Dædalus, Winter 2010
From its beginnings, the multilateral Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons (NPT) has been flawed by deeply entrenched discriminatory features. Yet
somehow it has emerged as the most widely subscribed-to disarmament agreement in
the world, with 190 member states-parties.1 The year 2010 marks the fortieth anniversary
of the NPT’s entry into force, and also serves as occasion for the Treaty’s next
five-year review by all member states. This review comes at a time when the strength
of the NPT is being sorely tested by pressures arising from the original “bargain”
between the nuclear-weapons states (NWS) and non-nuclear-weapons states (NNWS);
by the litany of unfulfilled promises from past review conferences, especially the
1995 Review and Extension Conference and its discussion surrounding Article VI;
and by the few instances of NNWS attempting to renege on their NPT obligations.
The NPT is a unique treaty in many ways. It seeks to combine the prohibitive aspect
of a disarmament treaty (with regard to NNWS, in Articles I, II, and III) and the
advisory approach of an arms control treaty (with regard to the NWS, in Articles
IV and VI). It also contains a provision, in Article X, paragraph 2, for a conference
to be convened 25 years after the Treaty’s entry into force, to decide whether it
should be extended indefinitely or “for an additional fixed period or periods.”
Article VIII, paragraph 3 of the Treaty also provides for review conferences at
five-year intervals. If diplomacy is the application of tact, skill, and intelligence
in the conduct of international relations among nation-states, then both of these
Treaty provisions offer opportunities for the active exercise of diplomacy by states
party to the Treaty.
Most treaties are designed to last for an indefinite duration and are frozen in
time except for amendment procedures, which, at any rate, are normally difficult
to implement. In this respect, the internal dynamics of NPT conferences assume special
importance while the external context, including instructions from national governments,
continues to have undisputed influence. Thus the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference
and all other review conferences, held every five years since 1975, merit close
analysis for the interplay of diplomatic efforts by NWS and NNWS and the impact
these efforts have had on the future course of the NPT. The lead-up to the 2010
Review Conference provides an appropriate moment to study this diplomacy, which
includes examining how past conferences have been managed. NPT diplomacy is not
merely the interaction of delegations at NPT conferences and in between; it is also
the management of the conferences by the officers elected to the various positions
by the states-parties, in view of the impact these officers have on the success
or failure of the conferences. Often the most intractable issues do not necessarily
cause conferences to implode and collapse without agreement if there is sufficient
goodwill and creative diplomacy. By contrast, negative personal chemistry among
key delegations and poor conference management are likely to exclude any hope of
accommodation or compromise.2
The negotiating record of the NPT – as revealed especially in Mohamed Shaker’s pioneering
study3 – indicates that the Treaty was largely a product of U.S. and, subsequently,
USSR delegations that co-chaired the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference (ENDC),
the negotiating body that preceded today’s Conference on Disarmament. Prior to the
ENDC, in 1959 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution 1380
(XIV), which had been proposed by Ireland and called for NWS to refrain from providing
weapons to NNWS.4 Two years later, another Irish draft resolution on the “prevention
of the wider dissemination of nuclear weapons” was also adopted by the Assembly.
What makes the 1959 and 1961 resolutions distinctive is that both resolutions represent
the views of the NNWS. Of the two resolutions, the second, Resolution 1665 (XVI),
adopted unanimously in the UNGA on December 4, 1961, can be regarded as the genesis
of the NPT.
The transition from the UNGA, where voting is equitable with each member state having
one vote, to the ENDC, where, among the 18 states, the cochairs were in a clear
position of authority and influence as Cold War superpowers, was significant. The
more evenly balanced interests of NWS and NNWS in the Irish resolution mutated to
a draft treaty that was heavily weighted toward the interests of NWS. At the same
time, the cochairs were aware that the draft treaty had to attract the support of
a wide range of NNWS.
