PrepCom Consultations Begin in Senegal

Every five years, leaders gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to review implementation of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In the lead-up to each NPT Review Conference (RevCon), three preparatory meetings are held to help set the stage. The first of these Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings for the 2020 RevCon will be held 2-12 May in Vienna.

NTI’s Isabelle Williams, senior advisor to the Global Nuclear Policy Program, traveled to Dakar, Senegal to observe a meeting hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) organized in support of their role as Chair of the 2017 NPT PrepCom. Here is her report:

The meeting in Africa, organized in coordination with the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Embassy in Senegal, was the first of three regional conferences organized by the Dutch government in advance of the May PrepCom meeting. The next two will be held in Jakarta and Santiago.

These meetings give the organizers an important opportunity to consult with regional leaders and hear diverse perspectives and priorities on nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Drawing on their expertise and their understanding of the debates, positions, and priorities of countries in their regions, NTI’s partners--AFRICSIS, the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network and the Latin American Leadership Network--provided input to the Dutch MFA as they developed their plans.

The Dakar conference was well attended with participants representing a number of African countries (all countries were invited to send a representative). Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Secretary General of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) spoke to the group, as did other experts from regional NGO’s. Many participants remarked how important it was to have the meeting in a region that approaches nuclear security and nonproliferation issues from a unique perspective. 

The African Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, otherwise known as the Pelindaba Treaty, took effect in 2009 and secures the continent as a nuclear-weapon-free zone—a potentially powerful statement to the rest of the world. However, across the continent there is no common position on nonproliferation/disarmament issues and national policies are typically obscure and difficult to find. Moreover, there is a lack of coordination and communication between countries and no vehicle for intra-African dialogue on nuclear issues.

The African region also is facing a severe energy crisis and 11 countries have expressed interest in exploring nuclear power. This is cause for concern as there is a lack of capacity and expertise on compliance and safety and security issues, and terrorism and extreme violence is a growing problem across the region.

In Dakar, several participants expressed hope that the event would encourage greater engagement across the region and that countries would work to actively participate in the 2020 Review Conference. They were also encouraged to fulfill the commitments they have already made under the CTBT and NPT.

The need for capacity building, long a priority for NTI through our partners to the Global Nuclear Policy Program, also featured prominently at the meeting. Hubert Foy, Executive Director of AFRICSIS, discussed his organization’s work on this front, including a recent five-day capacity-building workshop on nuclear security in Africa with a focus on how national and international approaches can prevent terrorists, criminal gangs, and armed merchants from accessing deadly nuclear and radioactive materials.

The Dutch government should be commended for organizing these consultations across different regions. Fostering inclusivity and transparency within the NPT process is extremely important given the increasing differing positions among states on the future of the treaty and the potential impact of pursuing a global treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

March 13, 2017
Isabelle Williams
Isabelle Williams

Senior Advisor, Global Nuclear Policy Program

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