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The 2000 NPT Review Conference (RevCon)
14 April - 19 May 2000, New York

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Celso L. N. Amorim 

Head of the Brazilian Delegation
to the Sixth Review Conference of
the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 
New York, 25 April 2000

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Mr. President, 

Let me join previous speakers in congratulating you, Ambassador Baali, on your election for the Presidency of this Conference. We are confident that your experience and personal skills will lead us through the difficult days ahead. You may rest assured of my delegation's full support and cooperation. 

Mr. President, 

Brazil participates for the first time in a Review Conference of the NPT. The increasing adherence to the NPT during the nineties reflected a widespread desire to abide by what has gradually become the main international basis to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to promote nuclear disarmament. 

Our own accession to the NPT came after careful consideration of the Treaty's role, especially in the years that followed the end of the Cold War. 

As many others, Brazil had been critical of the asymmetrical obligations deriving from the NPT, and all the more so as the essential bargain contained in it was not being respected during the Cold War era. Instead of reducing their arsenals, as they should, the nuclear-weapon States were increasing their quantity and killing capacity. The Treaty's nuclear disarmament obligations were thus systematically eluded. 

The changes in the overall strategic situation in the early nineties, however, brought about more promising prospects. Indeed, the nuclear escalation began to be rolled-back, and deep reductions in nuclear arsenals appeared as a real possibility. In less than two years, the START and START-II agreements were concluded. Well-grounded hopes could be nurtured that, within not so distant a future, mankind might be rid of the nuclear threat. 

The adoption, by then, of the Chemical Weapons Convention revealed that, whenever true political will and leadership exist, a whole category of weapons of mass destruction could be proscribed in an effectively verifiable manner. 

Brazil was encouraged by the package of decisions adopted at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, the main purpose of which was to ensure that NPT Parties, particularly the nuclear-weapon States, would be more accountable of their obligations to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons. 

Yardsticks to measure progress were then set. One year later, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was opened for signature, thus paving the way for other steps conducive to a nuclear-weapon-free world. 

Important developments had been taking place in Brazil and its neighbors: 

In 1988, the Representatives who drafted our democratic Constitution stipulated that nuclear energy would be used in our territory for peaceful purposes only. Together with Argentina, we undertook a successful confidence-building process, which resulted in a Quadripartite full-scope safeguards agreement between the two countries, the bilateral agency which was created for mutual nuclear accountancy and control (ABACC) and the IAEA. 

In a relatively short period, the necessary steps were taken to bring the Treaty of Tlatelolco fully into force for Brazil and other countries in the region. From the legal as well as political and practical standpoints, Brazil was fully bound to the exclusively peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In view of the auspicious evolution in international trends, we decided to adhere to the NPT. In so doing, we were hoping to contribute to the universal application and enhanced credibility of the Treaty. 

Commenting on how Brazil intends to work for nuclear disarmament, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso stated that "we will do it from within the Treaty, acting to correct its imbalances (...)." He also pointed out that "the international community can no longer live with weapons of mass destruction", and added that "time has come for us to set up together a phased programme for the total elimination of nuclear weapons". 

In its turn, the Brazilian Congress expressed a stringent proviso in the Legislative Decree that approved the NPT, namely that "Brazil's accession to the NPT is made on the understanding that, in accordance with Article VI of the Treaty, effective measures will be taken with a view to the cessation of nuclear arms race at an early date and the total elimination of nuclear weapons". 

Mr. President, 

The present international environment unfortunately does not give rise to the same degree of optimism that seemed to prevail in the early and mid-nineties. 

The recent decisions taken by the State Duma of the Russian Federation regarding the ratification of the START II and the CTBT are encouraging signals, which reinforce the expectations of the international community on the continuation of the bilateral process of nuclear reductions.

Yet there have been disturbing tendencies that render the geopolitical situation today less stable than it appeared to be in the years subsequent to the end of the bipolar confrontation. Mutual suspicion seems now more prevalent than mutual confidence. And it runs through a larger number of actors. Regional tensions have added to the complexities global balance. The deployment of new weapons systems and the modernization of existing ones seem to indicate that the illusion of absolute security is again being pursued. 

Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the dismaying reality before us - as the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, pointed out in his Report to the Millennium Assembly - is that some 35,000 nuclear weapons are still there, either in operational, non-deployed, retired or strategic reserve capacity. 

We were recently reminded that the principle of irreversibility in nuclear arms control measures cannot be taken for granted. The possibility of re-deploying nuclear weapons that are currently in non-operational status has not been fully discarded. This, of course, renders proclaimed nuclear weapons reduction figures and statistics all the more relative. It is no wonder that many remain unimpressed by such figures. From the point of view of a country that has renounced the nuclear-weapons option - and indeed, we believe, from that of humanity at large - a single nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon too many. 

Mr. President, 

We are disturbed by the fact that thousands of nuclear weapons continue to be placed on hair-trigger alert, with the risk of their being launched either by design or by accident, or yet by miscalculation. Rationales for the possession and use of nuclear weapons have been re-stated or reinforced. Deterrence doctrines now resemble catch-all clauses to cope with all sorts of threats. Equally regrettable is the lowering of the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, dissociating it from instances related to the very survival of the State. 

Continued reliance on nuclear deterrence and the assumption that nuclear weapons are here to stay for the indefinite future represent an unacceptable state of affairs. They go against the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice in its 1996 Advisory Opinion that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. 

