As the 2010 Review Conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) got under way at UN Headquarters in New York in early May, several dozen legislators joined their national delegations to follow the proceedings during the first week of high-level debates, as well as to meet among themselves and with UN officials to evaluate the current situation and the opportunities ahead.
It was recalled that in April of last year, delegations from over 120 IPU member parliaments adopted a consensus Resolution on Advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and securing the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. That Resolution included a series of practical recommendations on what parliaments can do to ensure universal ratification of CTBT, promote the UN Secretary General’s five-point plan for nuclear disarmament, and support a number of concurrent steps such as reductions in nuclear stockpiles, establishment of nuclear-weapons-free zones, and the start of negotiations on a fissile materials treaty.
In their meeting of 5 May in New York, the MPs shared some of their own initiatives and experiences, and discussed action that could help build political momentum for progress in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. They heard how parliamentary resolutions supporting a nuclear weapons convention, or Mr. Ban’s more comprehensive five-point plan, have been adopted in a number of parliaments - including those of Austria, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and Norway, and the European Parliament, – and introduced in other parliaments such as those of France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Several other parliaments are likely to follow suite.
In a forum organized jointly by the IPU and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) on 6 May, and which featured the UN Secretary-General as keynote speaker, key themes emerged that were subsequently presented before the negotiators at the main NPT Review Conference. Among these:
- Politicians and diplomats alike should not underestimate the growing momentum towards nuclear disarmament - and they should not hesitate to reach towards an unprecedented, historical breakthrough;
- Non-proliferation steps, such as Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, can play a key role in developing the institutional and technical components for a nuclear-weapons-free world, as long as they are developed with that end in mind and not as ends in themselves;
Parliamentarians from countries in extended nuclear deterrence relationships can support nuclear disarmament through phasing out the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines;
Current barriers to nuclear disarmament could be overcome by commencing a preparatory process which would explore the legal, technical, institutional and political requirements for a nuclear-weapons free world. This process could be guided, but would not be bound by, the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention circulated by the UN Secretary-General;
The Nuclear Weapons Convention provides a non-discriminatory approach which builds on currently existing mechanisms, such as the CTBTO and IAEA - and fills in the gaps;
Nuclear disarmament can constitute an important part of disarmament for development – releasing resources that can be applied to meeting UN Millennium Development Goals;
Collaboration between legislators, governments and civil society is required to ensure success;
Disarmament and peace education is vital to build political constituencies to support action by parliaments and governments for nuclear disarmament.