NPT: Breakthrough or Bust in ’05?

This is the title of an excellent BASIC briefing document analysing the prospects for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference next month. In May 2005 the 188 State Parties (i.e. virtually every country in the world with three notable exceptions: Israel, India and Pakistan) will gather in New York for the seventh time since the treaty entered into force in 1970.

In a nutshell, the NPT enshrines a commitment by the five declared nuclear weapons states (US, Russia, UK, France, China) to work towards complete abolition of their nuclear arsenals and in exchange the non nuclear weapons states (the vast majority of the other countries of the world) undertake not to develop nuclear weapons of their own, but (and it is a big “but”) they retain an absolute entitlement to develop nuclear power for civil purposes.

With hindsight, this latter provision has proved to be the Achilles heel of the NPT: the IAEA‡ is severely compromised by a contradictory mandate both to promote the spread of the peaceful use of nuclear technology and to curb the diversion of materials developed by such technology into weapons programmes.

Nevertheless, the 2000 Review Conference agreed a clearly-achievable programme of confidence-building measures and practical suggestions for moving forward, often referred to as the “13 practical steps towards global nuclear disarmament” which can be summarised as follows:

  1. Progress needs to be made on entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  2. The moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions must be maintained.
  3. The Conference on Disarmament (CD) must move forward in establishing a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).
  4. A subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament is needed.
  5. The principle of irreversibility on arms control and reduction agreements must be applied to nuclear disarmament measures.
  6. Progress on nuclear disarmament (implementation of Article VI) is required.
  7. Implementation of arms reduction agreements and pursuit of binding agreements on further irreversible reductions must be instituted.
  8. Greater emphasis must be attached to the implementation of the Trilateral Initiative and greater support must be forthcoming for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  9. Confidence building measures and progressive steps to lower the nuclear threshold must be offered.
  10. Further fissile material stocks must be put under IAEA Safeguards.
  11. The ultimate objective of complete nuclear disarmament must be reaffirmed.
  12. The formal reporting back by States Parties between Review Conferences - the accountability principle - must be instituted.
  13. Enhanced verification measures must be agreed and implemented.

The big weakness, as was recognised at the time, was the absence of a timetable of actions. Because the nuclear weapons states continue to treat their absolute obligation to disarm as a vague aspiration “to be pursued at their own time and pace and only if completely convenient” (Rebecca Johnson, Disarmament Forum UNIDIR four 04), the NPT is increasingly being seen by the non nuclear weapons states as discriminatory.

As Dr El Baradei, IAEA Director General, stated in a recent article: “The twin crises of compliance with NPT obligations — namely, the engagement of some NNWS in undeclared nuclear activities, coupled with the failure of the NWS to take concrete, verifiable and irreversible steps to eliminate their nuclear arsenals — have led to a crisis of confidence in the NPT regime.

“The solution is... to work towards an equitable system that will provide the security of all. Despite any appearances to the contrary, this is an achievable goal — but only if it is rooted in rule-based multilateralism.”

Preventing horizontal proliferation (the spread of nuclear weapons technology to non nuclear weapons states, and potentially to organisations outside the control of any state) and vertical proliferation (the development of new weapons by the nuclear weapons states) are both equally vital.

“Attempts to paper over the cracks by restating that the NPT is the cornerstone of international arms control, that the NWS are moving forward on dismantlement of their nuclear arsenals, and that the NPT has served the international community well for 35 years will not suffice. The status quo will only serve to further build resentment and retrenchment. All must move beyond their usual rhetoric if practical, concrete progress is to be made.”

“End the Occupation, Bring the Troops Home”

The March 19th march and rally in Trafalgar Square was very impressive: very energetic and multi-ethnic, with participants of all ages. Trafalgar Square was full from 3pm till 6pm so that the organisers’ estimate of more than 100,000 can’t be unrealistic. The weather was glorious and the crowd very good-humoured. Speakers included Lance Corporal George Solomou who has recently resigned from the Territorial Army because of his opposition to the war in Iraq, and Rose Gentle whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq last year. The organisation Military Families Against the War is a very powerful new voice: “an organisation of people directly affected by the war in Iraq. Our relatives and loved ones are members of the British armed services. We are opposed to the continuing involvement of UK soldiers in a war that is based on lies.” (

Bruce Kent received a very loud cheer indeed when he spoke about weapons of mass destruction and the hypocrisy of the US and UK who are failing to fulfil their own obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Counter Terror, Build Justice 2005

Milan Rai of Justice Not Vengeance will be speaking at a meeting on April 12th in the Community Centre at 8pm as our contribution to a month of international peace action (19 March–15 April). His theme will be alternatives to war and constructive ways to counter the spiral of violence. Please come — and encourage friends and neighbours to come too.

We have already sent copies of the CTBJ statement ( to more than 100 local organisations inviting them to sign up to it. ‘Counter Terror: Build Justice’ describes this month of action as an opportunity to put out a message of hope. “What is presented to us as ‘the war on terrorism’ is a campaign of violence and repression that generates more anti-Western terrorism; we have to begin resolving the grievances from which terrorism springs.”

Mordechai Vanunu

In 2004 an international delegation travelled to Israel to welcome Mordechai Vanunu out of Ashkelon Prison on April 21 when he was released after completing his 18-year sentence for blowing the whistle on Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear arsenal. Since his release, Mordechai has been living in a church compound in Jerusalem under several restrictions, including a ban on contact with foreigners and on leaving Israel. These restrictions have several times been reviewed and reimposed and the next review is scheduled for the first anniversary of Mordechai’s release from prison.

The US and UK Campaign to Free Vanunu will again be organising an international delegation to Israel to support Mordechai’s case, and to celebrate with him if the restrictions are lifted. WDC/CND has decided to sponsor London Region worker David Polden to take part in the delegation, and we look forward to hearing direct news of events in Israel on his return. <campaign@van...>

Peace flags will go off to New York on April 12th so if you haven’t yet sent in your contribution please deliver it to 43 Wilton Grove as soon as possible. We have had some lovely pieces of artwork from children at local schools.

Our essential annual fundraising event takes place this year on May 14th from 11am–3pm. Planning is already under way and members will shortly be receiving begging telephone calls. We shall need goods for sale (plants, books, cakes, preserves, bric-à-brac — but nothing too bulky, please — and items for the tombola), sufficient people to man the stalls, staff the kitchen etc, and offers of transport both to and from the Community Centre. Please put the date in your diaries and consider what you can do to help make the Fête once again a success.

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