The main opposition came from Germany and Italy, both of which felt that they were
targeted. Their diplomacy helped limit the duration of the NPT to 25 years. Article
VI – widely regarded as the disarmament pillar of the NPT – was the result of developing
countries, NNWS like Mexico, whose redoubtable Ambassador Alphonse Garcia-Robles
spearheaded the fight for the inclusion of this Article. By 1961, the Non-Aligned
Movement (NAM), with member states from each continent, had its first summit in
Belgrade. The 25 countries of NAM had pledged to pursue an independent foreign policy
unattached to the two blocs and were beginning to assert influence in global politics.
That Article VI was a watered-down version of what Mexico and others proposed and,
eventually, was placed deliberately within the context of “general and complete
disarmament” was perhaps the best possible outcome given the strength of the NWS
in the ENDC. Garcia-Robles played a leading role in the conclusion of the 1968 Treaty
of Tlatelolco, which made Latin America and the Caribbean the first inhabited nuclear-weapon-free
zone. Later, he shared the 1982 Nobel Peace Prize with Ambassador Alva Myrdal of
Sweden, another outstanding disarmament diplomat.
In the formulation of Article X, paragraph 1 (the withdrawal clause of the NPT;
now very much the center of discussion after the DPRK left the NPT), it is clear
from the negotiating record that the United States introduced the clause, but that
Egypt, Burma, Brazil, and Nigeria had a role in the final language adopted. The
focus at the time was on states exercising their sovereign right to withdraw on
the basis of other states-parties not complying with their obligations.
The NPT was signed on July 1, 1968, and entered into force in 1970. Its membership
has expanded from 91 in 1975 to 190 in 2009. The three depositary states – the United
States, Russia, and the United Kingdom – have strongly encouraged other states to
join, contributing to this expansion. However, it is true that assertive U.S. diplomacy
has succeeded in convincing many countries to join the NPT as NNWS. At certain stages,
opponents of the NPT, such as India, have tried to counteract this diplomacy but
without much success, especially in South Asia. A dramatic uptick in accessions
was noticeable prior to the 1995 Review and Extension Conference. While sovereign
countries of course make a decision to join the NPT according to their national
interests, the entry of long-standing holdouts like Argentina, Brazil, and South
Africa represents a diplomatic success for the depositary states.
Four review conferences were held in Geneva during the 1975–1990 period, with two
of the conferences (1975 and 1985) seeing adoption of a Final Declaration by consensus
and two (1980 and 1990) failing to do so. However, it is arguable whether the success
or failure of review conferences can be judged by the adoption of a Final Declaration.
First, although the rules of procedure for the conferences provide for voting, decisions
are generally reached by consensus, out of an increasing concern not to be divisive
in vital issues of security. This empowers individual delegations or small groups
of delegations to obstruct consensus and prevent the adoption of a Final Declaration.
Second, adopting a Final Declaration is regarded by some as less important than
a comprehensive discussion of how the NPT has been implemented in all of its aspects.
That belief may appear to be a rationalization for failure in diplomacy. But the
fact is that the adoption of a Final Declaration is the expression of collective
political will. Failure to do so could be a symptom of deeper political malaise
or a demonstration of dissatisfaction with specific aspects of the review process,
such as when the Arab group of countries focuses on a demand for Israel to join
the NPT as a NNWS. The adoption of a Final Declaration is also influenced by the
prevailing global atmosphere. Thus, a Final Declaration at a review conference is
undoubtedly a political barometer.
The 1975 Review Conference. As the first review conference, the 1975 Conference
served as a precedent, with those NNWS that were part of NAM – functioning under
the title “Group of 77” – ready to confront the three NWS in the NPT at the time:
the United States, the USSR, and the United Kingdom. Article VI was the key area
of dispute, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was a principal demand,
in addition to security assurances for the NNWS. The adoption of a Final Declaration
was less a reflection of diplomatic agreement among the parties and more a tribute
to the forceful personality of Conference President Inga Thorsson of Sweden, who
is said to have pushed her own draft through after the Drafting Committee failed
to reach consensus on the nuclear disarmament aspects. Mexico, as spokesman for
the Group of 77, made an interpretative statement of the Final Declaration that
was incorporated as a Conference document. Thus, participants arrived at an uneasy
The 1980 Review Conference. The 1980 Review Conference followed the remarkable success
of the 1978 First Special Session of the UNGA devoted to disarmament (SSOD I), and
expectations were high. The Carter administration had been weakened considerably
by the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and the subsequent student takeover of the
U.S. Embassy, with its staff held in a prolonged hostage crisis. U.S. diplomats
were in no mood to accommodate NAM demands. Relations between the United States
and the USSR were strained by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. NAM itself was
divided by tensions between Iran and Iraq, which erupted into a nasty war after
the Review Conference.
