Scope of action

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An overview of the issues, policy positions and possible outcomes of scenarios at the 2015 Review Conference of the NPT.

By Magnus Løvold
5 May 2015

click to enlargeOn Monday 27 April, Ambassador Taous Feroukhi of Algeria opened the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In the weeks leading up to 22 May 2015, when the 2015 NPT Review Conference comes to a close, States Parties will review the implementation of the treaty and possibly agree on future actions.

In this post we will provide you with an overview of the issues, policy positions and possible outcome scenarios at the 2015 Review Conference, with a view to assessing States’ Parties scope of action. The post will focus on the overarching issues of 1) nuclear non-proliferation, 2) nuclear disarmament,  and 3) the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, as the balancing of expectations and perceptions with regards to these issues seems most likely to determine the outcome of the 2015 Review Conference (RevCon).

We will be updating the text throughout the RevCon, so should you have any views on the summary provided below, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on Twitter at @ILPIwmd or to use the comments field below.

Issues at the 2015 NPT Review Conference

This first section aims to provide a summary of the issues raised by states during the General Debate of the 2015 Review Conference. This will be followed by an analysis of the policy positions of the main NPT groups.

1. Nuclear non-proliferation


Nuclear non-proliferation is generally considered to be the most fundamental pillar of the NPT. The treaty’s non-proliferation obligations and prohibitions are specified in articles I, II and in parts of articles III and VII. No NNWS party to the NPT have received, manufactured or otherwise acquired nuclear weapons since the NPT entered into force in 1970. Only one state—North Korea—has withdrawn from the NPT and subsequently developed nuclear weapons. Consequently, there seems to be broad agreement among States Parties that the non-proliferation measures of the NPT have been upheld and, on the whole, adequately implemented.

During the first week of the RevCon, a number of provisions related to nuclear non-proliferation have received attention from States Parties:

  • An overwhelming majority of states have welcomed the framework agreement reached between Iran and the P5 + 1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States plus Germany) on 2 April 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland, designed to freeze portions of Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran. Many states has also expressed hopes of a final agreement to be reached ahead of the deadline set for a comprehensive agreement on 30 June 2015. One state suggested that the Iran agreement should add impetus on implementation of disarmament commitments.
  • A high number of states have called for the universalization of the NPT, and several states have called for the four nuclear-armed states not party to the NPT to join the treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states. Some Arab states, such as Tunisia and Palestine, has explicitly criticized Israel for its refusal to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
  • Many States Parties have condemned the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea, and criticized the country’s withdrawal from the NPT in 2003. Expressing concern over non-compliance with the NPT, some states has encouraged the 2015 Review Conference to discuss mechanisms to prevent abuse of article X—the article dealing with withdrawal from the NPT.
  • Many states have highlighted the need to universalise the IAEA additional protocol, stating that the Comprehensive Safeguard Agreements (CSA) and Additional Protocols (AP) constitute the current verification standard. Other states have highlighted the voluntary—not legally binding—nature of AP.
  • Many states, and in particular states from Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia as well as Mongolia, has called attention to the importance of regional nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties as an important non-proliferation measure. Several states has welcomed the NPT5’s accession to the Protocol to the Central Asian nuclear weapon free zone while others called for the NPT5 to accede to a similar protocol to the Bangkok Treaty.
  • Several states have drawn attention to the increased risk of use of nuclear weapons by non-state actors and welcomed the two Nuclear Security Summits (NSS) organised since the last review conference. Some states also highlighted other non-proliferation initiatives such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), the IAEA Safety Action Plan and the IAEA Nuclear Security Plan 2014 – 2017.
  • A large number of states have expressed concern over the failure to convene a conference on a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East, and one state has claimed that the NPT is increasingly facing a crisis of legitimacy and relevance as a result of this failure. A vast majority of states has expressed support for such a conference to be organised at an early date after the review conference.

2. Nuclear disarmament


For many NPT States Parties—perhaps the majority—the nuclear disarmament pillar expressed in the treaty’s article VI is at least as important than the non-proliferation pillar. Especially since the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995, a general view among many States Parties has been that while the treaty has been relatively successful in preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons, it has been less successful in delivering nuclear disarmament.

Discussions about nuclear disarmament at the 2015 Review Conference seem to be far more contentious than discussions about non-proliferation. About one third of the actions in the 64-point action plan from 2010 spell out various disarmament measures. Some of these disarmament measures are vague and open to interpretation, but many of them have clearly not been adequately implemented.

During the Review Conference, a number of provisions related to nuclear weapons have received attention from States Parties:

  • An overwhelming majority of states have expressed support for the goal, objective or vision for a world without nuclear weapons, and highlighted the obligations contained in article VI of the NPT. States have differed, however, in their interpretation of article VI. While some states view bi- and unilateral reductions of nuclear weapons by the NPT5 since the end of the Cold War as sufficient implementation of article VI, other states view multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations as a necessary condition for the fulfilment of article VI. Likewise, some states have described a world without nuclear weapons as an “urgent imperative”, whilst others have described it as a “distant” goal or even a “dream”.
  • A large number of states have expressed frustration with the general lack of progress on nuclear disarmament, and inadequate implementation of the disarmament actions contained in the 64-point action plan from 2010. Many states have expressed concern at the NPT5’s on-going nuclear weapons modernization efforts. Several states has acknowledged that the New START is a step in the right direction and some have called for Russia and the United States to include non-strategic nuclear weapons in future talks.
  • Several states have expressed concern with the decades long deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and one state suggested “shock therapy” to revitalize the body.
  • Several States Parties, and in particular European states, has criticised the perceived violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial integrity by Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In relation to this, moreover, several states said that “nuclear disarmament does not happen in a vacuum”, and argued that the current international security situation was less than ideal for making progress on disarmament.
  • A majority of states have repeated calls for well-established NPT objectives, such as the entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty, and the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Some states linked these objectives to specific process requirements, such as the so-called “step-by-step” approach and the “building blocks” approach to nuclear disarmament. However, few states suggested concrete measures for the achievement of these objectives.
  • A number of states have expressed concern about the lack of transparency in disarmament processes. Whilst recognizing that the national reports submitted by the NPT5 to the 2015 Review Conference as a step in a right direction, many states has continued to call for greater transparency in disarmament processes.
  • Some states have expressed concern with deployed nuclear weapons on high alert and developed a number of concrete proposals for how to move forward in order to reduce the operational readiness of (de-alert) nuclear weapons, including the development of confidence-building measures and to provide annual reports on the operational readiness of nuclear weapons during the 2015-2020 review cycle.
  • Several states have expressed concern with the undiminished reliance on nuclear weapons by the NPT5, and called for increased efforts to reduce the significance of nuclear weapons in security doctrines of these states. Some states have also expressed concern at the continued reliance on nuclear weapons by military alliances such as NATO.
  • A large number of states have highlighted the need for a new legally binding instrument to implement the effective measures contained in article VI of the NPT and/or to fill the gap in the international legal framework regulating nuclear weapons. Some of these states have called for a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, to be negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament, whilst others have called for such an instrument to be negotiated in the United Nations General Assembly. Others again have not specified a forum for discussion, but rather highlighted that the start of negotiations on a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons should not be dependent on participation of the nuclear-armed states.

3. The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons


In line with the outcome document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, which expressed “deep concern at the continued risk that [nuclear weapons] could be used and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons”, Norway, Mexico and Austria successively organised three international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons during the 2010-2015 review cycle.

During the 2015 Review Conference, the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons has received considerable attention from States Parties:

  • A record-breaking 159 states signed on to the last version of the joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, delivered by the Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurtz, and several states delivered statements building upon the facts presented at the three humanitarian impacts conferences. On behalf of 26 mainly European states, Australia delivered an alternative statement highlighting the way the humanitarian perspective can contribute to realizing the disarmament objectives identified in the 64-point action plan.
  • An overwhelming majority of states has expressed concern at the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in their national statements and argued that this perspective has introduced new energy and a new sense of momentum in discussions about nuclear disarmament. A large number of states also highlighted the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Opinions differ about the future direction and the purpose of the humanitarian impacts initiative. While some states highlight the linkages between the humanitarian impacts initiative and the need for a new legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons, other states merely make note of this initiative, and have issued calls for “realism” and “pragmatism” in pursuance of nuclear disarmament measures.
  • Several states have made explicit reference to the so-called pledge delivered by Austria at the end of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014, signalling either that they have endorsed this pledge or intend to do so in the near future.

