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NTI in Africa: Regional Workshop in Ghana Aims to Strengthen Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

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Two weeks ago, shortly before COVID-19-related
guidance prompted NTI and many other organizations to halt all travel, I
returned from a workshop in Accra, Ghana hosted by NTI and the African Center
for Science and International Security (AFRICSIS) The workshop convened
approximately 35 senior officials, practitioners and technical experts from across
Africa with the goal of expanding engagement and action in the region toward strengthening
the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). We also discussed
areas where countries could collectively focus efforts in advance of the 2020 NPT
Review Conference (RevCon) – scheduled for late April but now likely to be
postponed until later this year or possibly 2021.

A brief bit of background: The NPT has been
the cornerstone of international efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear
weapons for five decades by preventing the global spread of nuclear weapons,
promoting cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and working
towards disarmament. But as the world marks the 50th anniversary of the
adoption of the NPT this year, the NPT regime increasingly is on shaky ground—and
although the number of global nuclear weapons has decreased precipitously since
the end of the Cold War, the risk of nuclear use has increased in recent years.

Indeed, the international community has become
increasingly divided over the role of nuclear deterrence, the vision of nuclear
disarmament and the commitment of states to arms reduction, and the steps
required to prevent nuclear weapons use. For these reasons, NTI in 2018
launched the
Global Enterprise to Strengthen Nonproliferation and
Disarmament (GE)
—a multi-year initiative to facilitate a
sustained, integrated, and creative dialogue to advance shared interests in
support of the NPT’s goals.

Building on the work of the Global Enterprise,
NTI is working with partners around the world to host a series of regional
workshops. These workshops are designed to discuss regional non-proliferation
and disarmament concerns and priorities; highlight potential opportunities for
governments to contribute to strengthening the NPT; and develop and build
support for practical steps, new initiatives, and tangible commitments that
demonstrate the ability of NPT States Parties to work together.

Our first workshop was held in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil in December 2019, and the second in Accra finished on March 5. Both workshops
were completed with the help of expert partner organizations in the region—
NPSGlobal
in Latin America and
AFRICSIS
in Africa—and included participation from government and nongovernmental
experts. 

The takeaways from both workshops are clear:
Latin American and African governments have a major role to play in sustaining
and strengthening the NPT, including during the upcoming NPT Review Conference
(the RevCons are held every five years), whenever it now takes place. Both
workshops also revealed that while there are increasing tensions among the
nuclear weapon states, and between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon
states, an overall strong commitment to the NPT remains. Moreover, there are
plenty of practical ways for states to work together to reduce nuclear threats
and create the necessary foundations for further disarmament. (See
here
for a summary of the Rio meeting and here
for a news article covering the event).

In Accra, participants reinforced the importance of
moving toward global nuclear disarmament and employing stringent
nonproliferation measures to ensure that non-state actors do not attain nuclear
weapons. Participants also focused on ways to safely deliver the peaceful uses
of nuclear energy to the continent without sacrificing robust safety and
security (for example, continuing close cooperation with the International
Atomic Energy Agency). We were also fortunate to welcome the participation of
Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban
Treaty
Organization (CTBTO) who
provided opening remarks for the participants (see
here for video
). The CTBTO also sponsored
several
next-generation technical and policy experts to participate in the workshop and
discuss the importance of engaging younger generations in the nuclear community.
(
See here for
a news article covering the Accra
event).

Overall, the workshops put a spotlight on the
different priorities for governments across regions. In the United States and
Europe, the discussion typically focuses on specific arms control treaties, risk
reduction measures, and the relationship between the global security
environment and the future of nuclear disarmament. In Rio and Accra, the
discussion instead focused on fulfilling previous disarmament and
non-proliferation commitments by Nuclear Weapon States, the advancement of
nuclear energy programs, and ways to work together to reduce the risk of
nuclear weapons and achieve nuclear disarmament.

Next year, we look forward to ar third
regional workshop, this time in the Asia Pacific region, where we can again
promote broader engagement on NPT issues, understand regional perspectives, and
share ideas developed by the Global Enterprise with a wider audience.

To learn more about our regional workshops take a look at our project page here

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