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Background Information

The 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will meet at the United Nations in New York from 2 to 27 May 2005. The President-designate of the Conference is Mr. Sérgio de Queiroz Duarte, Ambassador-at-large of Brazil.

The Treaty, particularly article VIII, paragraph 3, envisages a review of the operation of the Treaty every five years, a provision which was reaffirmed by the States parties at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

At the 2005 Review Conference, States parties will examine the implementation of the Treaty’s provisions since 2000.

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The NPT represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.

Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. Since its entry into force, the NPT has been the cornerstone of global nuclear non-proliferation regime. Adherence to the Treaty by 188 States, including the five nuclear-weapon States, renders the Treaty the most widely adhered to multilateral disarmament agreement.

History of the Treaty 

From the beginning of the nuclear age, and the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, it has been apparent that the development of nuclear capabilities by States could enable them to divert technology and materials for weapons purposes. Thus the problem of preventing such diversions became a central issue in discussions on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  Initial efforts, which began in 1946, to create an international system enabling all States to have access to nuclear technology under appropriate safeguards, were terminated in 1949 without the achievement of this objective, due to serious political differences between the major Powers. By then, both the United States and the former Soviet Union had tested nuclear weapons, and were beginning to build their stockpiles.

In December 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his “Atoms for Peace” proposal, presented to the eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, and urged that an international organization be established to disseminate peaceful nuclear technology, while guarding against development of weapons capabilities in additional countries. His proposal resulted in 1957 in the establishment of the IAEA, which was charged with the dual responsibility of promotion and control of nuclear technology. IAEA technical assistance activities began in 1958. An interim safeguards system for small nuclear reactors, put in place in 1961, was replaced in 1964 by a system covering larger installations and, over the following years, was expanded to include additional nuclear facilities (INFCIRC/66 and revisions). In recent years, efforts to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of the IAEA safeguards system culminated in the approval of the Model Additional Protocol (INFCIRC/540) by the IAEA Board of Governors in May 1997. (For detailed information see Fact Sheet No. 2.)

Within the framework of the United Nations, the principle of nuclear non-proliferation was addressed in negotiations as early as 1957 and gained significant momentum in the early 1960s. The structure of a treaty to uphold nuclear non-proliferation as a norm of international behaviour had become clear by the mid-1960s, and by 1968 final agreement had been reached on a Treaty that would prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, enable co-operation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. The Treaty provided, in article X, for a conference to be convened 25 years after its entry into force to decide whether the Treaty should continue in force indefinitely, or be extended for an additional fixed period or periods. Accordingly, at the NPT Review and Extension Conference in May 1995, States parties to the Treaty agreed—without a vote—on the Treaty’s indefinite extension, and decided that review conferences should continue to be held every five years.

The NPT Review Process

Conferences to review the operation of the Treaty have been held at five-year intervals since the Treaty went into effect in 1970. Each conference has sought to find agreement on a final declaration that would assess the implementation of the Treaty’s provisions and make recommendations on measures to further strengthen it. Consensus on a Final Declaration was reached at the 1975, 1985 and 2000 Review Conferences, but could not be achieved in 1980, 1990, and 1995. Differences centred on the question of whether or not the nuclear-weapon States had sufficiently fulfilled the requirements of article VI (nuclear disarmament) as well as on issues such as nuclear testing, qualitative nuclear-weapon developments, security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States by nuclear-weapon States, and on co-operation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference had two objectives: to review the Treaty’s operation and to decide on its extension. While not being able to agree on a consensus review of the Treaty’s implementation, States parties adopted without a vote a package of decisions. These decisions consisted of (a) elements for a strengthened review process for the Treaty, (b) principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and (c) the indefinite extension of the Treaty; as well as a resolution on the Middle East.

The 2000 Review Conference was expected to test both the strength of the new review mechanism and the concept of accountability which had been agreed upon when States parties accepted the “permanence of the Treaty” and extended it indefinitely. The Conference was successful in concluding its deliberations with agreement on the Treaty’s past performance and on a number of key issues pertaining to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, nuclear safety and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This marked the first time in 15 years that the States parties had been able to achieve an agreed Final Document.

