What's In Blue

Posted Tue 25 Feb 2020

Briefing on nonproliferation: “Supporting the Non-proliferation Treaty ahead of the 2020 Review Conference”

Tomorrow afternoon (26 February), the Security Council will hold a briefing on non-proliferation with a specific focus on supporting the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ahead of the 2020 review conference. Briefings are expected from High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu and Gustavo Zlauvinen, President of the NPT Review Conference. Germany will be represented by its Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas.

In her briefing, Nakamitsu is likely to emphasise the importance of the NPT as the key element of international non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament efforts. Given that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force, Nakamitsu may provide an overview of some of the treaty’s main accomplishments to date. The core objectives of the NPT are to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, achieve universal nuclear disarmament and uphold the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Currently, 190 member states are parties to the NPT, which makes it the arms control agreement with the widest membership and adherence. Nakamitsu is also likely to point to some of the main challenges facing the NPT today, including the tensions among major nuclear powers and eroding commitments to nuclear disarmament.

Every five years, the parties to the NPT meet to review the operation of the treaty. The next NPT Review Conference will take place from 27 April to 22 May. Given his specific role, Zlauvinen is expected to focus his briefing on activities related to the 2020 review conference, including the work of its preparatory committee. Zlauvinen is likely to emphasise the importance of reaching an agreement on the final document during the 2020 review conference. During the last review process in 2015, no agreement was reached on the final document.

Germany has been particularly active in drawing the Council’s attention to the 2020 NPT Review Conference. During its Council presidency in April 2019, Germany organised a high-level meeting with a focus on supporting the NPT ahead of the 2020 review conference. After that meeting, Council members issued a press statement reaffirming their commitment to advancing the goals of the NPT and expressing their readiness to join efforts to achieve a successful outcome of the 2020 review conference.

Tomorrow’s meeting, which was also initiated by Germany, is intended as a follow up to the April 2019 meeting. While it appears that Germany wanted to explore the possibility that the Council would pursue presidential statement during the meeting, there was apparently insufficient support among members for such a formal outcome. There is a possibility that members may again issue a press statement on this issue, as they did after the April 2019 meeting. This would be likely to include some general points in support of the NPT and the 2020 review conference.

During their interventions, Council members are expected to express support for the NPT. Some members may raise concerns over the lack of progress on non-proliferation by the states possessing nuclear weapons. In this context, some members may maintain that the suspension of the US-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty poses a threat to the non-proliferation regime. Other issues that could be raised include the future of the Iran nuclear programme and the proliferation of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails