Nuclear risks extreme says UN Secretary-General to NPT Review Conference

NoFirstUse Global Open Letter to be presented to the NPT Review Conference today

The 10th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opened on Monday August 1 with a stark warning from UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“From the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula. To Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more“, he told leaders, ministers and ambassadors of nuclear-armed, allied and non-nuclear countries, along with civil society representatives gathered at the United Nations for this 4-week long event. 

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict. Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”

Fulfil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security

Fulfil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security, a civil society Open Letter organised by NoFirstUse Global, will be presented to the afternoon plenary session of the NPT Review Conference today (Friday August 5, New York time) by John Hallam a member of the NoFirstUse Global steering committee and the Australian Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND).

Over 1400 political, military and religious leaders, as well as legislators (parliamentarians and mayors), academics, scientists, business leaders, youth, lawyers, artists, Nobel Laureates and other representatives of civil society from 80 countries have endorsed the Open Letter, which calls on the NPT States Parties to:

  • End the nuclear arms race and phase out the role of nuclear weapons in security policies starting with no-first-use;
  • Commit to a timebound framework for the global elimination of nuclear weapons no later than 2045, the 75th anniversary of the NPT;
  • Adopt a concrete plan to implement this commitment including through the systematic and progressive reduction of nuclear arsenals;
  • Agree to shift budgets and public investments from the nuclear weapons industry to instead support public health, climate stabilization and sustainable development.

A pre-view of the Open Letter, including a categorised list of endorsers, is available to view or download as a PDF file. The NPT plenary session at which the Open Letter will be presented today can be watched on UNTV.

Calls in the Open letter supported by NPT working papers

There are two civil society working papers to the NPT Review Conference which support and expand upon calls made in the Open Letter.

The first, NWC Reset: Frameworks for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, supports the call for a timebound framework for achieving the global elimination of nuclear weapons no later than 2045, and suggests three possible alternatives for establishing such a framework:

  1. negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention (NWC) or package of agreements;
  2. negotiation of a framework agreement which includes the legal commitment to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world and provides a process for agreeing on details over time; or
  3. negotiation of protocols to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) or related instruments which nuclear armed and allied states would sign as part of a process for them to join the TPNW.

These options will be explored in more detail in an online side-event on August 9 (from 3:00 – 5:00pm) entitled NWC Reset: Frameworks for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Nuclear weapons threaten current and future generations. They cannot resolve the conflicts between countries, and they are counter-productive to the human security issues of today and tomorrow – the COVID pandemic, climate crisis, food security, cybersecurity, and achievement of the sustainable development goals. It’s time to fulfil the NPT and the goal established by the UN in 1946 to eliminate nuclear weapons globally.”
Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Member of the World Future Council, President of the 73rd UN General Assembly. Endorser of the Open Letter FulFil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security

Working paper on no-first-use

The second working paper No-first-use of nuclear weapons: An Exploration of Unilateral, Bilateral and Plurilateral Approaches and their Security, Risk-reduction and Disarmament Implications suports the call in the Open Letter for the adolption of no-first-use policies.

We encourage you to read the paper in order to learn more about no-first-use policies and options, how they can contribute to nuclear risk reduction and disarmament, and how this could be taken forward by States Parties to the NPT.

The key ideas and recommendations in the working paper will be discussed in more detail at Nuclear Risk Reduction – More Topical than Ever, an in-person NPT side event on August 19th.

“Ukraine will not be the only hotspot in this new Cold War, which raises nuclear tensions and increases the risk of escalation and/or miscalculation touching off nuclear war… What steps can we take to lower nuclear risks now? We can’t allow aggression with impunity — but if Russia (and China) return to Cold War-type geopolitics, we also can’t risk a return to Cold War nuclear politics. First-use options are literally playing with fire in very combustible situations. No-first-use policies could defuse these risks and help keep alive the NPT goal of eliminating nuclear arsenals.”
Ambassador Thomas Graham, Head of the United States Delegation to the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference; and General (ret.) Bernard Norlain, former Air Defense Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force. Endorsers of the Open Letter FulFil the NPT: From nuclear threats to human security. See Russia, Ukraine and Nuclear Weapons: How to address rising nuclear threats – including through no-first-use announcements.