Nonproliferation recommendations at the NPT

Debate has begun on recommendations[i]summarized in a draft outcome document prepared by the Chair at the current NPT PrepCom in New York. There are indications of broad support, [ii] but not yet the consensus that will be required to move the recommendations forward to next year’s Review Conference. The following describes six key nonproliferation proposals.

1. Safeguards: IAEA safeguards are reaffirmed as “a fundamental pillar” of the nonproliferation regime, in part because they help to “create an environment conducive to achieving nuclear disarmament.” Efforts to strengthen safeguards are welcomed, but without specific direction as to how that might be accomplished. The Canadian statement to the PrepCom, reflecting the views of many other states as well, offers some of the detail that is missing – namely, that all states enter into Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements  with the IAEA, and that the IAEA’s Additional Protocol become the essential verification standard under Article III of the Treaty.

2. Fuel Cycle Developments: Here the document is looking for a delicate balance. On the one hand there is a call for further consideration of multilateral approaches to managing and controlling the proliferation of sensitive elements of fuel production for civilian reactors – accompanied by assurances of supply; on the other hand there is also a call for each country’s national prerogatives to be respected – the latter being an important nod to the Article IV right of access to nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. Ultimately, however, national choices and preferences cannot be unfettered if there is to be any collective brake on the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies which have direct application for building bombs. That said, this time the Chair managed a fairly skillful navigation between these two poles – preventing the spread of the technology while recognizing the rights of states to acquire it – with the affirmation that the exercise of national choices should not jeopardize international cooperation agreements.

3. Nuclear Weapon Free Zones and the Middle East: The Chair’s statement recognizes and affirms the importance of nuclear weapon free zones generally, and commends a proposal for the five nuclear weapon states under the NPT “to convene a conference of all states of the Middle East region to address ways and means to implement” the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. That resolution in turn called on all States, but particularly the nuclear weapon states, “to extend their cooperation and to exert their utmost efforts with a view to ensuring the early establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems." Egypt submitted a working paper[iii] to the PrepCom calling for a conference to be held in 2011 and for the establishment of a standing committee to plan the conference and coordinate other efforts to implement the commitments on the Middle East.

4. Transparency and Reporting: Several recommendations promote transparency – in the context of a) measures to implement export controls, b) strengthening accountability related to all provisions of the Treaty, and c) an expanded reporting mechanism. The impact of the recommendations would be to expand the current reporting obligations, currently focused on Article VI of the Treaty and the Middle East Resolution, to cover all elements of the Treaty, something which Canada has long advocated. The specific recommendation calls on states to “consider establishing a uniform, practical and cost-efficient reporting system for the implementation of the Treaty.” This would in fact be an important maturation of the 2000 reporting provision and would, one hopes, reinvigorate the idea that accountability depends on transparency, and that transparency depends on states making it happen through regular and comprehensive reporting.

5. Institutional Deficit: Canada has once again submitted well-developed recommendations to this PrepCom[iv] to address the woeful absence of an institutional and governance infrastructure for the Treaty. The Chair’s recommendation on institutional and procedural reforms is put in the context of a strengthened review process and calls on States to consider the various proposals “with a view to achieving a consensus on agreed measures.” That may still be a hard sell, given that a diplomat from one of the nuclear weapon states told NGOs in an off-the-record briefing that in his view the reform proposals were unnecessary and had in fact garnered little support. Currently the States Parties to the Treaty meet in decision-making mode only once every five years, at the formal Review Conferences. The annual PrepComs are restricted to preparing for those meetings and have no formal decision-making mandate. And unlike other Treaties, the NPT does not have a secretariat. Hence, Canada recommends that States Parties meet annually in a decision-making “General Conference,” that a standing bureau be created to provide leadership and continuity during and between meetings, and that a permanent administrative support office be created to support and facilitate Treaty meetings and intersessional work. The working paper elaborates on the rationale, budget, and functions of these institutional enhancements.

6. Role of NGOs: The Chair’s recommendations also call on States to consider ways of enhancing NGO participation in the Treaty review process. In the previous review cycle Canada submitted a working paper on NGO participation but has not raised the issue in the current review cycle. The 2003 working paper[v] noted several ways in which NGO participation could be made more effective: more open meetings, with all plenary and cluster working group sessions open as a matter of course (this is now largely the case), and with closed meetings the relatively rare exception; access to the PrepCom/RevCon meeting rooms, with appropriate seating areas, to enable direct interaction with the official delegations (this is now not the norm); opportunities to intervene directly in the debates and discussions under all items of the agenda (this is not now the case – however, one session is set aside for NGO presentations); and more timely and systematic access to conference documents (the electronic availability of official documents is now improving, but is definitely not timely).


[i] The May 12 post covers the disarmament recommendations.

[ii] See the daily reports from the PrepCom by Reaching Critical Will, available at

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