As the Canberra Commission - in which I had the honour to participate - stated in its 1996 Report: "Nuclear weapons are held by a handful of States which insist that these weapons provide security benefits, and yet reserve uniquely to themselves the right to own them. This situation is highly discriminatory and thus unstable; it cannot be sustained. The possession of nuclear weapons by any State is a constant stimulus to other States to acquire them." 

The nuclear tests in South Asia should have been a wake-up call for the risks posed by nuclear proliferation and protracted action on nuclear disarmament. It is with great sadness and preoccupation that we witness South Asia becoming yet another dangerous nuclear flash point, whereas it could have followed the example of other regions which have established the nuclear-weapon-free-zones now covering almost the entire Southern Hemisphere and adjacent areas. While recognizing that there are historical differences that cannot be neglected, we believe that valuable lessons might be drawn from the successful confidence­-building and non-proliferation experiences in South America and Southern Africa. 

At the same time, there are visible, worrisome signs of a gradual accommodation of the de facto nuclear status of those States who are not yet Parties to the NPT and have failed to renounce the nuclear-weapons option. Such an attitude would contradict the letter and the spirit of the NPT as well as of the UN Security Council Resolution 1172. This Conference has, in that regard, a two­fold task: to urge non-States Parties to accede to the NPT without conditions and without delay, and to call on States Parties to refrain from any action that may contravene or undermine the fulfillment of the objectives of the Treaty as well as of relevant UN Resolutions. 

Mr. President, 

This Conference faces daunting challenges. Its deliberations will be followed with great attention by authorities and decision-makers around the world, and its outcome will have a strong bearing on the future of the nuclear non­proliferation and disarmament norm and other security related matters. 

While the picture of where we stand now and what was actually achieved or not achieved over the last five years must be duly reflected, Brazil considers that such an effort should not discourage States Parties to the NPT from agreeing on measures aimed at enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of the Treaty, as envisaged in the decisions of 1995. 

In looking forward to the next five years, this Conference must build upon numerous contributions that have been advanced over the last years, particularly on interim measures and next steps to be taken in the nuclear disarmament field. 

Such contributions were presented by several governments, groups of experts, including the Canberra Commission and the Tokyo Forum, the NGO community as well as eminent civilian and ex-military authorities of high rank and political standing in the nuclear-weapon States themselves, including, more recently, former United States President Jimmy Carter. 

The New Agenda coalition, of which my country is a founding member and which started with a Ministerial Declaration in 1998, has been a catalyst for the promotion of those ideas. Its motivations and objectives were eloquently expressed in the statement made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico. 

The New Agenda proposes a programme of action that does not exempt any country from its responsibilities towards others. The listed measures would be respectively incumbent on the five nuclear-weapon States, the three States not yet Parties to the NPT which operate unsafeguarded facilities and have not renounced the nuclear weapons option, and the international community as a whole. Those multilateral, unilateral or bilateral measures would not have to wait for one another. They would be mutually reinforcing and may thus be pursued in parallel. 

It has been recalled that the New Agenda's ideas are not in themselves novel. Some of them have been on the table for decades. So what is new about the New Agenda? First, its composition: its proponents and supporters come from different groupings and regions of the world and have been actively working to promote the nuclear disarmament cause. Second, its timing: as the post Cold War window of opportunity was being clearly wasted, decisive action was required to preserve the integrity and relevance of the NPT. And third, the comprehensive, balanced and achievable nature of the programme of action put forward by the coalition, which would be underpinned by an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals and to engage in an accelerated process of negotiations to that end. This perhaps explains the increasingly broad support that it has been receiving from governments, parliaments, NGOs and the civil society. 

Mr. President, 

Whereas the substantive outcome of this Conference is what really matters, Brazil approaches the working modalities and format of the review process with an open mind. Preserving and building upon what was agreed in 1995 should be, naturally, our main guiding principle. The failure, however, of the Preparatory Committee to reach any substantive recommendations on principles, objectives and ways in order to promote the full implementation of the Treaty, as well as its universality - as mandated by Decision 1 - is certainly deplorable and may induce us to revisit some of the procedures followed thus far. 

Mr. President, 

In conclusion, Brazil is hopeful that the critical circumstances and enormous challenges confronting this Review Conference will lead States here represented to demonstrate greater flexibility and a deeper sense of responsibility towards the need to uphold the integrity of the NPT and demonstrate its [UNCLEAR] by agreeing to concrete measures in the nuclear disarmament field. 

We are here because we firmly believe that that the NPT framework is the only existing, viable setting for the international community to pursue a world free from the possibility of nuclear war. 

As far back as 1923, the great Italian novelist, born in Trieste, Italo Svevo, presented an ominous prophecy: “When all the poison gases are exhausted, a man, made like all other men of flesh and blood, will in the quiet of his room invent an explosive of such potency that all the explosives in existence will seem like harmless toys beside it. And another man, made in his image and in the image of all the rest, but a little weaker than them, will steal that explosive and crawl to the centre of the earth with it, and place it just where he calculates it would have the maximum effect. There will be a tremendous explosion, but no one will hear it, and the earth will return to its nebulous state and go wandering through the sky, free at last from parasites and disease." 

It is incumbent upon all of us to prevent that somber prophecy from being realized.

I thank you.