“NPT 2020 Review Underway: Is the NPT Still Relevant?”
By Jayantha Dhanapala,
The Simons Foundation Peace Shaper
Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN)/Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (CNND)
Policy Brief No. 38
“And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges”
(Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)
Summary: The 2020 NPT Review Conference has its first Preparatory Committee meeting in Vienna in May against a backdrop of a failed 2015 Review Conference and in very inauspicious circumstances which include the nuclear weapon ban conference this year and the uncertainties of a Trump presidency in Washington. A surge of support from non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society coming after the humanitarian initiative and the Austrian Pledge led to UN General Assembly Resolution 71/258 of 23 December 2016 for the ban conference in March and June–July 2017. Will the NPT Review Conference be stimulated by the ban conference to achieve a positive outcome, or will each undermine the other so they both fail? The NPT has inherent problems and States Parties cannot agree on the relative importance of its three pillars, especially Article VI on disarmament. The proposed Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone, the success of the deal to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful, ongoing North Korean issues, and the status of non-NPT nuclear-armed countries will be additional contentious issues. The future of the NPT is gloomy and mass non-attendance at the Review Conference or mass exit via the Article X route; activating the amendment process; and a resolution moved on Article VI on disarmament are all possibilities for 2020. On the other hand, a US–Russia new START as well as innovative strategies might still rescue the 2020 Review Conference.
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Amb. (Ret.) Jayantha Dhanapala, former Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations, is President of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and one of The Simons Foundation's Peace Shapers as a previous recipient of The Simons Foundation Award for Distinguished Global Leadership in the Service of Peace and Disarmament.