POLICY POSITIONS AT THE 2015 NPT REVIEW CONFERENCE

This section of this post provides an overview of the policy positions on nuclear disarmament of the main political constellations in Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1 at the 2015 Review Conference, i.e. the NPT5, the members and observers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the nuclear umbrella states.[i] In addition, this section outlines the policy positions of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) and the Humanitarian Group of 15/16, which have played an active role in discussions on disarmament at the 2015 Review Conference. The NPT5—the nuclear-weapon states—is recognized as a separate category of states in the text of the NPT itself, while the NAM and the NAC are both established groups within the NPT. The Humanitarian Group of 15/16 is a group that emerged in the context of the NPT during the last review cycle, and have played an active role during the 2015 Review Conference. The nuclear umbrella states don’t constitute an NPT group as such. However, the statements of the umbrella states do tend to converge around a common set of policy positions positions.[ii]

China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States)" >1. NPT5 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States)


  • Desired outcome: The NPT5 states view of disarmament has generally been characterized by rhetorical support for a vision of a world without nuclear weapons and resistance against proposals calling for new multilateral measures to increase the pace of nuclear disarmament. The NPT5 states view the 64-point Action Plan from the 2010 Review Conference as a “road-map for long-term action”, and would therefore prefer a simple rollover, or an extension, of the disarmament commitments included in the 2010 Action Plan into the next review cycle. An outline of the overall policy position of the NPT5 states can be found in their joint statement delivered during the General Debate of the NPT, and the United States’ position on nuclear disarmament can be found in Working Paper 44.
  • View of past progress: At the 2015 Review Conference, the NPT5 states have generally adopted a long-term perspective of implementation of disarmament commitments under the NPT, and have repeatedly argued that the considerable reductions in nuclear warheads since the end of the Cold War is proof of the effectiveness of the so-called step-by-step approach. In Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1 of the 2015 Review Conference, they have therefore resisted any attempt to criticize progress on disarmament as “slow” or “lacking”, and demanded recognition of their activities, such as outcomes of the so-called “P5 process”, the NPT5’s “glossary on key nuclear terms”, the signing of the protocol to the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, as well as various verification initiatives. Some states within this group, in particular France and Russia, have insisted on their interpretation of article VI of the NPT as calling for “general and complete disarmament”, and downplayed or ignored the article’s references to “negotiation” and “effective measures”.
  • Position on further action: In line with their preference for a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, most NPT5 states have highlighted long-standing demands such as the entry into force of the Comprehensive-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the start of negotiations on a Fissile-Material-cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) as the next logical disarmament steps. They have resisted any references indicating the need for a strengthened multilateral nuclear disarmament process, and objected to calls for concrete benchmarks and timelines for nuclear disarmament, but also the more conservative “building blocks” agenda proposed by the nuclear umbrella states. Some NPT5 states have reacted particularly strongly to calls for multilateral implementation of the effective measures cited in article VI of the NPT through the development of new legally-binding instruments, and the United Kingdom has stated that they will not accept an outcome document that leaves the door open to a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons. In addition, some states in this group have resisted calls for de-alerting of deployed nuclear weapons, and objected to calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons in military and security doctrines and the cessation of modernization activities related to their nuclear arsenals.
  • Position on the humanitarian approach: Most NPT5 states have resisted any references to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the associated risks of accidental, unauthorized or intentional use of these weapons. France has been a particularly vociferous critic of this initiative, and called any reference to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, including the Humanitarian Pledge and the joint statement on the humanitarian impact, “unacceptable”—arguing that no reference should be made to the outcome of conferences not attended by all NPT States parties. In line with this, the NPT5 states have also objected to the assertion that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used, under any circumstances. France has also argued that the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons have not brought about any new information about nuclear weapons, and have argued, together the United States, that there is no increased risk of nuclear weapons being used, intentionally or otherwise. The United States and the United Kingdom have recognized the humanitarian impact initiative, but have argued that this initiative highlights an overarching concern, and should therefore only be referenced in the chapeau, and not in the operational paragraphs, of an outcome document. China has also recognized the humanitarian impact initiative, but strongly objected to any mention of the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some states within this group have objected to any reference to the legal status of nuclear weapons, including the International Court of Justice’s 1996 advisory opinion.

2. Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)


  • Desired outcome: The 120 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) have for a long time referred to nuclear disarmament as their “highest priority” although they have previously demonstrated a willingness to trade away their disarmament demands in exchange for other, more immediate objectives—such as the decision to convene a conference on a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East made at the 2010 Review Conference. Several leading NAM states and NAM observers have rejected the view of the 64-point Action Plan from the 2010 Review Conference as a “road-map for long-term action”, and would prefer stronger multilateral disarmament commitments included in the outcome document of the 2015 Review Conference. An outline of the NAM’s policy positions on nuclear disarmament can be found in Working Papers 2, 3, 7, 13, and 14.
  • View of past progress: At the 2015 Review Conference, the members and observers of the NAM have generally viewed the 64-point Action Plan from 2010 as containing a set of immediate, operational disarmament commitments, and have expressed considerable frustration with the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament since the 1995 Review and Extension Conference. In Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1 of the 2015 Review Conference, many NAM members and observers have criticized what they see as unacceptably slow implementation of the 64-point Action Plan on the part of the NPT5 states. Some NAM states have also resisted welcoming the results of the NPT5 states’ so-called “P5 process”—arguing that the outcome of these meetings falls well below expectations created by the outcome document from the 2010 Review Conference. Some NAM states have also been sceptical to welcoming disarmament steps as a result of unilateral decisions made during the last review cycle. On the positive side, many NAM states and observers have highlighted the 2013 High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament, as well as the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/32, first tabled in 2013.
  • Position on further action: The inadequate implementation of the 64-point Action Plan from 2010 has led many NAM states and observers to call for stronger disarmament measures to be included in the outcome of the 2015 Review Conference, including their long-standing demand for concrete benchmarks and timelines for nuclear disarmament and the start of negotiations on a comprehensive multilateral nuclear disarmament convention. These calls are in line with the NAM’s view of article VI of the NPT as a legal obligation warranting multilateral implementation. While some NAM states have called for such an instrument to be negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, others have called for a process to be initiated in the United Nations General Assembly. NAM states and observers have also called for the NPT5 and nuclear umbrella states to eliminate nuclear weapons from military and security doctrines, demanded the cessation of current modernization activities related to the NTP5’s nuclear arsenals, and, pending the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention, legally binding negative security assurances.
  • Position on the humanitarian approach: Most NAM states and observers have welcomed references to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the associated risks of accidental, unauthorized or intentional use of these weapons in Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1, and argued for the facts presented at the three humanitarian impacts conferences to be referenced both in the chapeau and the operational paragraphs of the outcome document. Thailand and Costa Rica have been particularly active in calling for the inclusion of a reference to the Austrian Pledge and the joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, but leading NAM states, such as Indonesia, Egypt, South Africa and Algeria, have also called for stronger language on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons to be included in the Main Committee I drafts.

