From NPT Review Conference to the UN General Assembly

States Parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty deliberated for four weeks on nuclear risk-reduction, non-proliferation and disarmament measures.

Despite the lack of agreement on a final outcome document, can progress on some of these measures be made at the 77th UN General Assembly which opens later this month and runs until December?

Photo: Sean Pavone

On Friday (August 26), after four weeks of deliberations, the 10th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty concluded without adoption of any final outcome document.

The main issues preventing agreement revolved around the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and in particular text in the draft final outcome document which condemned the the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State (a reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine), and which expressed 'grave concern' over military activities and loss of Ukrainian authority at the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

This facility has been occupied and militarized by Russia, posing severe risks to the integrity of the nuclear power plant that could result in a nuclear catastrophe of a similar or worse nature than the Chernobyl nuclear accident. (See In Ukraine, a Nuclear Plant Held Hostage, NY Times, August 23, and Shelling at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant poses a growing problem, France24, Sep 9).

Russia wanted these texts removed. Other States Parties believed that these are important issues for the NPT and should stay in any NPT outcome document. Without consensus, the final draft document was not adopted.

However, action on some of the key proposals/initiatives discussed in the NPT Review Conference could be taken at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly which opens in New York on September 13.

NPT Review Conference very meaningful

According to Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen, President of the NPT Review Conference (above left), the conference was “very meaningful.”
“Delegations engaged in discussions on very complex issues, and the lack of an outcome document did not diminish their work. It is like we had a movie for four weeks, but we couldn’t take a picture at the end of the movie. So not having the picture of that doesn’t reflect that the movie didn’t exist.”

What now: New action in the UN General Assembly following a ‘failed’ NPT Review Conference?

The failure of an NPT Review conference to adopt a final document does not necessarily imply a failed conference. Proposals discussed during the Review Conference can take a life of their own despite of – or even stimulated by – the lack of an agreed outcome.

This happened for example in 2015, when a final document was unable to be agreed. Despite this, the conference played a critical role in building support at the UN General Assembly for negotiations on a Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was adopted in 2017, and for the establishment by the UN General Assembly of the UN Conference on a Middle East Zone free from Nuclear Weapons and other WMD, which opened in 2019 and will convene annually until it concludes a legally binding treaty to establish such a zone.

For additional background and discussion on this, please see NPT Review Conference ends without agreement: What next?

PNND Co-President Bill Kidd presenting to a plenary meeting of the NPT Review Conference at the UN in New York. Hie presentation is available in the report: Nuclear risks extreme says UNSG to NPT Review Conference. PNND calls for renewed leadership!

What issues/initiatives from NPT 2022 might get taken forward in the UNGA?

Issues/initiatives at the 2022 NPT Review Conference that drew a lot of attention, possibly paving the way for action in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and other forums, included nuclear risk reduction, non-use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict, the adoption of no-first-use policies and negative security assurances.

The call for adoption of no-first-use policies, for example, found much stronger support than in previous NPT Review Conferences, and for the first time ever was included in draft final documents (up until the final few days).

In addition, informal discussions were held during the NPT Review Conference, on a proposed UNGA resolution on reducing the threat of nuclear-weapons-use arising from armed conflicts, including the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

UN General Assembly 77th Session

PNND, NoFirstUse Global, UNFOLD ZERO, Youth Fusion, Global Security Institute and other partner organizations will use the momentum generated at the NPT Review Conference on these initiatives (and others) to make progress in the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly.

Parliamentarians can encourage their governments to promote key nuclear risk reduction and disarmament measures in the:

  • UNGA General Debate (Sep 13 - 23);
  • UN High Level Meeting on the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (Sep 26);
  • UN Disarmament and International Security Committee which meets during October and adopts disarmament resolutions.

Key nuclear risk reduction and disarmament measures that could be promoted are outlined in the Open Letter Fulfill the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security