"I learned so much about arms control and disarmament at ACA! I learned more about arms control here in four months than I had in all three years at my college."

– Alicia Sanders-Zakre
Intern, Fall 2016
December 16, 2016
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at Forty: Addressing Current and Future Challenges




Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.
Edited by the Arms Control Association

June 16, 2008

DARYL KIMBALL: Welcome to our luncheon program, thank you. As I said this morning, it’s a pleasure to see so many good friends of the Arms Control Association here today. Before I give our speaker an introduction, I want to give a few of you a chance to finish your lunch and for the wait-staff to clear it away. While they do that I wanted to once again thank our loyal and generous members, as well as our Arms Control Today subscribers who are here. You really are a loyal and generous bunch, and without your support this meeting and our work would not be possible. 

I wanted to note today that last year, on the occasion of the Arms Control Association’s 35th anniversary, we asked you, our members and subscribers, to increase your individual contributions to help increase the capacity of the organization. You responded, and we want to thank you very much for that. Some of our major funders also renewed and increased their support with multi-year grants. Members of the Arms Control Association contributed more than $16,000 in contributions above the previous year’s level. So thank you very much. (Applause.)

While our surroundings are elegant and our dinner is elegant, too, we take pride in doing a great deal with the relatively few resources that we have. As they might have said back in the 1950s, we try to deliver a big bang for the buck.

I also do want to note right now the great work of our professional and highly dedicated staff. They have responded superbly over the last several years to the challenges facing the Arms Control Association, and on the subjects that we deal with. All of them should make our members very proud. Just in the last year, this staff has produced 10 great issues of the best magazine in the field, Arms Control Today. Each one is 50-plus pages; I’m not quite sure how they do it. It’s a grueling schedule and, while the print circulation is relatively small, Arms Control Today is read and followed by many, many, more around the world and throughout the country on our website. 

We’ve held numerous press briefings over the past year, delivered dozens of presentations, met with dozens of congressional staff, congressional members, diplomats, and executive branch officials. I think we have made a small difference in some key areas, so I’m very proud of that. Keep in mind, finally, that this is all done with just eight full-time staff people and the support of our board of directors, many of which are here today. So just imagine what we can do with two more staff or one more staff person in the years ahead. (Laughter.) So keep that in mind as you go home after today.

Now, as we move forward in 2009, there will be new opportunities to get U.S. arms control nonproliferation policy back on track. The Arms Control Association and others in our community are going to have to work even harder. Ultimately, our success is going to depend on good working relationships with our elected leaders and the world’s leading diplomats on nuclear disarmament. Today’s luncheon speaker is one of these pivotal figures.

Ambassador Sérgio Duarte is currently the U.N. high representative for disarmament. Prior to this post, he was the president of the 2005 NPT review conference. When you look over his resume, he has had an amazing 48-year career in Brazil’s foreign service, going back to his role as a member of Brazil’s delegation to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee. On some other occasion, it might be fun to have a few of the active veterans and the State Department veterans from that era sit down with Ambassador Duarte and a few others, to share a few negotiation stories from that time. (Laughter.) I’m sure there are a few things we all would learn and be amazed about.

Today, we’ve asked Ambassador Duarte to share with us his views about how to make the next NPT Review Conference in 2010 a success. We’ve heard quite a bit about that this morning; about the need to initiate positive action to bring the countries of the world together around a balanced and comprehensive agenda. That pivotal NPT Review Conference is going to come only 14 months or so after the next U.S. president is inaugurated so preparation for that meeting is going to have to begin essentially on day one or at least day two.

Ambassador Duarte, I want to thank you for coming down from New York and joining us today. We look forward to your remarks. After Ambassador Duarte is finished with his remarks we’re going to be taking questions, once again, from the audience. Ambassador Sérgio Duarte. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR SÉRGIO DUARTE: Thank you, Daryl. Thank all of you for being here. It is indeed an honor to be here and also a pleasure to see among several of you, people that I have known for many years in this field. As we continue to work, I think we should recognize the difficulties of this kind of work, but also renew our commitment to achieving results in that sphere.