3. Nuclear umbrella states


  • Desired outcome: The nuclear umbrella states’ view of disarmament is generally more conflicted than that of the NPT5 and the NAM. Adopting a professed “ambitious, but pragmatic” approach to the 2015 Review Conference, these states have gone further than the NPT5 in calling for new disarmament measures, while falling short of calling for stronger multilateral disarmament commitments, as proposed by the NAM. Because of their alliance with one or more NPT5 state, however, the policy position of most nuclear umbrella states are generally closer to the NPT5 than to most NAM states and observers. Consequently, these states would prefer moderately strengthened disarmament commitments to be included in a 2015 outcome document—as compared with the outcome document from the 2010 Review Conference.
  • View of past progress: At the 2015 Review Conference, the nuclear umbrella states have generally adopted a medium- to long-term perspective of implementation of disarmament commitments under the NPT, and have expressed disappointment over the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament—albeit significantly less vociferously than most members and observers of the NAM. In Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1 of the 2015 Review Conference, many nuclear umbrella states have welcomed the steps taken by the NPT5 to implement their disarmament commitments, including the outcomes of the so-called “P5 process”, the “glossary on key nuclear terms”, and highlighted various verification initiatives. States within this group have also highlighted the work of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on fissile material, and some have welcomed the French FMCT draft. In addition, many nuclear umbrella states have welcomed achievements such as the agreement among the NPT5 on a common form for reporting on nuclear disarmament, but criticized the quality and lack of consistency of national reports. In contrast with the NPT5, several nuclear umbrella states have highlighted multilateral disarmament initiatives, such as the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament, convened in 2013.
  • Position on further action: Many nuclear umbrella states favours a so-called “building block” approach to nuclear disarmament—an offshoot of the NPT5’s “step-by-step” approach, which opens up for the possibility of pursuing various disarmament measures simultaneously. In content, the proposed building blocks resembles the steps proposed by the NPT5, and most nuclear umbrella states have highlighted long-standing demands such as the entry into force of the CTBT and the start of negotiations on an FMCT. Many nuclear umbrella states have also called for a consideration of deeper cuts in bilateral disarmament talks between Russia and the United States, and many have highlighted the need for such talks to include discussions about reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons. In addition, some nuclear umbrella states, such as Japan, have attached considerable importance in pursuing work on nuclear disarmament education, while others, such as the Netherlands, have called for stronger commitments on transparency through reports submitted by the NPT5.
  • Position on the humanitarian approach: Most nuclear umbrella states have expressed cautious support for the humanitarian impact conferences, and Norway, the convener of the first conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, have made the inclusion of the conclusions from that conference in the 2015 outcome document a top priority. Japan, moreover, has attached considerable attention to the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many other states have however highlighted the perceived need to consider the outcomes of the humanitarian impacts conference in light of international security considerations, and Australia has attempted to challenge the Group of 16/15’s ownership of this issue by issuing an alternative joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Other nuclear umbrella states, such as the Netherlands, have downplayed the security considerations stemming from the evidence showing that the risk of accidental, unauthorized or intentional use of nuclear weapons is higher than previously assumed. Some nuclear umbrella states, such as Slovenia, have objected to welcoming the Humanitarian Pledge in the Main Committee I report, and several states have expressed concern at what they see as the logical political outcome of the humanitarian impact initiative: the development of a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.

4. New Agenda Coalition (NAC)


  • Desired outcome: The six members of the New Agenda Coalition have played an important role at previous review conferences of the NPT, and the group is usually credited with having forged consensus between the NPT5 and the NNWS on an outcome document at the 2000 Review Conference. Inspired by the momentum created by the three humanitarian impact conferences, during the previous review cycle, the group has explored the different multilateral options for implementing the “effective measures” of article VI of the NPT. In line with this, the NAC would prefer the 2015 Review Conference to endorse the call for advancing effective measures in all disarmament forums to be included in the outcome document of the 2015 Review Conference. An outline of the NAC’s policy positions on nuclear disarmament can be found in Working Papers 8 and 9.
  • View of past progress: To a large extent, the NAC’s view of disarmament progress corresponds with the view of the majority of NAM members and observers. The members of the NAC have both individually and collectively criticized both the perceived inadequate implementation of the 64-point Action Plan from 2010, and highlighted the general failure to implement the obligations contained in article VI of the NPT—which, in their view, warrants the development of a nuclear weapons treaty corresponding to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). In their statement during the General Debate of the 2015 Review Conference, Ireland pointed out that not a single nuclear weapon has been disarmed under the NPT or as part of any multilateral process. Some NAC states have also expressed their concern with the NPT5’s on-going nuclear weapons modernization programmes, undiminished reliance on nuclear weapons in the NPT5’s security doctrines as well as with the operational readiness and lack of efforts on the part of the NPT5 to de-alert their nuclear arsenals.
  • Position on further action: The NAC has played a very active role in Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1 of the 2015 Review Conference, and has consistently called for implementation of effective measures for nuclear disarmament as outlined in Working Paper 9. In this Working Paper, the group presents two legally distinct approaches for the implementation of effective measures: (1) A stand-alone agreement, either in the form of a nuclear-weapons-ban treaty or a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention; or (2) a framework convention comprising several mutually supporting protocols. While the NAC states have not called for the 2015 Review Conference to decide upon which of these options would constitute the most effective and appropriate implementation of article VI of the NPT, they have demanded a discussion about the matter, and called for decisions to be taken to advance effective measures “with appropriate follow-up in all disarmament forums, as well as by the General Assembly”. Noting the considerable support for this proposal among the States parties to the NPT, the members of the NAC have moreover suggested that consensus on an outcome document must be built around the majority, and not on the basis of the lowest common denominator.
  • Position on the humanitarian approach: The members of the NAC have justified their call for implementation of effective measures both with reference to article VI of the NPT and with reference to the evidence presented at the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Many NAC members have also participated actively in the organization of these conferences, and have previously coordinated the joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, delivered at various NPT Preparatory Committees as well as in the United Nations General Assembly. Consequently, the NAC has consistently called for references to be made to the various humanitarian impacts initiatives to be included in the outcome document of the 2015 Review Conference, and objected to attempts by the NPT5 and the nuclear umbrella states to weaken these references by, amongst other things, deleting the reference to the sentence stating that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons should never be used, under any circumstances. In addition, the NAC has resisted the suggestion made by some nuclear umbrella states that concerns about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons should be seen in light of increasing international tensions.

