Proposal for an Intersessional Working Group of the Preparatory Committee for the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Progress on nuclear disarmament is vital for the full implementation of the Non Proliferation Treaty and in order to achieve universality.
Progress within existing disarmament machinery is currently slow or blocked, and could be stimulated by complementary work through the NPT process.
The strengthened review process for the NPT provides a forum for the emergence of disarmament proposals, but does not provide an adequate forum for in depth consultation, deliberation on or development of such proposals.
An intersessional working group, in creating such a forum, would provide an opportunity for States parties to overcome blocks to progress, or at the least to discuss the development of conditions that would enable the full implementation of Article VI.
TheModel Nuclear Weapons Convention could be a useful discussion document in an intersessional working group.
Why an intersessional working group
Article VI of the NPT obliges States parties to negotiate in good faith on nuclear disarmament.The International Court of Justice on July 8, 1996, concluded unanimously that the obligation was to "bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects."
Such negotiations are currently not occurring. The Conference on Disarmament (CD), the single multilateral negotiating body for disarmament, has been unable to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament because of opposition by certain nuclear weapon States. It has thus been unable to establish a negotiating mandate for nuclear disarmament or for a series of steps leading towards nuclear disarmament.
An intersessional working group would provide an opportunity to discuss aspects of nuclear disarmament which may help establish a negotiating mandate. In addition, the group could consider aspects of nuclear disarmament which could be useful once negotiations begin.
A working group would not be constrained by some of the limitations of the CD, such as the requirement of consensus even on procedural matters, and could involve participation of non-CD members as well as CD members.
The working groups mandate would be to consider the means for implementing Article VI of the NPT.
The agenda could include:
i) consideration of a program for nuclear disarmament culminating in a nuclear weapons convention
ii) consideration of the legal, political and/or technical measures (including verification) necessary for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
While there is nothing to stop the States parties of the NPT from establishing a group with a negotiating mandate, this proposal does not call for such a mandate to be given to an intersessional working group at this point in time. It is more important at this stage for States parties to consult and deliberate on how to commence such negotiations, how they could be brought to a conclusion, and what measures can be taken to support such negotiations.
The setting of the agenda should take into account developments in other fora, in particular the CD, in order to avoid duplication. It thus may be decided by the working group to focus on certain aspects of the above agenda.
The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (UN document A/C.1/52/7) could be a useful discussion document for the working group. The model convention outlines the political, legal and technical measures which need to be addressed in achieving an actual nuclear weapons convention.
This need not be unwieldly. One proposal would be for the working group to meet twice yearly for a period of two-three weeks for each meeting. The first meeting would allow for the presentation of information, analysis and proposals and establish a process for consultations between meetings, and the establishment of sub-committees (if required). The second meeting would allow for deliberation on proposals and the seeking of agreement.
The establishment of a working group may require additional costs. However cost cutting should not be a reason to prevent progress on the implementation of Article VI obligations which could be assisted by the establishment of an intersessional working group. Costs should be kept to the minimum necessary.
Establishing the working group
At the first session of the NPT PrepCom, the Marshall Islands proposed the establishment of an intersessional working group. This proposal is included in the Chairmans working paper (NPT/CONF.2000/PC.32/Corr.1, p. 23).
The second session of the NPT PrepCom could decide to establish such a working group to begin its work in mid 1998. Such a decision would allow the working group to begin its work prior to the 2000 review, and to report to the review.
Nuclear disarmament has moved from the realm of an idealistic dream to a real possibility. The legal, political and technical measures necessary for the elimination of nuclear weapons are now within our grasp. However, negotiations are stalled and need a kick start. The establishment of an intersessional working group of the NPT Review could assist considerably in this process by providing a unique forum for deliberation and the development of proposals on nuclear disarmament.
States parties should seize this opportunity and decide at the second session of the NPT Review to establish such a working group.