The United Nations University (UNU) organized a Midday Forum on 1 February entitled “The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Where Do We Stand? What’s Next?” with Sergio Duarte, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs as speaker and Jean-Marc Coicaud Director of the UNU New York Office in the Chair. The event attracted 250 participants with an additional 100 individuals registered to watch a simultaneous webcast. The UNU’s Midday Forum series is designed to offer an intimate and informal platform for discussion to the UN Permanent Missions, the UN Secretariat, UN agencies, academia, NGOs and the private sector to discuss and exchange ideas and experiences on important topics related to the UN.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Duarte noted that a nuclear war would jeopardize not just the solemn principles and purposes of the UN Charter, but the very existence of life on this planet. It was precisely for this reason that efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, to prevent their spread, and to promote and ensure the exclusively peaceful uses of nuclear energy deserve a high priority throughout the world community — and that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was currently the focal point of these efforts. He noted that the May 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document included references to the Secretary-General’s five-point nuclear disarmament proposal, which includes a call for work on a nuclear weapons convention or an alternative framework of mutually-reinforcing instruments with the same goal.
The High Representative highlighted that new ground was also broken as the Review Conference expressed its “deep concern” over the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and reaffirmed the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law. Mr. Duarte remarked that in addition to 22 Actions to advance nuclear disarmament, the Final Document also called for greater transparency on the part of the nuclear-weapon States with respect to their nuclear capabilities and progress in achieving disarmament goals and identified a further 42 Actions for progress on non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Looking ahead to the future of the NPT, Mr. Duarte said that the determination and sincerity of the nuclear-weapon States to implement their commitments in the field of disarmament, was an area where progress was most needed. He added that this would require enlightened leadership from the States with the largest nuclear arsenals but it would also require active support from other countries in the international diplomatic community, as well as from individuals and groups in civil society. In terms of his twin subjects addressed at the meeting, Where do we stand? he said “Let’s stand for nuclear disarmament. And what’s next? Let’s finish the job of achieving it.”
Mr. Duarte’s remarks were followed by a question and answer session involving diplomatic and NGO representatives.