Sharp divisions arose over Article VI and the CTBT, security assurances, Article
III, and nuclear-sharing insofar as it was contrary to Articles I and II. After
the success of SSOD I, NAM was not prepared to settle for anything less than disarmament,
and so a deadlock resulted, with no Final Declaration adopted.
The 1985 Review Conference. In preparation for the 1985 Review Conference,
I chaired the third session of the Preparatory Committee (which decided on the current
structure of the three Main Committees and apportioned the chairs of these committees
to the Western, Eastern, and NAM groups) and went on to chair Main Committee I of
the Conference, which was held during U.S. President Reagan’s first term.
Israel had attacked and destroyed Iraq’s safeguarded nuclear reactor by the time
of the 1985 Conference. Despite this inclement atmosphere, NPT diplomacy reached
new heights under the able presidency of Ambassador Mohamed Shaker of Egypt (himself
an authority on the NPT). His innovative diplomacy included assembling a representative
group of advisors who helped to steer the Conference to the successful adoption
of a Final Declaration. Before that, however, numerous hurdles had to be cleared,
as sharp and irreconcilable divisions arose over disarmament issues, especially
It was evident that instructions given to the U.S. delegation were very tight, and
I conceived of a drafting exercise similar to the Shanghai Communiqué of February
28, 1972, from the end of President Nixon’s historic visit to China. That communiqué
had stated China’s position and the U.S. position on many controversial issues separately
and with no attempt to bridge the differences. Thus a draft that reflected an overwhelming
majority of delegations expressing support for a CTBT with a few delegations holding
a contrary view was drawn up and finally accepted, helping to break the stalemate
that was preventing a consensus.
This formula of “agreeing to disagree” was unusual but helped in the adoption of
a Final Declaration. The personal diplomacy of the leader of the U.S. delegation,
Ambassador Lewis Dunn, who painstakingly built relationships with the main officers
of the Review Conference throughout all sessions of the Preparatory Committee, was
another ingredient in the success of the 1985 Conference. In the final hours of
the Conference, the hard work on the more substantive issues was almost wrecked
over a non-NPT-related dispute between Iran and Iraq. This dispute was also resolved
by a drafting exercise, which satisfied both parties, and in the small hours of
the morning, with the clock having been stopped, the Conference was successfully
The 1990 Review Conference. The 1990 Review Conference had to confront
NAM’s renewed demand for a CTBT, which could not be resolved through drafting tricks
or innovative diplomacy. Although the Mexican delegation is accused of having “wrecked”
the Conference, standing out resolutely against any compromise, it must also be
stated that the president of the Conference and other key delegations lacked the
flexibility to devise diplomatic solutions or procedural fixes.
On the other hand, the 1990 Conference is possibly an example of the limits of NPT
diplomacy when the political context is so difficult that no diplomacy could overcome
the differences among delegations. The lesson to be drawn is that politics and diplomacy
must go together if multilateral conferences are to succeed. There has to be political
will to adopt decisions in a conference; creative diplomacy alone will not be enough.
Preparations for the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference (NPTREC) and its month-long
conduct presented a huge diplomatic challenge.5 The NPT depositary states, led by
the United States, were clear that an indefinite extension was their goal, and U.S.
diplomats, particularly Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., worked with national governments
to achieve this end. (Ambassador Graham’s book Disarmament Sketches describes
his efforts.) While Russia, the United Kingdom, and France supported the same objective,
there was no evidence of the same organized diplomatic offensive from them. China
maintained publicly that it wanted “a smooth extension” but, with one eye on NAM,
declined to be more explicit or active. The political atmosphere around the 1995
NPTREC was made favorable by the Clinton administration’s decision to begin negotiating
a CTBT in the Conference on Disarmament, thus removing one of the most contentious
issues in NPT conferences.
