NGO PRESS BRIEFING ON NPT REVIEW CONFERENCE
Some nations, particularly the United States, seemed to have no desire for the Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to succeed, preferring to argue over procedure rather than hold substantive discussions, Susi Snyder, the Secretary-General of the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom, told journalists at a Headquarters briefing today.
“We’ve been here for nearly 4 weeks, expecting some sort of leadership, expecting movement in the non-proliferation and disarmament regime, but that has failed to happen”, said Ms. Snyder, who was joined by representatives of several nuclear disarmament non-governmental organizations. Deploring the “democratic deficit” at the Conference, which began on 2 May and ends on Friday, she said that statements made before and during the Conference had shown a lack of willingness or compromise to be diplomatic and move the entire non-proliferation and disarmament regime forward.
The NPT States had a moral, political and legal responsibility to push disarmament forward, but were not fulfilling their obligations, added Alyn Ware of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms. He said his organization, which had won a case with the International Court of Justice in 1992 to proclaim nuclear weapons illegal and oblige States to eliminate them, were now thinking of returning to the Court.
“Given the dire proceeding here at the NPT and the lack of implementation, we’re now consulting with governments to look at returning to the Court to look at the compliance issue with nuclear weapons States -- whether they are in compliance or not and what they should do to be in compliance”, he said.
Following the Court’s 1992 decision, he added, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution calling for implementation of the disarmament obligation through negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention. “This is not just pie in the sky, but a practical method to address security and the political, technical and legal aspects of nuclear disarmament.” His Association had drafted a model treaty showing that nuclear disarmament was possible and was now working with governments to bring it about.
Whatever the outcome of NPT negotiations, put in Hilda Lini of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement, civil society organizations had gained momentum worldwide and would continue with their decades-long work against nuclear weapons. They had mobilized individuals, national and provincial governments, and mayors, and now youths were playing a leading role in the majority vision for a nuclear-free world. The global community may be held at ransom, but civil society would continue to hold governments accountable in ensuring that they cut down and worked to eliminate existing nuclear weapons.
Sophie Lefeez of France’s Le Mouvement de Paix said the attendance of more than 400 young people at the NPT Conference reflected their increasing concern about the danger of nuclear weapons. They had noticed the deliberate will of some countries to make the conference fail and the powerlessness of the majority to prevent it. “This generation is failing to provide the next generation with a world free of nuclear weapons. We do not want to inherit a world where nuclear weapons jeopardize our security, our environment and our lives.”
Her movement would be joining the Abolition 2000 group in organizing events worldwide to commemorate the 6 and 9 of August, when Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan were bombed by nuclear weapons in 1945. It would also be developing the mayors for peace network and working with parliamentarians to have governments respect the law and fill in the democratic deficit. “From New York to Berlin, from Rome to Bethlehem, from Paris to Hiroshima, we will work towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.”
Speaking for Abolition 2000, Alice Slater noted that her group had brought 100 mayors and deputy mayors to the United Nations for the opening. If governments blocked nuclear disarmament, people would work through mayors, parliamentarians, and friendly governments, rather then wait five years for the next NPT to come around. “As an American citizen I am ashamed of my Government, that they didn’t use this opportunity with all of the nations here to work on further steps for disarmament and concerns about proliferation”, she said.
Asked about the current status of NPT negotiations, Ms. Snyder said Main Committees II and III had sent no texts to the drafting committee, and that Main Committee I had sent a factual report stating that it had met four times over the past two days without agreeing on a text to submit.
To another query about who was to blame for the possible failure of the Conference, Ms. Snyder said the fault would lie with nations like the United States who refused to acknowledge that politically binding agreements on nuclear disarmament agreements had been made at previous conferences five and 10 years ago.
Mr. Ware added that it was impossible to prevent proliferation while nuclear weapons States were maintaining robust nuclear-weapon policies. The situation was like a parent who smoked several packages of cigarettes a day while trying to keep his children from taking on the habit. “It doesn’t hold up”, he said.
Questioned about the role of countries like Egypt and Iran in the treaty stalemate, Ms. Snyder referred back to the 1995 Conference and a move to indefinitely extend it, mainly due to a resolution calling for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Mention of the State in the Middle East opposing that resolution, Israel, who was not party to the NPT and had nuclear weapons, had been blocked from appearing in any draft text, preventing movement forward.
Asked by another correspondent what contribution non-governmental organizations had made to the Conference, Ms. Slater said non-governmental organizations, unwilling to take non-compliance lying down, had spent tens of thousands of dollars to come to New York and get countries to respect their earlier agreements. Mr. Ware added that non-governmental organizations were working with parliamentarians, with the press, inviting key speakers to forums, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert McNamara and Ted Turner, and working behind-the-scenes with delegations on legal, political and technical needs for their working papers.
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