The 2012 Preparatory Committee meeting, held in Vienna at the end of April and start of May, was one of the most successful of such meetings. Unlike many previous gatherings, it accepted its agenda early on the first day, leaving the maximum time possible over the next two weeks for discussion. Some of the credit was due to the non-confrontational approach taken by the Chairman, Ambassador Peter Woolcott, from Australia. Three main items emerged from the Committee.
• The Helsinki Conference on a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. It is due to take place in 2012, but there is still no agreement on dates or on an agenda. Neither have Israel and Iran, without whom it would be meaningless, confirmed that they will attend, though neither has said ‘no’.
• The increased emphasis on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and on disarmament. The Norwegians are to organise a conference next spring on the ‘Catastrophic Humanitarian Consequences’ of nuclear weapons use. The Swiss delegate gave ‘A Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Dimension of Nuclear Disarmament’, on behalf of Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Holy See, Egypt, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, South Africa and Switzerland. It said that the countries welcomed the 2010 NPT Review Conference expression of “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and reaffirmed “the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law”.
• Concerns about nuclear weapons modernisation, and doctrines of nuclear dependence. Most of the non-nuclear countries are clear that cuts in nuclear weapons, though welcome, are not enough.
There was discussion of nuclear safety and security following the Fukushima disaster, a call to address the numbers of nuclear weapons still on high alert, and a dramatic speech by a Russian former member of the military ‘special risk team’ sent in to observe nuclear explosions. At 78, he was almost blind, and suffering from various radiation-related diseases and was concerned that no-one should ever again experience what he had experienced. Participants in the UK-Norway Initiative on nuclear disarmament verification gave an update on lessons learnt from the project. This is a unique collaboration between a nuclear and a non-nuclear country.
…and the Nuclear Free Local Authorities briefing on Mayors for Peace at the NPT Prep Comm, http://www.nuclearpolicy.info/docs/briefings/NB97_NPT_and_Mayors_for_Peace.pdf