South Africa was a key target of U.S. diplomacy, following Nelson Mandela’s assumption
of leadership of the nation and its emergence as a non-racial democracy replacing
the white minority regime of the past. More significantly, South Africa had joined
the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapons state after destroying its nuclear devices under
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision. A special link on key NPTREC
issues is said to have been established between U.S. Vice President Al Gore (who
addressed the opening of the NPTREC) and South African Vice President Thabo MBEKI,
ensuring South Africa’s support for an indefinite extension of the NPT. This was
an undoubted diplomatic triumph, especially as South Africa had proposed another
25-year extension during the Preparatory Committee stage.
The United States attempted similar diplomacy with the Arab group of countries,
Egypt in particular, but was less successful. The Egyptian Foreign Minister at the
time, Amr Moussa, remained critical of Israel’s rejection of the NPT and demanded
a solution to this rejection, calling for the Middle East to become a weapons of
mass destruction – free zone. Another critic of U.S. NPT policy was the able Mexican
diplomat Miguel Marin Bosch, who was marginalized under U.S. pressure. A series
of articles in The Washington Post on the eve of the NPTREC outlined U.S.
policy and its diplomatic efforts. In marked contrast to the well-organized U.S.
diplomatic offensive, the NAM countries had no similar campaign. No alternative
to indefinite extension was conceptualized clearly or pursued vigorously, although
many delegations proposed extensions of varying length since an extension would
have given NAM the leverage it wanted. Even the critics outside the NPT, like
India, made no effort to see that their wishes for a deadlocked conference were
realized by way of an organized NAM stance.
The officers for the 1995 NPTREC, principally the president, were identified at
an early stage. Two names, including my own, were proposed for the presidency at
the very first session of the Preparatory Committee, and I was confirmed as president
at the second session. This jump start provided ample time for consultations to
be conducted and for diplomatic strategies to be planned. (In contrast, the confirmation
of the president-elect for the 2010 NPT Extension and Review Conference was confirmed
at the third session of the Preparatory Committee in May 2009.) Because of the complexity
and importance of the 1995 NPTREC in comparison to other five-year review conferences,
four sessions of the Preparatory Committee were necessary, and yet there was no
complete agreement on the rules of procedure.
The diplomatic wrangling surrounding the rules of procedure was concerned with the
mode of voting: would voting be conducted by secret ballot or by open ballot, if
the Conference came to voting? NAM countries overwhelmingly preferred the former
while the Western group preferred the latter. The importance of this decision revolved
around the wording of Article X, paragraph 2, which stipulated that the extension
decision be taken “by a majority of the Parties to the Treaty.” This deadlock remained
unresolved throughout the NPTREC, and it was just as well that the final package
of three decisions and the Resolution on the Middle East were adopted without a
At the opening of the Conference it was clear to me as president, through interviews
with delegations that had not openly announced their extension preferences, that
the majority needed for an indefinite extension did exist. It was therefore left
to me to craft a procedure that would legitimize this as well as reflect the overwhelming
view that the extension should be conditioned on specific guarantees that nuclear
disarmament would be achieved. To respond to that challenge, a small group styled
the “President’s Consultations,” along the lines of Ambassador Shaker’s group from
1985, was adopted. The group included all Conference officers, the chairs of the
political groups, and key delegations selected by me. It was conceived as an “inner
cabinet,” or a laboratory, to discuss the all-important extension issue, which transcended
the normal business of the Main Committees. The device was not entirely undemocratic
or lacking in transparency because group leaders (and all delegations belonged to
a group, except for China) were encouraged to report back to their groups regularly
and seek their endorsement on the decisions being taken.
The fact that the results of these consultations were endorsed by the entire Conference
proved that success came from effective multilateral diplomacy rather than from
seeking to arrive at decisions in the plenary through unwieldy debate. The composition
of the group was undoubtedly arbitrary, and that was resented by some of the delegations
that were excluded, particularly by their ambassadors, whose egos were bruised.