The Final Document reaffirmed the central role of the NPT in ongoing global efforts to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and reflected consensus language dealing with virtually all the major aspects of the Treaty. In addition, after noting that the Conference deplored the nuclear test explosions carried out by India and Pakistan in 1998, the Document reaffirmed that any new State party to the Treaty will be accepted only as a non-nuclear-weapon State, regardless of its nuclear capabilities.

The most critical and delicate achievement was the incorporation in the Document of a set of practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement article VI of the Treaty. These steps provide benchmarks by which future progress by the States parties can be measured. One of the most frequently quoted among them is the nuclear weapon States’ agreement, for the first time, to undertake unequivocally to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament.

 Despite these major achievements of the Conference, the Final Document was the result of a compromise between divergent and partly conflicting positions; sensitive issues were put aside for the sake of the Conference and the Treaty.

Towards the 2005 Review Conference 

The Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Conference, established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 56/24 O of 29 November 2001, held three sessions in the period April 2002 to May 2004. It devoted most of its meetings to a substantive preparation of the Conference and considered principles, objectives, and ways to promote the full implementation of the Treaty as well as its universality. In this context it took into account the decisions and the resolution on the Middle East adopted in 1995, as well as  the outcome of the 2000 Review Conference. According to the agreement reached in 2000, the Preparatory Committee was expected to make every effort to produce a consensus report containing recommendations to the Review Conference.  However, due to the persistence of divergent views, the Committee was unable to reach agreement on the substantive issues under consideration.  Furthermore, it was also unable to agree on the provisional agenda for the 2005 Conference. Nevertheless, on some  organizational and procedural matters for the Conference, the Committee was able to make recommendations, such as on the draft rules of procedure as well as chairmanship of the three Main Committees to be established at the Conference. Accordingly,  Main Committee I should be chaired by a representative of the Group of Non-Aligned and Other States, i.e., the Chairman of the third session of the Preparatory Committee (Indonesia); Main Committee II should be chaired by a representative of the Group of Eastern European States, i.e., the Chairman of the second session of the Preparatory Committee (Hungary), and that Main Committee III should be chaired by a representative of the Western Group, i.e., the Chairman of the first session of the Preparatory Committee (Sweden).

Since the 2000 Review Conference, two States have acceded to the Treaty: Cuba (2002) and Timor Leste (2003). The international community welcomed these accessions as important developments in strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime. India, Israel and Pakistan have chosen not to join the Treaty. In January 2003, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced its withdrawal from the Treaty.

Among the issues which are expected to be considered at great length at the Review Conference in view of recent developments are: universality of the Treaty, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, safeguards, verification and compliance, nuclear-weapon-free zones, security assurances, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and withdrawal from the Treaty.  

Early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was one of the issues addressed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. The CTBT was opened for signature on 24 September 1996 and, as of January 2005, 174 States have signed and 120 have ratified it. All five nuclear-weapon States have signed the Treaty.  France, the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation have ratified it. Of the 44 whose ratification is required for the Treaty to enter into force, only 33 have so far done so. At the two Conferences convened to consider measures to facilitate the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, held, respectively, in 2001 in New York and 2003 in Vienna, ratifying and signatory States adopted Final Declarations calling on all States that have not done so to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay. The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO Preparatory Commission), which was established in November 1996, has been at work in Vienna, Austria, to carry out the necessary preparations for the effective implementation of the CTBT. From the outset, it has concentrated its work on establishing an effective global verification regime in the form of an International Monitoring System (IMS) and International Data Centre (IDC), and implementing necessary training programmes for the verification regime envisaged in the Treaty. 

sNegotiations of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, has been long on the international agenda. But to date, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) has not been able to start such negotiation as the Conference has not been able to reach agreement on its substantive programme of work that would include other issues related to nuclear disarmament as well. 

Efforts to reduce their nuclear weapons were made by the Russian Federation and the United States. At the Moscow Summit, on 24 May 2002, both States signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), by which they agreed to limit their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to an aggregate number of 1700-2200 for each Party by 31 December 2012. 

