Parliamentarians instrumental to success of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Government delegates and non-governmental observers to the Conference of States Parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the 2013 NPT Prep Com) in Geneva were reminded on Monday of the important role that parliamentarians have in the shared goal to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world. The reminder came from a joint panel of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Intre-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

Panel at the NPT Conference in Geneva on Engaging Legislators in Building the Framework for a Nuclear Weapons Free World
Geneva, May 3, 2013

Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator, quoted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who wrote to every parliament in the world in 2010, the first UNSG to every contact parliaments directly, emphasising their key role.

Parliamentarians and parliaments play a key role in the success of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. Parliaments support the implementation of treaties and global agreements contributing to the rule of law and promoting adherence to commitments. They adopt legislation that increases transparency and accountability. At a time when the international community is facing unprecedented global challenges, parliamentarians can take on leading roles in ensuring sustainable global security.

— UNSG Ban Ki-moon, Letter to all Parliaments, February 2010

Mr Ware also outlined key initiatives by parliamentarians to advance regional and global nuclear disarmament on a cross-party and trans-national basis. This includes the promotion of nuclear-weapon-free zones in North East Asia, the Middle East and the Arctic (adding to the existing regional NWFZs), promoting a global treaty or package of agreeements to abolish and eliminate nuclear weapons, and taking steps to reduce the US$100 billion spent annually on nuclear weapons and redirect these expenditures towards nuclear disarmament, development of renewable energy and meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Mr Ware also reported on the recent initiative of parliamentarians from NATO countries to send a joint letter to President Obama on the anniversary of his historic Prague Speech, encouraging the U.S. President to take furhter steps to enact the Prague Vision for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World, and outlining support from NATO parliamentarians. (See From Prague to a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: Is President Obama’s vision now achievable?)

Anda Filip, External Relations Director for the Inter Parliamentary Union, highlighted the increasing importance that parliaments and parliamentarians around the world are giving to nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and the achievement of a nuclear-weapons-free world. This has included a resolution adopted in 2009 by the IPU - representing over 160 national and 10 regional parliaments - a Handbook for Parliamentarians on Supporting Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament which has been distrubuted to every parliament, and most recently a decision by the IPU Assembly in Quito to focus for the next year on the topic "Towards a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: The Contribution of Parliaments".

Jean-marie Collin, PNND Coordinator for France, reported on the opening of debate in France for the first time on the issue of nuclear weapons policy. This has included two ground-breaking books by Paul Quiles (former French Defence Minister) raising questions on nuclear deterrence (See “Nucléaire, un mensonge français: Réflexions sur le désarmement nucléaire”), a conference in the French Assembly earlier this year on nuclear deterrence versus common security, and questions now being raised in the French Senate and French National Assembly by PNND members - including questions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Jaroslaw Walesa MEP, Deputy-Chair of the European Parliament Section of PNND, sent a message to the NPT Prep Com which was delivered at the panel. The message highlighted the success of the European Parliament Written Declaration Supporting the Global Zero Plan for Nuclear Disarmament - which attracted signature/endorsement of over 380 members of the European Parliament. Walesa noted that,

As a son of Poland the presence of nuclear weapons is one that has left a lasting impression on me, as many of us experienced during the cold war era, the threat of one side launching its weapons at the other left us all on edge. I feel now that the greater threats to us today are the individuals and groups that are attempting to gain access to the weapons. Therefore, we must conclude that complete elimination of all nuclear weapons is the only feasible solution.

Discussion focused on the range of measures that parliamentarians can support appropriate to their particular national and regional situations. Parliamentarians in non-Nuclear Weapon States, for example, are able to take stronger measures to prohibit nuclear weapons through national legislation (like in Austria, Mongolia, Philippines and New Zealand), to establish regional Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and to ensure that public funds are not invested in corporations involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.

Parliamentarians/legislators in nuclear-armed countries and their allies have a responsibility to take measures to lower (and eventually eliminate) the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines (possibly through a stronger focus on cooperative security mechanisms), to reduce nuclear stockpiles and nuclear-weapons budgets, and to ensure their governments actively explore and develop the verification and compliance measures for creating a nuclear-weapons-free world.