In terms of conference diplomacy, however, it was the practical and effective thing
to do. It was within this group that two decisions – “Strengthening the Review Process
for the Treaty” and “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-proliferation and
Disarmament” – were drafted over a two-week period. With all delegations now asserting
their right to participate fully in decision-making, it is doubtful that the same
device could be adopted in the future.
As president, I handled the drafting of the key legal decision on extension and
the weaving of it and the other two decisions into a package, which I announced
to a large representative gathering. The dispute over the rules of procedure – whether
voting should be secret or open – was unlikely to have been resolved given the strongly
held positions. I would have had to break the deadlock with a vote, and my decision
whether that was to be by open or secret vote would itself have been highly contentious.
It was also my conviction, which I voiced repeatedly, that voting on a treaty as
important as the NPT would expose the Treaty membership as a house divided, eroding
the viability of the Treaty. As president of the Conference, my main task was to
fulfill the terms of Article X, paragraph 2: that a decision on extending the Treaty
had to be taken by a “majority of the parties to the treaty.” What better way to
accomplish this task than by agreeing that there was a consensus that such a majority
existed? The formulation thus presented by me was irrefutable and was met with widespread
agreement. In any event, the package was not unwrapped, but some tinkering of the
wording in Decision I was agreed upon, including dropping the words “a consensus”
for simply “deciding that, as a majority exists.” This satisfied the purists among
the NAM members who resisted being a part of the consensus. And yet, because they
could not deny that a majority did exist for an indefinite extension, they agreed
that the entire package would be adopted without a vote!
The contentious issue of the Middle East, which, according to the wishes of the
Arab Group, had proceeded on a separate track, had not made any progress, and I
was approached for a solution at a very late stage of the Conference. This resulted
in special consultations on a Resolution on the Middle East, with key delegations
present, and an agreement was finally reached. Failure to consult Iran proved almost
disastrous when the Resolution came up for adoption but was resolved during a recess
in the plenary on the final day.
While the extension aspect of the Conference appeared to have been conducted successfully,
the review aspect in the key political areas handled by Main Committee I was a diplomatic
failure. (Main Committees II and III, thanks to the efficiency of their chairmen,
successfully concluded their work on technical aspects on the NPT.) My last-minute
intervention to rescue the process in Main Committee I did not succeed. This was
not, in the final analysis, a major setback since the main outcome – a decision on
extension – had been achieved.
The two conferences of 2000 and 2005 offer a study in contrast: 2000 saw the adoption
of a landmark Final Declaration, with its well-known “13 Steps” (see Figure 1);
2005 ended in disarray.
The 2000 NPT Review Conference and the 13 Practical Steps: A Summary
At the 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, states-parties
agreed to take 13 “practical steps” to meet their commitments under Article VI of
- The early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
- A nuclear testing moratorium pending entry into force of the CTBT.
- The immediate commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a
nondiscriminatory, multilateral, and effectively verifiable fissile material cutoff
treaty. The negotiations should aim to be concluded within five years.
- The establishment in the Conference on Disarmament of a subsidiary body to deal
with nuclear disarmament.
- The principle of irreversibility to apply to all nuclear disarmament and reduction
- An unequivocal undertaking by nuclear-weapons states to eliminate their nuclear
- The early entry into force and implementation of start II, the conclusion of start
III, and the preservation and strengthening of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
- The completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative between the United
States, the Russian Federation, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
- Steps by all nuclear-weapons states toward disarmament including unilateral nuclear
reductions; transparency on weapons capabilities and Article VI-related agreements;
reductions in nonstrategic nuclear weapons; measures to reduce the operational status
of nuclear weapons; a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies;
the engagement of nuclear-weapons states as soon as appropriate in a process leading
to complete disarmament.
- The placement of excess military fissile materials under IAEA or other international
verification and the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes.
- Reaffirmation of the objective of general and complete disarmament under effective
- Regular state reporting in the NPT review process on the implementation of
Article VI obligations.
