Senior NPT Diplomats Debate What to Expect at the Next PrepCom

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November 15, 2017
Sarah Bidgood

Senior NPT Diplomats Debate What to Expect at the Next PrepCom

On October 6, 2017, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations co-hosted a roundtable discussion on “The 2018 NPT PrepCom: Looking for Common Ground.” Speakers included Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu (UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs) and Ambassador Adam Bugajski (Chair-designate for the 2018 PrepCom). Approximately three dozen senior diplomats from both nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states joined in the dialogue, which was chaired by CNS Director William Potter.

In a wide-ranging discussion, participants identified the major regional and international developments that they believed would shape debate at the 2018 Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting and in the lead up to the 2020 NPT Review Conference. The participants were in broad agreement that nuclear developments on the Korean Peninsula, the WMD-free-zone in the Middle East, the future of the 2016 “Iran deal,” US-Russian relations, and the tension between the nonproliferation and disarmament pillars of the treaty would play prominent roles during the 2020 NPT Review Cycle. They also agreed that the recently concluded Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was likely to feature prominently in NPT deliberations in advance of the Review Conference, although there was major disagreement about its precise impact and how to address it. While some participants maintained that it was time to accept the existence of the Prohibition Treaty and “move on,” others continued to express concern that “we were not yet in a healing trajectory,” and that one needed to redress the treaty’s alleged shortcomings or risk damaging the NPT. In light of this division, the assembled participants debated how best to address the issue at the 2018 PrepCom and forge consensus in 2020.

The roundtable format provided an opportunity for the PrepCom Chair-Designate to deliver an update on his preparations for 2018. He indicated that he was continuing the process established by his predecessors of conducting regional seminars to assess the goals and perspectives of states in different regions. He also affirmed his commitment to transparency in his chairmanship and his intention not to deviate from established review process procedures.

Many of the meeting participants asserted that “failure was not an option” for 2020. As such, they emphasized the need to seek common ground among the diverse states parties. Although they acknowledged barriers in the road ahead, most speakers reaffirmed the NPT’s centrality to the international nonproliferation regime. They also noted the symbolic importance of reaffirming this centrality on the occasion of the treaty’s fiftieth anniversary in 2020.

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