclear Weapon States over NATO expansion and war-waging, as well as plans for a National Missile Defence system in the US. Tension between the 5 nuclear weapon states and the 182 non-

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2000 NPT Index

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nuclear weapon states is also high due to widespread disappointment in the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament since 1995.

But it's not all bad news, as the Canadians point out in their position paper of Feb 1, 2000. Since the last Review Conference, the CTBT was negotiated and 51 countries have ratified, reductionsin nuclear weapons has occurred under START I, the UK and France have reduced

warhead quantities, types and the number of deployment locations, there has been progress in the establishment of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, the IAEA safeguards have been strengthened as have the Zangger Committees export control mechanisms.

Increased Public Awareness

Other good news relates to increased public awareness of the dangers posted by the Cold War hangover of 36,000 nuclear weapons. A recent 60 Minutes show reached millions of people in the United States and featured an incredulous reporter claiming that "most people don't know this" when presented with the fact that the nuclear wall did not fall with the Berlin Wall. The 60 Minutes programme presented top military personnel from the United States and Russia expressing concern in very strong terms. The former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, General Eugene Habiger said "... the fact that we have not been able to get down to lower and lower levels of nuclear weapons is troubling to me, and it should be troubling to you." (Anyone wanting to view the programme will find the tape and facilities in Conference Room C).

Stars are shining more brightly in the direction of the disarmament cause, with Michael Douglas appearing in capitals and on the cover of magazines and Paul Newman recording a message directed at this Review Conference which will be launched on Chernobyl Day, April 26. Seattle-type actions are not about to happen again on nuclear weapons issues (we did that in the 80's - 1983 - biggest gathering of people on earth) opinion polls over and over again reveal huge majorities in nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states wanting disarmament. What is in the way of democracy?

More than 500 representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will join the 187 states party to the treaty at the United Nations in New York to try to answer this question.

The NGOs are focused on the spectrum of issues the NPT covers: disarmament, safeguarding fissile materials, Nuclear Weapon Free Zones and the so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In particular, NGOs are eager to see what the nuclear weapons states will deliver and how much they can support 182 governments in asserting their majority in the quest for what Article VI of the treaty promises: Disarmament.

The last Review Conference in 1995 was extremely controversial. The decision to make this temporary treaty regime a permanent body in 1995 was a difficult decision that caused fierce splits in both the NGO and governmental communities. Some lament the decision taken in 1995, declaring the treaty an "irrelevant and stillborn" disarmament tool. Others feel that the arms control and disarmament regime was strengthened by the permanence of the treaty.

Whatever your position in 1995, this is 2000, and what lies before us is an opportunity to assess the current political environment, set goals for the future and for the world community to ask what President Nelson Mandela asked in his 1998 General Assembly speech referring to the nuclear weapon states: "Why do they need them anyway?"

Increased Pressure on the Nuclear Weapon States

Let's keep in mind that this is the first Review Conference (RevCon) of the NPT where those who made such a strong case for its indefinite extension in 1995 have an opportunity to show us why, how, and what they will do to illustrate the NPT's usefulness. This is also the first RevCon since the legally and historically significant ICJ decision on the illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons was brought down. The authoritative legal interpretation of the NPT's sixth article was: "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." Despite the ICJ insistance in 1996 that negotiations should be concluded, getting them off the ground is causing trouble in 2000

NGOs see this RevCon as an opportunity - a once in five year opportunity - not only for discussion but also for decisions. While reductions in numbers are positive signs, we still wait for nuclear weapon states to make the decision to remove nuclear weapons from their strategies and policies. Indeed, we see opposite trends, with dozens of policy statements from the US describing nuclear weapons as "essential" for the "foreseeable future"(see the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy listing of dozens of such quotes and their sources), and similar sentiments expressed by Moscow in their recent draft policy.

Subsidiary Bodies

The Non-Aligned Movement has asserted the necessity for a Subsidiary Body off Main Committee 1 for a focused debate on nuclear disarmament, and another off Main Committee 2 on the Middle East Resolution. Some delegations are making this simple procedural issue, debated and clarified at each PrepCom, unnecessarily complicated.

In addition to speech making, there is a need to get down to the business of formulating text which is too often left to the last minute. The Committee of the Whole and the Main Committees are useful venues for the exchange of views, but need to direct a smaller working group or subsidiary body to craft consensus language. NGOs see obvious benefits in the idea of Subsidiary Bodies and hope for a first draft of the most controversial texts to emerge from the conference, on disarmament and the Middle East.

The speeches in the General Assembly in the coming days by Foreign Ministers and groups such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the European Union and the New Agenda Coalition will give a sense of the terms of the debate to follow. Daily reflection on the governmental meeting as well as news and views from the NGOs will be provided in this daily News In Review which will also be available on the Reaching Critical Will website http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org

Felicity Hill, Director, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United Nations Office, 777 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA Ph: 1 212 682 1265, Fax: 1 212 286 8211, email: flick@igc.apc.org
web: www.wilpf.int.ch www.reachingcriticalwill.org