The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons (NPT) will mark its fiftieth year in force in 2020 amidst growing fissures and disaffection between its non-nuclear weapon and nuclear weapons states parties. The year 2020 also will be the 25th anniversary of the indefinite extension of the treaty that at the time had raised hopes for achieving greater progress in nuclear disarmament, which were further elaborated in 2000 and 2010 with agreement on an “unequivocal undertaking” by the nuclear weapons states, and a “plan of action” to advance nuclear disarmament as well as a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. But over the years the commitments to nuclear disarmament and the Middle East zone seem to have waned, nuclear modernization is underway in all nine states possessing nuclear weapons, leading to a fracturing of consensus among NPT states. The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (NWPT) has further exacerbated differences. Though the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT Review Conference, held this year in Vienna, was generally uneventful, there are concerns about the outcomes of the next two sessions, respectively in 2018 and 2019, and in 2020. This policy brief examines some of the contentious issues and suggests practical ways of working towards preserving the integrity and authority of the NPT and its review process.
TARIQ RAUF was Senior Adviser to the Chair of Main Committee I (Disarmament) at the 2015 NPT Review Conference, Senior Advisor to the Chair of the 2014 NPT Preparatory Committee, Alternate Head of IAEA NPT Delegations 2002–2010, and a member of Canada’s NPT Delegations 1987–2000. He was Head of Nuclear Verification and Security Policy Coordination, Office reporting to the Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency. The present discussion has drawn in part from Jayantha Dhanapala and Tariq Rauf, Reflections on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Review Conferences and the Future of the NPT (Stockholm: SIPRI, April 2017).