Let me thank Daryl Kimball and his colleagues at the Arms Control Association for their fine work on some of the toughest problems on the international security agenda. Together, you at this organization have earned the respect of your peers in civil society as well as in governments and international organizations throughout the world. It is therefore a great honor for me to accept your invitation to speak on the prospects for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, a timely issue indeed, as the winds of political change sweep across the globe and open up new possibilities for strengthening this vitally important treaty regime.  
As some of you may know, I have been working on various NPT issues for many years, even before the treaty was opened for signature in 1968. I served as a junior member of the Brazilian delegation to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee, as Daryl mentioned, in Geneva, which deliberated and discussed the treaty drafts submitted by the United States and the Soviet Union. Brazil was one of the several countries that waited many years—in some cases, in several countries, decades—before deciding to accede to the NPT. Some countries believed that the agreed text did not fully satisfy the standards for a nonproliferation treaty as set forth in Resolution 2028, in which the U.N. General Assembly set up the principles that the treaty should have. Among those principles, the treaty should be void of any loop-holes, it should embody an acceptable balance of mutual responsibilities, and it should constitute a step toward nuclear disarmament. 

Others felt that the obligations of the treaty weighed heaviest on the shoulders of the non-nuclear-weapon states, while the rights and privileges fell disproportionately to those who possessed such weapons. Many noted that the nonproliferation provisions of the treaty failed to prevent the nuclear-weapon states from basing their weapons in other countries, nor did it prohibit the further improvement and expansion of existing arsenals. Indeed, throughout the treaty’s first 16 years the number of nuclear weapons had grown considerably, new weapons had been developed, and last but not least, the disarmament clause in Article VI was seen as too weak and subject to conditions that made prospects for real progress in disarmament appear bleak.
Such perspectives on the treaty, of course, were quite different from that offered by United States Ambassador Arthur Goldberg, who delivered a long statement to the General Assembly’s First Committee on April 26, 1968, just before the signature of the treaty, explaining why the treaty would indeed serve its three primary goals of nonproliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and disarmament.

With respect to the latter, disarmament, he stated that Article VI contained its own three goals which he said constituted, and I quote his words, “a practical order of priorities;” namely “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date,” proceeding next to “nuclear disarmament,” and finally to “general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” as the ultimate goal. Ambassador Goldberg went on to say that, and then I quote from his speech, “the permanent viability of this treaty will depend in large measure on our success in further negotiations contemplated in Article VI.” That’s the end of the quotation. During my time as a diplomat I often made the same point, and I believe it is still very relevant today.

Forty years later, we can see that there has been some progress in reducing nuclear stockpiles. The numbers are down, support for nuclear disarmament is undoubtedly growing, some nuclear test sites have been closed, a nuclear-test moratorium appears to be holding up, production of fissile materials for weapons has reportedly ceased in most if not all of the nuclear-weapon states, and various warheads and delivery vehicles have been retired. These are all very welcome as necessary steps in the implementation of Article VI, but they are of course not sufficient to alter persisting concerns, from several quarters, that the treaty is facing a double crisis relating to both its effectiveness and its legitimacy.

Concerns over the treaty’s effectiveness have been raised with reference to each of the treaty’s three pillars. Various states-parties have not fully complied with their nonproliferation and safeguards commitments, as seen historically in the cases of  Iraq, Libya, and North Korea, and as reflected in concerns over Iran’s past noncompliance with its safeguards commitments and its refusal to comply with Security Council resolutions concerning its fuel cycle. Many non-nuclear-weapon states, including some that have openly expressed regret that the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995, complain of ever-increasing conditions or new demands for more stringent controls on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, with no comparable improvements in overseeing the process of disarmament.

While it is true that the global nuclear stockpile fell substantially from its peak Cold-War level in the mid-1980s, the reduction relative to when the NPT was signed is far less impressive. According to an estimate by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the global nuclear stockpile in 2006 was still over two-thirds the level reported in 1968. There had been a net reduction of about 12,000 warheads from around 38,000 to 26,000, approximately. Meanwhile, various weapon improvements have taken place. The reductions that have occurred have only been declaratory and not internationally verified. There is still very little transparency of the size and composition of the world’s nuclear weapon arsenals. Several hundred nuclear weapons reportedly remain deployed on foreign soil. New nuclear-weapon missions and doctrines have evolved. New delivery systems have been created. And, there are long-term plans to modernize both warheads and delivery systems.

These crude indicators suggest only one logical conclusion: while there is much talk of disarmament in the air, there is still a shortage of disarmament facts on the ground. The longer this perception persists, the greater will be the concerns over the basic legitimacy and ultimate efficacy of this treaty. I am encouraged that some of the nuclear-weapon states have in recent years been making an effort to report on their efforts in the field of disarmament, and I hope to see additional and more comprehensive efforts in this area in the years ahead.

