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PrepCom Consultations Begin in Senegal

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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.

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