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United Nations First Committee 2009

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Looking towards the NPT Review Conference

From Carol Naughton in New York, 14 October 2009

First Committee is only meeting in the afternoons this week so that leaves plenty of time for more relaxed conversations with delegates from different regions. A lot of that is focused around different perceptions of what would be 'success' at the 2010 Review Conference of the NPT.

The common words are 'balanced' outcome across the three pillars,  'consensus final document' that all nations can agree to and will abide by, 'renewed and reinvigorated' NPT, strengthened and given new energy and drive. However as we know the famous “balance” means very different things depending on your priorities and, for many, it is about 'what works for me' as I heard it described.

In their statement to the thematic discussion on Nuclear Weapons, Australia set it out as, 'The 2010 Review Conference must reaffirm the collective security benefits provided the NPT and it must deliver results across all three pillars: nuclear disarmament; non-proliferation; and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.'

On the disarmament pillar 'success' is seen as not just a reduction in numbers of nuclear weapons but, crucially, a complete devaluing of nuclear weapons, with their role in National Security Strategies seriously reduced and a very positive plan for nuclear disarmament. Reviewing the 13 steps from the 2000 RevCom and past decisions is important but what is needed, I am told, is not to re-negotiate these but to take forward those that can be, to add new steps and to form a practical and concrete plan of action. The coherence of the P5 will be vital here and that is a challenge for our diplomats.

On the other two pillars of non-proliferation and peaceful use there are many proposals being put forward. The EU statement to the Thematic discussion on Nuclear Weapons sets out many of these see 'Thematic Debate' :  http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/1com/1com09/statements.html

The other key area for creating a successful outcome is for concrete proposals to be agreed on how to take forward the resolution on the Middle East WMDFZ adopted at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and by the UNSC. Although the draft recommendations from the 2009 PrepCom were not adopted, the recommendations on the Middle East resolution: to establish a subsidiary body at the review conference;  to consider concrete practical steps to promote the earliest implementation of the resolution; and for the review conference to consider appointing a special coordinator and convening a future conference on the issue,  were not changed through all three iterations of the document.  Moving forward on the basis of these proposals could prove constructive to creating success in 2010.

One of the common themes of discussion here is how to avoid 'destructive diplomacy' and of the need to change the 'mind set' of many towards constructive negotiations that will deliver an outcome that all nations will commit to abide by. It is recognized that everyone sees the NPT through different lens and that a huge effort is needed to 'adjust our lens' as I heard it described.

The First Committee session moved to a new phase today. First was a report by the High Representative of the Office of Disarmament Affairs (ODA), Sergio Duarte, on follow up to past decisions and resolutions. This was followed by an exchange with a panel of High-Level Officials, representing the ODA, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) and the Conference on Disarmament (CD), on the “Current state of affairs in the field of arms control and disarmament and the role of international organizations with mandates in this field”. 

Duarte made very strong references to the importance of the links with other organizations such as the World Bank and World Health Organizations and the effects on all humankind should there be a failure to achieve the goals of disarmament.

The representative of the CD made an outstanding effort at putting forward the CD's recent years' progress is a very positive light, welcoming the adoption of the Programme of Work and expressing disappointment at the disagreements over procedural and timetable issues that prevented substantive work. He also welcomed the recent UNSC resolution and said that it was unprecedented that the UNSC so elaborately supported the work of the CD. He expressed optimism that the CD will be able to begin work early in 2010.

Tibor Toth, representing the CTBTO, was also very positive in his assessment of prospects for a CTBT entering into force and of how the CTBT can act as a catalyst to nuclear disarmament and as a strong confidence building measure.  He described it as not 'if' but 'when' the treaty will enter into force but did comment that high level leadership and determined action by the international community will be needed to ensure ratification by the last 9 of the 44 nations required.

The next phase of Thematic discussions on Nuclear Weapons began and will continue for the next few days. 

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