Now what, NPT?

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On June 18 ILPI’s WMD project organized a panel discussion about the prospects for progress in international disarmament after the failure to reach agreement at the 2015 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York in May

By Magnus Løvold
21 June 2015

From the left: Sigrid Heiberg, Øistein Mjærum, Sverre Lodgaard, Liv Tørres, and Gro Nystuen.

On May 22, after weeks of intense negotiations and discussions at the UN Headquarters in New York, it became clear that the 190 member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) had failed to reach agreement on an outcome document. This breakdown in the diplomatic endeavor to move the world closer to the full elimination of nuclear weapons was the topic of a panel discussion organized by ILPI at Litteraturhuset in Oslo on June 18.

The panel consisted of the following participants:

  • Liv Tørres, Norwegian People’s Aid
  • Øistein Mjærum, Norwegian Red Cross
  • Gro Nystuen, International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI)
  • Sigrid Heiberg, ICAN Norway

The discussion was moderated by former NUPI-director and NPT-expert Sverre Lodgaard.

NPT is not the solution

Article VI of the NPT commits all states to negotiate effective measures for nuclear disarmament, but this obligation has only to a very limited extent been followed up since the agreement came into force in 1970. Interestingly, there is no demonstrable correlation between reductions in the number of nuclear warheads and the outcome of the NPT’s five-year review conferences.

In the words of Øistein Mjærum, Communication and Marketing Director of the Norwegian Red Cross, “the collapse in New York shows that the NPT is not the solution to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.”

“If one is to be conspiratorial, one could say that the NPT is a gigantic diversion” – Gro Nystuen

Many believe that the lack of progress in international disarmament and non-proliferation is due to the requirement that decisions very often have to be taken by consensus. According to Gro Nystuen, Senior Partner at ILPI, “there will not be any movement towards nuclear disarmament as long as nuclear-weapons states have a right to veto.”

A global rebellion

During the third conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna in December 2014, Austria pledged to pursue effective measures to “stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.” 109 countries now support this “humanitarian pledge” and many believe that this shows there is a political basis to start a negotiation process on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. According to Sigrid Z. Heiberg, this development represents “a rebellion among the world’s countries.”

“There is nothing in the humanitarian initiative that would undermine the NPT” – Liv Tørres

But how should support for the humanitarian initiative be reshaped into concrete political results, asked moderator Sverre Lodgaard from Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). According to the Secretary General of Norwegian People’s Aid, Liv Tørres, the solution would be to start a negotiation process outside the framework of the NPT. “We saw a growing impatience among states during the 2015 Review Conference. Countries without nuclear weapons must now go ahead and develop a treaty banning nuclear weapons”, said Tørres.