This brings me to an important question for discussion as we contemplate the 2010 Review Conference: what will the states-parties be using as their standard for measuring success in achieving disarmament and nonproliferation goals? People of course have different views on this, but I think most would like to see the progress registered not so much in lofty words about future visions and ideals, as in down-to-earth results. After all, 40 years have lapsed since the NPT was signed. The time for invoking lofty ideals is obviously over and real results are past due.

As regards disarmament, I believe that most observers would applaud the following future actions by the nuclear-weapon states as contributing to a good faith effort to realize the treaty’s aims. These would include the launching of operation plans for achieving security without nuclear weapons. We see today concrete plans for the indefinite retention of nuclear arsenals, but no specific plans for their elimination, no timetables, and no national benchmarks for assessing progress. There has lately been considerable academic attention paid to questions related to the shape of a world without nuclear weapons.

There is still, however, a lack of thought, let alone action, on any national institutional infrastructure for implementing nuclear disarmament. By this, I would include national agencies that have specific disarmament mandates, specialized laboratories that are moving out of the nuclear weapon business into disarmament activities, military research and training programmes for security in a nuclear-weapon-free world, and legislative committees for overseeing the fulfillment of national disarmament commitments. The world is familiar with the military-industrial complex, but sees no comparably elaborate institutional complex for disarmament. Institutions for disarmament, however, are not all. There is also a need to see strong evidence of support for disarmament in national budgets, legislation, and policy priorities.

Under Security Council Resolution 1540, all states are already obligated to adopt internal control measures against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to additional states or non-state actors. Is it really that much to ask those states that have made international treaty commitments to nuclear disarmament to ensure that their own domestic laws and institutions are fully consistent with those commitments?   

This brings me to the question of the standards for measuring progress in fulfilling disarmament obligations. Both in the NPT and in the U.N. General Assembly, states have repeatedly stressed the importance of fulfilling certain criteria for disarmament. These include irreversibility; namely, measures to ensure that materials from dismantled warheads will not find their way into new weapons. They include verification, to enhance confidence in full compliance and to reduce the risk of strategic surprises or efforts to violate commitments. They include transparency, a criterion needed so that the world can measure progress in achieving disarmament. It does not make a lot of sense to have yardsticks with nothing to measure. They also include what might be called the criterion of bindingness. While it is possible to make progress in disarmament through unilateral efforts, disarmament requires a degree of stability and permanence that can best be achieved within the rule of law.
Though these criteria are most often cited in discussions about disarmament, surely irreversibility, verification, transparency, and bindingness are also very good standards to apply to nonproliferation as well.

Both disarmament and nonproliferation objectives would be well served by progress in bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force and negotiations to begin, at long last, on a treaty to prohibit the production of fissile material for use in weapons. This point was made this morning. I am sure that the international community would like to see nuclear weapons taken off high-alert status. Repeated calls to that effect have been made by several responsible voices in many countries, including within the nuclear-weapon states, and this initiative would undoubtedly remove some of the incentive to proliferate by those who perceive threats. There is little doubt that the non-nuclear-weapon states want stronger security guarantees against the threat and use of nuclear weapons. 

Then there is the issue of a nuclear-weapons convention. Malaysia and Costa Rica circulated this year in the United Nations a text that had been drafted by experts as a useful tool for developing such a treaty. I hope that states with nuclear weapons will be thinking about such a convention, discussing it amongst themselves, and laying a foundation for future negotiations. Some may say that this is premature. I would respond that it is never too soon to think or talk when it comes to disarmament.

Accompanying these steps in disarmament, NPT states-parties must also make some progress in the field of nonproliferation. These would include significantly expanding the number of NPT states-parties that have concluded comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA. As a practical matter, I believe that demonstrable progress in the field of disarmament will make it easier for states to strengthen their safeguards commitments further by adopting an additional protocol. Seeking to tighten safeguards without commensurate progress in disarmament will, I fear, only aggravate perceptions that the NPT is a discriminatory and unbalanced treaty. I hope there will be a robust international dialogue on the risks and potential benefits of the nuclear fuel cycle with virtually no option left off the table that can command an international consensus, ranging from national facilities under safeguards at one extreme, to full multilateral ownership with enhanced safeguards at the other. Only two options should be excluded with respect to the fuel cycle: an unconstrained international free-for-all or any other option that would adversely affect prospects for achieving global nuclear disarmament. 

