By Jamshed Baruah | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BERLIN (IDN) – As tension mounts in relations between the U.S. and Russia on Ukraine amid apprehensions of a nuclear fallout, three international conferences scheduled for April 2014 have acquired added significance in promoting efforts towards nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
The first in the series is a meeting of foreign ministers on April 11-12 in Hiroshima, nearly two months after the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Mexico. It will be followed by an inter-faith conference organised by the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI) on April 24 in Washington. From April 28 to May 9 the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will hold its third session at the United Nations in New York.
The PrepCom is purported to prepare for the Review Conference in terms of assessing the implementation of each article of the NPT and facilitating discussion among States with a view to making recommendations to the Review Conference. The NPT, which entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995, requires that review conferences be held every five years. The Treaty is regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Promoting a world without nuclear weapons is also the objective of the Hiroshima ministerial meeting, which is part of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), backed by a coalition of states with Japan and Australia taking the lead. The coalition came into being in an effort to help implement the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, adopted by consensus.
Composed of Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, the NPDI has issued a series of declarations concerning the pace of NPT negotiations and the need to swiftly move on both non-proliferation and disarmament.
At its ministerial meeting in the Hague in April 2013, the NPDI resolved to “actively contribute to the work of the PrepCom including by submitting, for further elaboration by all State Parties, working papers on reducing the role of nuclear weapons, non-strategic nuclear weapons, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT), the wider application of safeguards, nuclear weapons-free zones and export controls as well as an update of last year’s working paper on disarmament and non-proliferation education”.
The resolution added: “We also firmly believe that universalization and early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) are essential steps to achieve nuclear disarmament. We welcome the ratification of the Treaty this year by Brunei Darussalam and Chad, bringing the total of ratifications to 159. . . . We appeal urgently to all countries that have not yet become Parties, in particular to the remaining eight States listed in Annex II of the Treaty, to sign and ratify the CTBT without further delay.”
Further: “The Nuclear Weapon States have a particular responsibility to encourage ratification of the CTBT and we call on them to take the initiative in this regard. Pending the entry into force of the Treaty, we call upon all States to refrain from nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions.”
‘Three Preventions’ and ‘Three Reductions’
The importance of the Hiroshima ministerial conference was underlined by Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in a speech at the Nagasaki University on January 20, 2014. Kishida was born in Hiroshima, the first city to have been victimized by the first nuclear bomb ever deployed.
Kishida said, ‘Three Preventions’ and ‘Three Reductions’ were the centerpiece of Japan’s “basic thinking towards a world free of nuclear weapons”. The former are: “(1) prevention of the emergence of new nuclear weapon states, (2) prevention of the proliferation of nuclear-weapons-related materials and technologies, and (3) prevention of nuclear terrorism.” The constitute: “(1) reduction of the number of nuclear weapons, (2) reduction of the role of nuclear weapons, and (3) reduction of the incentive for possession of nuclear weapons.”
Implementation of such measures calls for active participation of the global civil society, says SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. “Where there is an absence of international political leadership, civil society should step in to fill the gap, providing the energy and vision needed to move the world in a new and better direction.”
“I believe that we need a paradigm shift, a recognition that the essence of leadership is found in ordinary individuals – whoever and wherever they may be – standing up and fulfilling the role that is theirs alone to play,” he adds.
Ikeda writes in his 2013 Peace Proposal: “It is necessary to challenge the underlying inhumanity of the idea that the needs of states can justify the sacrifice of untold numbers of human lives and disruption of the global ecology. At the same time, we feel that nuclear weapons serve as a prism through which to bring into sharper focus ecological integrity, economic development and human rights – issues that our contemporary world cannot afford to ignore. This in turn helps us identify the elements that will shape the contours of a new, sustainable society, one in which all people can live in dignity.”
Against this backdrop, an interfaith conference, initiated by SGI in Washington – the seat of the U.S. Administration and Congress – is of great importance.
Of crucial significance is the third PrepCom for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT. Hiroshima and Nagasaki will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings in 2015. This and the G8 Summit in 2016 would, according to SGI President Ikeda, be an appropriate opportunity for an expanded summit for a nuclear-weapon-free world, which in his view should include the additional participation of representatives of the UN and non-G8 states in possession of nuclear weapons, as well as members of the five existing NWFZs – Antarctic Treaty, Latin American NWFZ (Tlatelolco Treaty), South Pacific NWFZ (Rarotonga Treaty), Southeast Asia NWFZ (Bangkok treaty), and African NWFZ (Pelindaba Treaty) – and other states which have taken a lead in calling for nuclear abolition.
Addressing the opening of the 2014 session of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD) on January 21 in Geneva. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that there has been no breakthrough yet. “The pervasive cycle of pessimism in this body must still be overcome or else the CD will be overtaken by events,” he said.
Sharing his thoughts on a possible way forward, the UN chief said that while the CD continues to seek the path towards renewed disarmament negotiations, it is important that it develop treaty frameworks and proposals through structured discussions. “Laying such a foundation for future negotiations would be a concrete first step towards revalidating the relevance of the Conference,” he noted, adding that he hopes the body can make good progress before this spring’s third preparatory meeting for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.
The vital significance of the third PrepCom is underlined by the fact that Egypt decided to withdraw from the second session in April 2013, in protest against “the continued failure of the conference” to implement a 1995 resolution to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. Egypt’s Foreign Affairs ministry highlighted that the decision to postpone a conference to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East violated the decision made in the 2010 NPT conference to hold the conference in 2012. The ministry added that this “may affect the credibility of the NPT system”.
The conference was originally scheduled to take place in 2012, but was postponed by the four sponsors, the UN, the United States, Russia and Britain because not all states in the region – Israel above all – has not agreed to attend.
In its statement the ministry accused “some of the parties to the NPT, as well as some non-state parties” of hindering the establishment of the conference. It added that Egypt has sought the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone since the launch of the initiative at the United Nations in 1974. It called on the member states of the treaty, the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the international community to uphold their responsibility in implementing resolutions. [IDN-InDepthNews – March 15, 2014]
Image: A former South Dakota intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) site, now a Cold War Museum | Credit: london.usembassy.gov