NPT Preparatory Committee 2014
Welcome to Wildfire>_'s special section on the 2014 NPT PrepCom, being held at United Nations headquarters in New York from 28 April to 9 May. Here you will find all our news and updates, commentary on the efforts of various delegations, and copies of Wildfire>_ materials distributed at the meeting. You can also follow us on Twitter. If you have any queries or tips, please contact us at email@example.com.
For general information on the PrepCom, programme, documents, background, etc, we recommend Reaching Critical Will's excellent website.
For our concluding assessment of the whole sorry charade, please see the main news page entry for 12 May.
The "Peanuts" history of nuclear disarmament in the NPT
Fans of the classic "Peanuts" comic strip by Schulz will perhaps be familiar with the recurring scenario of Lucy offering to hold the football for Charlie Brown so he can kick it. At the last moment she pulls it away, causing Charlie Brown to fall painfully on his back. Lucy always does this, and Charlie Brown expects her to do it, but is always somehow taken in by her assurances that this time she won't. The parallels with the NPT review process are too striking to ignore. So here is Wildfire>_'s history of nuclear disarmament in the NPT since 1995, as told by the Peanuts strip:
Among the many entertainments on offer at the PrepCom, one of our favourites is collecting Great Exhortations. A standard if perplexing feature of multilateral diplomacy, a Great Exhortation consists of "calling for" or "urging" some other party to do something. It is unclear whether this ever works, but that certainly doesn't stop anybody.
Great Exhortations come in two varieties: the Greater Great Exhortation, which involves calling for some completely implausible, unlikely or unfeasible thing; and the Lesser Great Exhortation, which involves calling for something that has already been agreed. This PrepCom has produced some fine examples of both species. Let's have a look:
Two Greater Great Exhortations from the NAM general debate statement:
1. "the Group calls on the Conference on Disarmament to agree, at the earliest, on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work, providing also for an urgent commencement of negotiations on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons"
2. "[the Group demands] Israel ... to renounce possession of nuclear weapons, to accede to the NPT without precondition and further delay, to place promptly all its nuclear facilities under IAEA full-scope safeguards and to conduct its nuclear related activities in conformity with the non-proliferation regime"
1. "Urge all nuclear-weapon States to take concrete and meaningful steps, whether unilaterally, bilaterally or regionally, to implement actions 5 (e) and 5 (f) in the action plan adopted at the 2010 Review Conference"
2. "Call upon all nuclear-weapon States and other States possessing nuclear weapons to take further steps to reduce their arsenals, regardless of their size, type or location, and to declare a moratorium on developing new warheads and new types of nuclear weapons, and on upgrading existing nuclear weapons or developing new missions for nuclear weapons"
Great Exhortations serve an important function in multilateral settings by helping to avoid any actual action. Help us collect and study them: send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A selection of revealing, absurd, cringe-inducing or otherwise amusing quotes from statements and working papers.
"The entry into force of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty remains a top priority for the United States" - Rose Gottemoeller, US statement 29 April. This will be news to the US Congress. Or does the US delegation now only represent the executive branch of the US government? Wildfire>_ questioned a US delegate on this, hopeful that if entry into force of the CTBT is a top priority for "the United States" then "the United States" would go ahead and ratify it. We were told that the US delegation represents "the US Government, period", without elaboration on what this meant for Gottemoeller's statement on the CTBT, or for the curious implication that US CTBT ratification is being held back by some mysterious foreign force. We couldn't help noticing, however, that the subsequent US statement in Cluster 1 on 2 May said that CTBT entry into force remained a top priority only "for the US Administration".
"We all share one thing in common: a desire to see the world eventually free of nuclear weapons" - Peter Woolcott, Australian statement 28 April. "Eventually" being the key word for Australia, a leading weasel state. We were delighted with this sentence, which might have been inspired by the Wildfire>_ Australia poster, which included the spoof tagline "A world free of nuclear weapons – just not yet". Life imitates art, as they say.
"We consider that nuclear weapons have helped to guarantee our security, and that of our allies, for decades. We want a world without them, but we need to proceed to it carefully" - Matthew Rowland, UK statement 2 May. We've picked on the UK for this kind of doublethink before, but this is a nicely compact example. If nuclear weapons have helped to guarantee your security, why do you want a world without them? And why do you object to other countries helping to guarantee their security through nuclear weapons? And the big question: how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?
"We are studying with interest the reports by the five nuclear-weapon States to this PrepCom in particular in accordance with Action 5" - Jacek Bylica, EU statement 2 May. We hope the UK and France are enjoying studying their own reports.
"Germany considers the Non-Proliferation Treaty to be the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation and disarmament architecture. Germany is committed to complying with the Treaty in the strictest and most comprehensive fashion." - Germany's "report" on its implementation of Action 1 of the 2010 action plan. Action 1 requires states parties "to pursue policies that are fully compatible with the Treaty and the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons". The "report" mentions nothing about Germany's reliance on nuclear weapons, its hosting of US nuclear weapons on its territory, or its plans to change any of that. Germany, you do have some plans to change it, right? You are not pretending that relying on nuclear weapons indefinitely is compatible with the objective of achieving a world without nuclear weapons?
Wildfire>_ displays and handouts
In this section you can find photos and copies of the Wildfire>_ posters and other materials distributed during the PrepCom. We put them on line as they are released - something new each day.
"Cut the crap" postcard (29 April): PDF
Wildfire>_ side-event - Thursday 1 May
Frustrated with the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament? Wondering why you have come to the PrepCom? Tired of all the nonsense and verbosity? Then come to the Wildfire>_ side-event "Burn the NPT" in Room C, 13:15-14:45 on Thursday 1 May. You will not be disappointed.
Spread the flames >