In September 2002, the parties to the Trilateral Initiative, the Russian Federation, the United States and the IAEA met to review the status of the initiative and concluded that the task entrusted to the Trilateral Initiative Working Group has been fulfilled. The Initiative was launched in 1996 to develop a new IAEA verification system for weapon-origin material designated by the United States and the Russian Federation as released from their defence programmes. The removal of weapon-origin fissile material from the defence programmes of the Russian Federation and the United States is in furtherance of the commitment to disarmament undertaken by the two states pursuant to Article VI of the NPT.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States awoke the world to the fear over the possibility of future acts of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction. They also highlighted the increased importance for disarmament and non-proliferation to prevent non-State actors from acquiring, developing, trafficking in or using nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery.  The Security Council by its resolution 1540 (2004) specifically addressed that concern. It requires that all States adopt and implement effective laws that prohibit any non-State actor from manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, developing, transporting, transferring or using nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, and to take and enforce effective measures to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of such weapons. 

As of February 2005, 63 NPT States parties have ratified Additional Protocols to their IAEA Safeguards Agreements for the Agency’s application of strengthened safeguards, outlined in the “Model Additional Protocol” (INFCIRC/540 Corr.) which was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in May 1997. Currently 152 States have safeguards agreements with the IAEA and a total of 908 facilities are under routine safeguards inspections. The increase in the number of Additional Protocols since the 2000 Review Conference has been significant, with 42 additional States having signed such protocols and 53 States have brought them into force.

Concern over non-compliance with the safeguards provisions of the Treaty has continued, especially since the IAEA remains unable to verify nuclear material subject to safeguards in the DPRK, and divergent views continue to persist with regard the DPRK’s status  vis-à-vis the NPT after its withdrawal from the Treaty on in January 2003. The situation in the DPRK continues to pose a serious challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, as the Agency has never been allowed by the DPRK to verify the completeness and correctness of the DPRK’s initial 1992 declaration. Since December 2002, the Agency has not been permitted to perform any verification activities in the DPRK and therefore cannot provide any level of assurance of the non-diversion of nuclear material.

            In December 2003, after intensive contacts with the United Kingdom and United States governments, Libya announced that it had decided to eliminate materials, equipment and programmes that might be used to produce internationally banned weapons. It also announced its intention to fulfil all its obligations under the relevant regimes on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to accept international inspection teams to verify its compliance with its commitments. As a result of its verification activities in 2004, the IAEA confirmed that, for many years, Libya had pursued a clandestine programme of uranium conversion and enrichment. Recent IAEA assessments of Libya’s declarations concerning its uranium conversion programme, enrichment programme and other past nuclear related activities appear to be consistent with the information available to, and verified by, the Agency. However, further investigations are needed in order to verify the completeness and correctness of Libya’s declarations. These investigations are ongoing.           

In recent years, the IAEA Board of Governors devoted considerable attention to the implementation of Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement. In a resolution adopted on 29 November 2004, the Board noted with interest the agreement between Iran and France, Germany and the United Kingdom issued on 15 November 2004, and welcomed the fact that Iran had decided to continue and extend its suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities. The Board underlined that the full and sustained implementation of this suspension, which is a voluntary, non-legally-binding confidence-building measure, to be verified by the IAEA, is essential to addressing outstanding issues.

The importance of nuclear-weapon-free-zones for non-proliferation as well as disarmament and the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East was underlined in the resolution on the Middle East of the 1995 Review Conference and reaffirmed in 2000. This subject will be one of the main issues at the 2005 Review Conference.

Since the 2000 Review Conference, considerable progress has been made towards establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia. In February 2005, the five Central Asian States announced reaching an agreement on the treaty text.

The Preparatory Committee has not been able either to make recommendations to the 2005 Review Conference on the issue of legally-binding security assurances by the five nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT.

According to the IAEA’s Member States, the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology should be available to all States. Through its Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), the Agency works in partnership with Member States using nuclear technology to assist them to achieve their major sustainable development priorities in a cost-effective manner. In 2003 the TC Programme disbursed more than US$73.2 million worth of equipment, services, and training. An agreement has been reached for a target figure for the Technical Cooperation Fund for 2005 and 2006 of $77.5 million for each of the two years. 

As in the past, the issue of the inalienable right of the parties to the NPT to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination will continue to receive one of the highest attentions. In this respect, several proposals have been made recently aimed at finding ways to prevent nuclear technology and materials from being diverted to covert and illegal weapons programmes, while ensuring States’ parties legitimate right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.