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What does the Non-Proliferation Treaty need?

Answer: Our support and lots of it.

Agreeing with something Norman Lamont says? I never expected to find myself in that embarrassing situation and in fact it's taken nuclear weapons to produce my change of heart. Lord (goodness me) Lamont recently pointed out a bit of a discrepancy in Western policy: Dr A Q Khan of Pakistan has admitted selling nuclear know-how to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Perhaps to others too he forgot to mention. What does the West do? Say "OK - but don't do it again". On the other hand we invaded Iraq because our government said it thought there were Weapons of Mass destruction there. With regard specifically to nuclear weapons the Government more or less admitted there weren't any but pointed out that Iraq might have been tempted to develop them at some stage.

So what does the UK Government actually think - and do - about non-proliferation?
There are about 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world - the equivalent of 200,000 Hiroshimas. It seems to me every sensible person should be working to stop the spread of these weapons and to get rid of the existing ones. Actually there is a treaty called the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, usually referred to as the NPT, which aims to do just that. The world's six billion plus inhabitants would certainly be better off without nuclear weapons and that includes the small number of people working in the nuclear industry. Finding another job - particularly if you are a skilled person which most of them are - is a lot better than trying to survive in a nuclear desert.
To my shame I knew very little about the NPT before attending an excellent study day on peace treaties organised by Christian CND in February. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed back in 1970. It has been signed by 189 UN members, including the UK and the USA, but with the exception of Pakistan, India and Israel. North Korea had signed the treaty but has threatened to withdraw.
Campaigner George Farebrother said "The NPT is essentially a nuclear disarmament treaty. Its central pillar, Article Vl of the treaty, obliges its signatories 'To pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control'."
Although the US and Russia have destroyed a large number of their nuclear weapons and carried out various other actions to reduce the risk of the use of nuclear weapons non-proliferation does not seem to have been a priority. However in 1995 a conference of the NPT signatories took a fresh look at the situation and decided to have a major review once every five years of the steps being taken to make non-proliferation a reality.
In 1998 eight countries (Brazil, Egypt Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden) formed the New Agenda Coalition. The Coalition made a declaration demanding 'the speedy, final and total elimination of nuclear weapons'. Resolutions sponsored by the coalition have been passed in the UN General Assembly with overwhelming majorities which required among other things the five major nuclear powers to take specific steps towards disarmament.
The 2000 NPT Review made some major advances including getting agreement on a radical 13 step programme to bring about implementation. This programme endorses the demand of Article Vl that the nuclear weapon states get rid of their nuclear arsenals, emphasizes the vital importance of speedy ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and suggests a wide range of other measures on the path to complete disarmament. Campaigners at the 2000 Review felt major advances had been made with even the nuclear weapons states signing up to the 13 step programme. The fear is that in light of the current world situation this progress may be lost at the 2005 NPT Review Conference. Of course in the view of any reasonable person non-proliferation is even more urgent now than it has ever been.
What can we do? Christian CND has a big campaign to publicise the need for progress to be made at the 2005 Review and certainly for no backsliding. This campaign includes a London walk in May this year calling at the embassies of the Nuclear Weapon States and asking what they are doing to implement their commitments to get rid of nuclear weapons, and visiting the embassies of the New Agenda Coalition countries to congratulate them.
Abolition 2000 Europe aims to enlist the support of MEPs and is collecting pledges from individuals to back up its lobbying. The Acronym Institute ( produces brilliant information on the NPT negotiations and all the work done in between the major Reviews.
Apparently too it's possible to join activists in New York next year at the 2005 Review Conference, attend some of the sessions and help put pressure on the negotiators. According to people who attended the last review it's an amazing and inspiring experience. So for those who like to make their holiday plans early and who feel this might be an interesting change from painting the living room/a fortnight in the Seychelles start planning now. However I'm afraid the KPC banner features on too many security videos so maybe if we want to get through customs we would have to leave it behind.
Closer to home while signing up to non-proliferation the UK is planning to upgrade its own nuclear weapons. This involves major developments at Aldermaston including, it is thought, the production of so-called mini-nukes for a 'first-use' strategy and upgraded forms of testing equipment. In future with new equipment we will be able to test models of nuclear weapons without contravening the test ban treaty. So the UK is planning for the 'next generation' of nuclear weapons. That's why I joined the march to Aldermaston to say in the words of the Harry Enfield character "No! No!" We don't need these weapons and we have to get rid of them.

Mary Holmes
April 2004

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