5. The Humanitarian Group of 15/16


  • Desired outcome: The Group of 15/16 is a group of states that emerged during the last review cycle as a coordination group around the various humanitarian impacts initiatives, including the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The Group of 16 consists of the states associated with the first joint statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament, delivered at the 2012 NPT Preparatory Committee. The Group of 15 was created as an offshoot of the Group of 16, as a result of Denmark’s and Norway’s decision to withdraw from, and Sweden’s decision to co-sponsor, Working Paper 30 submitted to the 2015 Review Conference. In line with their focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, the Group of 15/16 would prefer the evidence presented at the three humanitarian impacts conferences to be included in the outcome document of the 2015 Review Conference as a call for effective measures for the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.
  • View of past progress: The members of the Group of 15/16 have expressed a varying degree of disappointment over the perceived lack of implementation of disarmament commitments during the last review cycle. Some states within this group, such as Costa Rica and Mexico, have argued that implementation of the actions on disarmament have been “lacking”, while others, such as Norway, have presented a more muted criticism. These differences reflects the cross-regional nature of the Group of 15/16 and includes both members and observers of the NAM as well as nuclear umbrella countries. All members of this group have however highlighted the three humanitarian impacts conference and the emerging discourse on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament as in line with, and an important follow-up on, the outcome of the 2010 Review Conference.
  • Position on further action: The members of the Group of 15/16, and especially Austria, the coordinator of Working Paper 30 and the joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, have played a very active role in Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1 of the 2015 Review Conference. They have consistently argued for references to the evidence presented at the three humanitarian impacts conferences to be included in the 2015 outcome document, and highlighted the perceived links between the humanitarian approach and calls for effective measures to fill the legal gap in the international framework regulating nuclear weapons. This linkage might reflect the fact that several members of the Group of 15/16 are also members of the NAC. In contrast with the NAC, however, this group has not stipulated different alternatives for the implementation of effective measures for disarmament, but made the more general point that policy considerations should follow from the evidence showing the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Most members of the Group of 15/16 have made positive reference to the Pledge delivered at the end of the Vienna Conference, calling for effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. During the last week of the Review Conference, Austria chose to “internationalize” this pledge, renaming it the “Humanitarian Pledge“. The Group of have moreover reacted strongly to the claim, made by France, that the humanitarian impacts conferences have not brought forward any new information, and argued for a reference to be made to the assertion that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used, under any circumstances. In addition, and in line with the outcomes of the Vienna Conference, members of this group have stressed the increasing risks of unauthorized, accidental or intentional use of nuclear weapons, and demanded recognition for evidence showing that the risk of nuclear weapons use is higher than previously assumed.

 

[i] This section draws on Reaching Critical Will’s News in Brief reports, published in News in Reviews throughout the 2015 Review Conference.
[ii] It should be noted that not all NPT groups are considered in this post, and that some of the groups considered are partly overlapping, while some states are not properly represented in any of these groups.