NPT 2020 Review Underway: Is the NPT Still Relevant?
NPT Review Conference

NPT 2020 Review Underway: Is the NPT Still Relevant?

APLN Policy Brief 38

The following is a summary. Click on the adjacent link to download the full brief.

“And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.” (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

The 2020 NPT Review Conference has its first Preparatory Committee meeting in Vienna in May against a backdrop of a failed 2015 Review Conference and in very inauspicious circumstances which include the nuclear weapon ban conference this year and the uncertainties of a Trump presidency in Washington. A surge of support from non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society coming after the humanitarian initiative and the Austrian Pledge led to UN General Assembly Resolution 71/258 of 23 December 2016 for the ban conference in March and June–July 2017. Will the NPT Review Conference be stimulated by the ban conference to achieve a positive outcome, or will each undermine the other so they both fail? The NPT has inherent problems and States Parties cannot agree on the relative importance of its three pillars, especially Article VI on disarmament. The proposed Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone, the success of the deal to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful, ongoing North Korean issues, and the status of non-NPT nuclear-armed countries will be additional contentious issues. The future of the NPT is gloomy and mass non-attendance at the Review Conference or mass exit via the Article X route; activating the amendment process; and a resolution moved on Article VI on disarmament are all possibilities for 2020. On the other hand, a US–Russia new START as well as innovative strategies might still rescue the 2020 Review Conference.

About the Author

Jayantha Dhanapala is a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998–2003), former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States (1995–97) and to the UN Office in Geneva (1984–87), and former Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR, 1987–92). President of the historic NPT Review and Extension Conference of 1995, he is currently the 11th President of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs; Distinguished Associate Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and a member of several other advisory boards of international bodies.


Image: iStock.