Draft outcome document mentions ban but fails to launch negotiations

May 11, 2015

After two weeks of meetings, the chairs of the different committees and subsidiary bodies at the 2015 NPT Review Conference presented their first drafts of the outcome document on Friday 8 May.

Since the 2010 Review Conference, the discourse around nuclear weapons has changed significantly. At three conferences on the humanitarian impacts in Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna, governments examined the facts concerning the use of nuclear weapons and concluded that the humanitarian consequences would be unacceptable. Many states, as evident from discussions in Nayarit, Vienna and at the NPT so far, have drawn the conclusion that a new legally binding instrument needs to be pursued.

In particular, in the months leading up to the NPT Review Conference, 84 states have acknowledged that a legal gap on nuclear weapons exists and by joining the  Austrian Pledge, have committed to fill it.

“Any final outcome document that does not reflect this change in discourse will be an outcome that fails to reflect the views of the majority”, says Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

The two draft documents that deal with nuclear disarmament are the draft report on Main Committee I, which reviews the implementation of the Treaty since the last Review Conference, and the draft report from Subsidiary Body I, which looks at elements on forward-looking action for the coming review cycle.

As a review of what has happened the last five years, the first draft from Main Committee I welcomes the international discourse on the “unacceptable humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons”, in particular the three conferences in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna. It acknowledges the new information presented at these conferences, expresses concerns over the growing risk of use of nuclear weapons and welcomes the Austrian Pledge.

“No state has publicly disputed the facts presented and discussed at the three humanitarian conferences. It is therefore essential that the concerns about the unacceptable consequences and the increasing risk of nuclear weapons, as well as the welcoming of the Austrian Pledge, remain in the final outcome document” says Beatrice Fihn.

The forward-looking actions specifically refer to a treaty banning nuclear weapons but only encourages states to “identify and elaborate” legal provisions, which could take the form of a nuclear-weapons-ban treaty, a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, or a framework agreement.

Throughout the last five years, it has been repeatedly highlighted that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to an international prohibition. At the Vienna Conference, the Chair’s summary highlighted that “looking at nuclear weapons from a number of different legal angles, it is clear that there is no comprehensive legal norm universally prohibiting possession, transfer, production and use.”

Through the Austrian Pledge, over 80 states commit to work to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Many states highlighted at the NPT that they want to negotiate a new legally binding instrument now.

“The draft documents fail to take into account that the time is ripe for negotiations. When the NPT resumes today, governments should argue that the outcome document should acknowledge the legal gap and call for the commencement of a process to negotiate a legally binding instrument for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” says Beatrice Fihn.

Unfortunately, the outcome documents of the NPT rarely reflect the views of the majority of states parties but rather turn into lowest common denominator documents with vague formulations that can be ignored for another five years. These draft documents are likely to be weakened significantly in the coming two weeks.

Whatever the outcome of this Review Conference is, it is still the responsibility of all states to implement Article VI. “Democracy has come to nuclear disarmament” said Costa Rica in its statement to Main Committee I on Monday and called for the start of a process to ban nuclear weapons.

Looking forward to the final two weeks of the Review Conference, Beatrice Fihn noted, “Now governments need to make the intention to prohibit nuclear weapons, with or without nuclear weapon states, clear and start such a process by the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

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