- The development of verification capabilities necessary to ensure compliance
with nuclear disarmament agreements.
Source: Taken from the compilation by Claire Applegarth in Arms Control Today
(January/ February 2005).
One conference saw active diplomacy working toward a positive conclusion while the
other, under the Bush administration and with Ambassador John Bolton as Permanent
Representative of the United States, was polarized from the beginning, with little
or no bridge-building efforts.
The run-up to the 2000 Review Conference was helped by the conclusion of the CTBT
and its signature by several countries, although the U.S. Senate rejected its ratification.
The Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests of 1998 were undoubted setbacks; however,
these two countries were bound neither by the NPT nor the CTBT. The Preparatory
Committee sessions were also marred by persistent efforts of the NWS
to conduct “business as usual,” ignoring the
major changes achieved in 1995 in terms of strengthening the review process. In
marked contrast, the 2000 Review Conference itself proved a success. Conference
President Ambassador Baali of Algeria demonstrated that a background in disarmament
diplomacy was not necessarily a prerequisite so long as you had multilateral diplomatic
skills. Main Committee I Chairman Ambassador Camillo Reyes of Colombia and the chairman
of the subsidiary body on Article VI issues, Ambassador Pearson of New Zealand,
showed great diplomatic skills in guiding their discussions to a consensus. The
conference almost ran aground on a dispute between Iraq and the United States, but
even this was eventually resolved. Thus, the needs of good conference management
were well served.
The 13 Steps and the “unequivocal undertaking” of the NWS to achieve the elimination
of nuclear weapons were among the successes of the 2000 Conference, although subsequent
events were to show how ephemeral this could be. The lead-up to the 2005 NPT Review
Conference was inauspicious. The NWS began to retreat from the 13 Steps, the Bush
administration’s Nuclear Posture Review of 2002 envisaged the actual use of nuclear
weapons, and the United States and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003. The DPRK and
Iran continued to be regarded with concern. The Conference failed to adopt a Final
Declaration and was described by one commentator as “the biggest failure in the
history of this Treaty.”6 Disagreement among the parties arose along all of the
fault lines, and only four-and-a-half days of the four-week-long conference were
spent on substantive issues. The rest of the time was spent on procedural wrangling –
surely a recipe for the failure of any conference. Whether this focus on procedure
was the intent of those who wanted no substantive discussion or whether it was accidental
is not clear. Politically, the lines were drawn when the Bush administration rejected
the 2000 Final Declaration and all references to it, leaving little room for diplomacy.
The New Agenda Coalition (NAC) – Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South
Africa, and Sweden – which had been so active in the 2000 Conference, was a pale
shadow in 2005, perhaps because of changes in leadership or a basic lack of cohesion.
A new group emerged – the “NATO 7” – comprising The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain,
Norway, Lithuania, and Romania, but even their efforts could not rescue the Conference.
The NAM countries were not united. Egypt seemed determined to end the Conference
without sacrificing any of the gains achieved in 2000, even if it meant a failed
Conference. The political climate clearly doomed the 2005 Conference to failure.
Except for a few delegations, such as the NATO 7, few were interested in salvaging
the Conference through diplomatic initiatives. Squabbling over procedure was no
substitute for diplomacy, but there was little else to do given the huge disagreements.
A number of features of NPT diplomacy bear mentioning as the 2010 Review Conference
approaches, especially with the third session of the Preparatory Committee having
been concluded successfully on May 15, 2009, in New York (albeit without agreement
on a set of recommendations). While delegation positions follow instructions from
national governments, it is not surprising that some act at their own discretion
within the limits of flexibility permitted by their governments. This flexibility
allows for individuals to show initiative in finding solutions to problems. It is
also possible that the stances taken by individual delegations on the conference
floor can be changed as a result of diplomatic demarches by powerful countries compelling
delegations to change their positions. Given the confidentiality of diplomatic communications,
we will not know what pressures are exerted on NPT parties or what linkages are
made as a part of the ongoing diplomatic activity in conferences.
