Duarte discusses issues facing 2010 NPT review conference

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

The Chugoku Shimbun asked Sergio Duarte, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, about the issues facing the 2010 review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Duarte, 73, who read a message from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima on August 6, served as president of the 2005 review conference.

What are the issues that must be overcome at the review conference, which is less than two years away?

No progress has been made on nuclear disarmament by the nuclear nations. Most of the non-nuclear nations feel the NPT is unfair. And while nuclear technology is proliferating, there is also concern that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection system is not adequately preventing the transfer of nuclear power to nuclear weapons development.

It must be clearly understood that the NPT has three goals: nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In order to achieve these goals we must gain understanding and agreement at the next review conference.

The previous review conference was regarded as a failure. What issues remain?

The purpose of the review conference is to look back at nuclear disarmament over the previous five years and to outline the approach that will be taken in the future. The previous review conference dealt entirely with the problem of nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and in the end nothing was accomplished. We must learn from that to ensure the success of the next conference.

The international situation has changed greatly since 2000 when the nuclear-weapons states promised “an unequivocal undertaking” to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. The terrorist attacks took place in the U.S. in 2001, and suspicions have surfaced about the development of nuclear weapons by Iran. Nuclear technology is proliferating and non-nuclear nations are increasingly dissatisfied. At the next review conference, we must use the 2000 agreement as a springboard to develop a comprehensive approach to the NPT’s goals and these new issues.

Is it possible to pursue nuclear disarmament under the NPT framework?

The efforts by the U.S. and Russia, which possess the majority of the nuclear weapons in the world, is essential to nuclear disarmament. Over the past two years many people around the world have called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, following the lead of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other former top U.S. government officials.

They have said that it is time for the nuclear nations to seriously consider nuclear disarmament. I hope the next U.S. administration will take this seriously and that the U.S. and Russia will pursue further nuclear disarmament.

If you look closely at Article 6 of the NPT, its goal is a treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons. If that is the case, the nuclear nations will come up with various reasons to prevent such a treaty from coming into effect. At the same time, international public opinion against other inhumane weapons has grown. Countries and NGOs with the same goals worked together, got the international community moving, and were able to realize comprehensive treaties banning land mines and cluster bombs. There is no reason this can’t be done for nuclear weapons as well.

Sergio Duarte was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1934. He joined Brazil’s Foreign Ministry in 1956 and served as ambassador to China and Australia. In 2003, he was named Ambassador-at-Large for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Mr. Duarte assumed his current post in July 2007.

(Originally published on August 8, 2008)

Related articles
Approaching Nuclear Abolition from Hiroshima: Empowering the World to Impact the 2010 NPT Review Conference (Aug. 9, 2008)
Perspectives on nuclear abolition in connection with the Survey on Nuclear Weapons, Part 5 (Aug. 4, 2008)
Former NSC Director calls for “a world free of nuclear weapons” (July 5, 2008)