On the regional level, I would hope that the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa and Central Asia would have entered into force by 2010 and that all the nuclear-weapon states would have adhered to all of the relevant protocols to all such treaties, without placing reservations or interpretations that weaken the aims of those treaties. Nuclear-weapon states might also heed the calls to review the reservations they have placed in adhering to existing protocols to such treaties. I urge all nuclear-weapon states to support the proposal for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the southern hemisphere. But most important will be some sign of serious effort on every side to pursue the implementation of the Middle East Resolution, which was adopted at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. That resolution was an inherent part of the package deal leading to the indefinite extension of the treaty and I think it is indeed fair to say that another two years of inaction on this would not bode well for a happy outcome in 2010.

As the president of the 2005 NPT Review Conference, I must caution against blaming a review conference for failing to reach a consensus on a final substantive document. Doing this is a little like blaming a barometer for stormy weather. (Laughter.) Review conferences are essentially complex instruments that are meant to tell states-parties something about the health of their treaty. Internal procedural arrangements have never been solely responsible for the inability of past review conferences to reach a consensus. To the contrary, I would argue that intractable procedural problems are mere symptoms of deeper political and substantive disagreements among the states-parties. If we resolve those differences, the procedural difficulties will by and large solve themselves.

Next year’s important third session of the Preparatory Committee will make every effort to adopt a consensus report containing substantive recommendations to the 2010 Review Conference. It will also seek to finalize procedural arrangements for the review conference, including the all-important adoption of an agenda. Chances for success in 2010 will of course grow with some real progress at the third PrepCom, especially on adoption of the agenda. Having myself witnessed first hand in 2005 what procedural disputes can do to a review conference, I would place a heavy emphasis on the importance of reaching agreement on the agenda before the conference. We have now two important precedents, an asterisk in 2005 and a footnote in 2007. These could help us to avoid wasting over half of the time over procedural disputes. Again, I feel that prospects for reaching early agreement on an agenda for 2010 will be profoundly influenced by perceptions among the states-parties that the treaty is truly making progress in achieving its stated goals, along with the complementary goals and political commitments that were agreed at various review conferences.

The mistrust, mutual suspicions, intransigence, and perceptions of bad faith that have handicapped past NPT gatherings could of course resurface in 2009 and 2010. Yet, I believe that the closer that the states-parties consider how this could recur, the more likely they will be to recognize the most effective antidote; namely, the importance of the overall track record of compliance by all the parties with all of their commitments, coupled with well-founded perceptions of hope for new progress in the years ahead. 

Nonproliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and disarmament are as important to the treaty as the heart, lungs, and brain are to the human body. We don’t have the luxury of choosing between which we wish to retain. They are all vital, they are all functionally interdependent, and they all must be kept in good health.

The United States—the country that introduced the first comprehensive nuclear disarmament proposal in the United Nations in 1946 and with the Soviet Union, introduced the first detailed proposal for general and complete disarmament in the United Nations in 1961—has a tremendously important role to play in this entire process. I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that this country performs a leadership role, whatever it does. If it voices an intention indefinitely to hold onto nuclear deterrence and perhaps a smaller nuclear arsenal, there are real possibilities that others will follow suit, as indeed they have done before. Yet if it voices its intention to pursue a nuclear-weapon-free world and backs up such words with concrete deeds, I truly believe the world will welcome this approach and will follow on this constructive course.

Other states can of course advance this process, especially groups of like-minded countries like the New Agenda Coalition and the Norwegian initiative. I am pleased that there are several creative ideas for promoting disarmament emerging from some of the states that possess nuclear weapons. Most recently, these would include the proposal by the United Kingdom for a technical conference on verifying nuclear disarmament. 

Yet interesting, creative ideas and political influence certainly do not come only from states. The Arms Control Association is but one nongovernmental organization that is working to promote the full implementation of this important international treaty. Worldwide, countless other arms control NGOs, mayors, legislators, religious leaders, women’s groups, environmental activists, scholars, scientists, journalists, and other such groups, including former political leaders, are working for the same goals. I cannot overstate the importance of their work. I wish them the best in all their efforts and offer my willingness to work with them in achieving one of humanity’s most ambitious goals, a nuclear-weapon-free world. With states and members of civil society working together toward this goal, we will truly have our best chance for making the 2010 NPT Review Conference a success.
Thank you for your attention. (Applause.)

KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Ambassador Duarte. We have time for perhaps one or two questions; we’re running a little behind schedule. Before we start, let me encourage those of you who do have a dessert in front of you to begin eating it. We do need to get started downstairs on time at 1:00. If the microphone could come here to this gentleman, please.

QUESTION: Ambassador, thank you very much for your remarks. I’m Joe Cirincione with the Ploughshares Fund. Could you prioritize, just a little bit for us? Next year, what could President McCain or President Obama do right out of the gate to encourage a successful outcome for the 2010 conference? Is there anything that would have a powerful symbolic or practical importance?

DUARTE: Well, Joe, thank you for the question. There have been several suggestions, as we know, made by many quarters and most of them, of course, are very constructive ones. There are a number of steps proposed by the so-called knights of the apocalypse versus the horsemen of the apocalypse, and there are many other proposals. I would think that one thing is paramount and should go even before any specific proposal, and this is a clear reconfirmation of the direction in which we should go, in which nuclear-weapon states should take. If they would jointly or separately make a clear statement that they intend to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, I think that would be a very good incentive for the 2010 conference. 
Then, of course, there are many other things that can be done individually, bilaterally, and multilaterally among those states before the conference. We all know those; I don’t have to repeat all those suggestions.

KIMBALL: Excellent. Right here please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Ambassador Duarte, could you expand a little bit on your views on the fuel-cycle issue? There are a lot of good proposals out there for multi-lateralizing in one form or another, but all of them run up against the issue of sovereignty. If I’m not mistaken, Brazil has been one of the holdouts on this issue. Of course, the history of these efforts at fuel-cycle reform has not been very happy. Do you think that there are proposals that could work, and what would be needed to overcome the resistance of those who see their sovereignty violated by it? Thank you.

DUARTE: Well, I don’t speak for Brazil any longer. (Laughter.) Fortunately, I would say. (Laughter.) Brazil has been holdout before on the NPT. It has serious doubts [on fuel cycle issues] as it had serious doubts on the NPT. Not only Brazil, but many non-nuclear-weapon countries have serious doubts on the proposals that have been made because these proposals—again, I’m not justifying that; I’m just trying to analyze the question as you put it—have been made from the supply side. You don’t have proposals, at least not that I know, coming from, let’s say, the other side of the spectrum. 

I think there is, justifiably, doubt whether the so-called assurances of supply will be really observed by those who are to assure. How can countries be assured? Particularly, countries that may be in a position to develop their own fuel cycles for their own purposes, peaceful purposes, I would hope. But how could these countries be sure that fuel would be assured over many, many years when political things have a way of changing over time, including political views? I think the question that has been asked by those who resist the proposal so far can be subsumed in one question: Who would assure the assurers; who would control the controllers? 

That is a major problem. I think that the way to solve that is to really have a serious discussion about that matter. There hasn’t been. There have been proposals, but not serious discussion among those who propose and those who have doubts about the proposals. The IAEA has tried to do that, unfortunately, with very little result. But I think we should deepen that work and try to be more clear about what the real difficulties are, and in what way can countries be really sure that if they adhere to some of these proposals, that they will really have their needs fulfilled.

KIMBALL: I think we’ve got time for one more brief question and a brief answer. Anyone else? No brief questions? Larry, a brief question?

QUESTION: Yes, sir. Now, I’m not attempting to avoid U.S. responsibilities here, but what is your judgment on whether or not there could be some change in the U.N. structure for dealing with the subject? I’m old enough to have witnessed the trail from the five-power London subcommittee to the 10-nation to the surprise attack conference to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee, and now we’ve got a situation where we have a conference, not a negotiating structure, operating on the principle of unanimity. So what would be the reaction, you think, in the U.N. for a proposal for really restructuring it to produce some sort of an effective negotiating body?

DUARTE: I’ll try to make a short answer. These bodies, of course, are not the U.N. The 18 nations were a committee; the current Conference on Disarmament is not really a U.N. body. It started as something outside of the U.N., then of course in the first special session, disarmament was brought into the U.N. So you need the General Assembly, again, to revamp that, to seek another way. For that you need another special session on disarmament, a fourth one. I hope that the countries that have been resisting a fourth special session would agree to sit down and discuss what could be that new machinery. Again, personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the machinery. I think the problem is somewhere else, but not with the machinery. That’s my view, at least. Thank you.

KIMBALL: Ambassador Duarte, again, thank you very, very much. (Applause.) And, thank you all.