The functioning of various groups within NPT conferences is an important element
of NPT diplomacy, although the groups can sometimes be a help and sometimes a hindrance.
The groups are: the Western Group, which includes Japan, Australia, NATO, and the
EU; the Eastern Group, which includes Russia and the former USSR states but which
has no political role and functions today only to agree on common candidates for
NPT positions; and NAM, which decides collectively on political issues but is subdivided
into the Asian, African, and Latin American & Caribbean groups for purposes of agreeing
on candidates for NPT conference positions. In addition, NAM has within it the Arab
group, which meets to discuss and decide on Middle East issues. (NAM generally accepts
the positions of the Arab group.) The five NWS meet among themselves during conferences
and in between. After some of these meetings, joint statements are issued representing
No group exists uniting all NNWS, and it is left to temporary coalitions like the
NAC to form transcontinental groupings to espouse common positions. Such groupings
can be very effective; it has been an omission that more diplomatic energy has not
gone into forging such alliances to serve as “bridge builders” among the Treaty
parties and to act as a “fire brigade” to defuse controversies as well as seek negotiated
solutions to problems as they arise.7 Group meetings usually take place prior to
the commencement of the day’s conference proceedings, but can also be held at any
moment to coordinate group positions.
The political strength of NAM derives from its numbers and its solidarity, providing
protection for the smaller and weaker countries within it. The other groups do not
always welcome NAM’s strength. Countries within the Western Group do not always
find themselves in agreement.
As noted earlier, the selection and appointment of officers for review conferences
should be done in a careful and timely manner and not left to fortuitous circumstances.
Not every chairman or president need have detailed knowledge of the NPT and
its history, provided he or she has the necessary diplomatic skills to strive for
a consensus that strengthens the Treaty.
The Secretariat of NPT Conferences is staffed by members of the UN’s Office of Disarmament
Affairs and the IAEA. While they are international civil servants who are mandated
to help service the needs of conferences through their experience and objective
vantage point, they could often provide advice to help the outcome of the conference.
In this regard, the “institutional deficit” the NPT faces must be remedied. There
is no permanent body that acts as an administrative entity for the NPT. The
UN staff who do perform functions related to the NPT do so in addition to their
other duties. Ireland and Canada have presented working papers on this subject,
and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have also raised it. Adding infrastructure
to the NPT would greatly aid the exercise of NPT diplomacy. To oppose that infrastructure
because of the cost seems shortsighted.
NGOs representing civil society are another significant element of NPT diplomacy.
While the quality of NGOs may vary, and while some perform more of a think tank
or research role, others can be useful pressure groups. Increasingly, NGOs play
a diplomatic role. Some have representatives within delegations. Others organize
briefing seminars for delegations, providing extremely useful background for young
diplomats who are attending their first NPT conference and who want to understand
past proceedings and details of current issues. These seminars and the briefing
books made available also afford the opportunity of beginning discussions in an
informal setting, which could lead to consensus when the conference actually begins.
By its very structure and content, the NPT encourages the practice of diplomacy
in its conferences. It is a living treaty that, despite its seemingly impossible
amendment procedure, has adapted and changed through the Final Declarations of its
review conferences and the NPTREC’s package of decisions. It is the only multilateral
treaty that commits NWS to nuclear disarmament. Despite problems within the NPT,
its conferences are well attended and attract widespread media attention. The longevity
of the NPT and its near universality are a tribute to the multilateral diplomacy
that has supported it.
However, diplomacy must be informed by a political will to make the NPT work. Absent
that political will, the NPT cannot be sustainable, especially with its division
of the world into NWS and NNWS. In a May 14, 1995, New York Times article,
Barbara Crossette quoted me as having said: “The President of [an NPT review] conference
is not a magician who can produce a rabbit out of a hat. The rabbit must be in the
hat and must want to come out. All we can do is to coax it occasionally.” NPT diplomacy
is, in the end, a coaxing process.
http://disarmament.un.org/TreatyStatus.nsf (accessed May 27, 2009).
http://www.wmdcommission.org/files/No31.pdf (accessed May 27, 2009).