Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons “at the crossroads of international, national and human security”: president-designate for 2021 NPT Review Conference

Gustavo Zlauvinen commented on the NPT at an online discussion hosted by Atomic Reporters on 28 April 2021.

Speaking to more than 100 participants, the president-designate for 2021 NPT Review Conference Gustavo Zlauvinen said: “Today the NPT lies at the crossroads of international, national and human security, and increasingly … sustainable development and even public health”.

The event, which ran under the title “Promoting a Successful Outcome of the 2021 NPT Review Conference”, was hosted by Atomic Reporters and co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Austria, Kazakhstan, and Switzerland to the International Organizations in Vienna. Aside from Gustavo Zlauvinen, speakers included the ambassadors from Kazakhstan, Austria, Egypt, Switzerland, and Japan, who discussed what elements relating to the implementation of the NPT and of previously agreed outcomes, as well as recommendations for the next five year review period, could be agreed and included in a final document of the August 2021 NPT Review Conference.

Atomic Reporters will be rolling out individual clips from the conference on its website in the coming days, providing insights and comments by the speakers on non-proliferation, safeguards and the peaceful uses of nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen delivered the key note speech on preparing for the 2021 NPT Review Conference. Tariq Rauf, former Alternate Head of the IAEA’s NPT Delegation, spoke on the strengthened review process for the NPT, while Ambassador Alexander Kmentt from Austria focused on nuclear disarmement (Pillar 1 of the NPT). Ionut Suseanu from the International Atomic Energy Agency spoke on nuclear non-proliferation (Pillar 2), and Swiss Ambassador Benno Laggner discussed the peaceful uses of nuclear energy (Pillar 3). Other topics included the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, presented by Ambassador Mohamed ElMolla from Egypt, and the situation in the Korean Peninsula, discussed by the Ambassador Takeshi Hikihara from Japan.

Watch the full online discussion from 28 April 2021.

“Unfortunately, since the end of the Cold War and the remarkable achievements in disarmament that occured in its wake, nuclear weapons seem to largely have disappeared from the front page of our collective global consciousness.”

Gustavo Zlauvinen, president-designate for 2021 NPT Review Conference

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is “the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States”, according to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. This makes it arguably the most important document with regards to nuclear disarmament in the world. It came into force in 1970, and is currently signed by 191 countries, including the United States, Russia and China. Here are four key takeaways from the Treaty (taken from its Articles):

  1. From Article I: Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.
  2. From Article IV: Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.
  3. From Article V: Each Party to the Treaty undertakes to take appropriate measures to ensure that, in accordance with this Treaty, under appropriate international observation and through appropriate international procedures, potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a non-discriminatory basis and that the charge to such Parties for the explosive devices used will be as low as possible and exclude any charge for research and development.
  4. From Article VI: Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

The NPT is reviewed every five years by its member States. The last Review Conference, in 2015, ended without the parties reaching a consensus on the draft Final Document. Due to the COVID-19 health emergency, the 2020 Review Conference was postponed to 2021, with a tentative date set for 2-27 August, in New York. Here you can find more information on the NPT and access its full text.

Background information on the modalities of the NPT review process as well as on the lessons and modalities for success in 1995, 2000 and 2010 review conferences by Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala (President of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference) and Tariq Rauf is available here.

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