ISSUE 47
SPRING 2005
Peace Matters index
 

nuclear disarmament?

 

   

 
 


ONLINE contents


big guns against small arms
- soldiers in the laboratory
- nuclear disarmament?
- we don’t do body counts
- british pacifism in WW2
- trouble ahead - putting human
  lives first

- high calibre recruiting
- Europe and the Non-Proliferation
  Treaty


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Army Cadet Force is a valuable source of high calibre recruits to the regular forces and provides a military footprint within the country.
Baroness Seccombe, Shadow Minister for Education.

 

The 2005 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will present the international community with a stark choice at the United Nations in New York in May. If no negotiated breakthrough is made during the four weeks of deliberation, then the NPT may be declared dead and buried. The historic bargain of the NPT, whereby the five 'declared' Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) undertook to eliminate their arsenals and the rest - the Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS) - agreed not to seek to acquire them, is under grave pressure. The NWS are charged with impeding efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons free world, while some NNWS have been found to have violated, or are charged with planning to violate, their side of the bargain. There is a remarkable degree of consensus on the need for the 188 nations signed up to the NPT to make substantive progress to comply with their obligations during the Conference. The problem is that there is deadlock between those who wish to prioritise non-proliferation measures and those who which to prioritise nuclear disarmament measures. Compounding this problem, the NPT is widely recognised as discriminatory, open to differing interpretation and unenforceable. Additionally, three states that have since acquired nuclear weapons -Israel, India and Pakistan - stand defiantly outside the provisions of the NPT and show disdain for the oft-repeated pleas for them to join as NNWS. These three have been joined by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a recent NPT dropout that clandestinely developed an illegal nuclear weapons programme while developing a legal nuclear power programme. The concept of shared security, transcending narrow definitions of national security based on the possession and threat of nuclear retaliation, is considered a distant, all but unachievable, objective by the NWS. Moreover, this handful of powerful states continues to try and justify the status quo on the contentious grounds that their possession of nuclear weapons is 'recognised', and thus legitimate, under the NPT. On the other hand, the emphasis by the NNWS on their 'inalienable' right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes needs to be balanced by recognition of the further restrictions and controls necessary to prevent latent proliferation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is compromised by a mandate both to promote the spread of the peaceful use of nuclear technology for power generation and to curb the diversion of materials developed by such technology into weapons programmes. In reality, however, the Agency does a remarkable job in monitoring the latter and holding the line against more nations going nuclear. 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 dismantling 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. Is it time to give up on the NPT as some experts have advocated and some academics and officials have implied? We believe that it should be given one more try in the hope and expectation that a substantive breakthrough is made in both curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology and moving to nuclear disarmament. How to overcome this 'crisis of confidence' is the key question before NPT member states. We suggest a good place to start would be an agreement that the NPT will only remain relevant if it is universally accepted that it stands for compliance by all, for all, without exception or excuse. The 2000 NPT Review Conference agreed an ambitious, but given the political will, eminently achievable 'Plan of Action' for the realisation of global nuclear disarmament. We suggest all parties review these commitments and report on their progress in implementing them in New York. I well remember the advice of Jayantha Dhanapala, then Chairman of the 1995 NPT Review Conference, who reminded us that civil society should not rely on diplomats to make the much needed progress on nuclear disarmament. He added that it was the responsibility of NGOs active in this field, as representatives of civil society at large, to press their own governments to abide by their treaty obligations.

 
     

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