RECNA NPT Blog 2022 Final Edition No.4
4. New Developments: Review Process, Gender, and Disarmament Education
Although the NPT Review Conference ended in failure, it is important to note that some clues were left that will lead to the next step. One of these is the decision on the final day to establish a “working group” on further strengthening the review process of the Treaty.
In principle, the NPT operates on a five-year cycle. To adjust for the time lag caused by the postponement of the Review Conference, it was decided that the next Review Conference will be held in New York in 2026, with Preparatory Committee meetings to be held in Vienna (2023), Geneva (2024), and New York (2025). Such a process to advance the fulfillment of the obligations related to three pillars of the NPT is called the “Review Process”
Throughout the conference, many countries called for strengthening the process. Among them, the establishment of a working group was something that the Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), in which 12 countries including Japan and Australia participate, had long called for in its working documents. The specific composition and plans of the working group are not yet clear at this point, but we should keep a close eye on future developments of such group as one of the positive outcomes of this conference.
In terms of strengthening the process, some countries expressed the need to further enhance the involvement of civil society. At the Review Conference and the Preparatory Committees, one session (three hours) has been allotted for the NGO presentations, and the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, A-bomb survivors, young people, and others from civil society in various fields were given the opportunity to speak. It is true that this has been an important opportunity for the voices of civil society to be heard by government officials. In reality, however, the number of participants from governments has not been large, and there have been few interactive exchanges between governments and civil society. In addition, at the NPT Review Conference and Preparatory Committees, civil society organizations are not allowed to submit official working papers, as is the case at the Conference of the State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Furthermore, it has been pointed out that many sessions during the last week of the conference are held behind closed doors, limiting the avenues for NGOs to obtain information and lobby.
The draft Final Document also made several noteworthy advances, reflecting the international discussions during this period. Among them, the growing awareness of gender mainstreaming and disarmament education was a notable development observed at this Review Conference. This is largely due to the recent increase in awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, particularly through the adoption and entry into force of the TPNW, the first nuclear weapons-related international treaty to clearly state the importance of incorporating gender perspectives and disarmament education, as well as through the discussion of international Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which were held for four times.
In the draft final document, the change was striking, too: the Action Plan agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference did not contain the word “gender” or “women” even once. However, in the final draft (revised August 25), “gender” appears three times and “women” 14 times. It stated that the Review Conference recognizes “the importance of and commit to ensure the equal, full and meaningful participation and leadership of both women and men in the NPT’s implementation and review,” and calls on each party to “further integrate a gender perspective in all aspects of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation decision-making process.” It also requests the Secretariat to collect, track and publish data on participation of women
Regarding disarmament education, the final draft goes further than the final document agreed in 2010. It encourages exchanges with nuclear-affected areas, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki and other areas around the world affected by nuclear tests, as follows
“The Conference calls on States Parties to commit to take concrete measures to raise awareness of the public, in particular of younger and future generations, as well as of leaders, disarmament experts and diplomats, on all topics relating to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including through interactions with and directly sharing the experiences of the peoples and the communities affected by nuclear weapons use and testing, to know their humanitarian and environmental impact. The Conference calls on States Parties to commit to empower and enable youth to participate in formal and informal initiatives and discussions related to nuclear disarmament.”
The above wording was used in the Joint Statement on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education, which was led by Japan and endorsed by 89 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. The fact that the number of endorsing countries for the statement increased by 14 from the 75 at the 2015 Review Conference is evidence that the importance of disarmament education has been widely recognized.
Although the conference did not result in the adoption of a substantive final document, active discussions were held on the issues of gender and disarmament education, and a common understanding was created among the countries in a more in-depth manner, which can be called one of the outcomes of this review conference. It is therefore desirable that these themes, which are likely to become increasingly important in the future, not be confined to the framework of the NPT, but be positioned as common issues with the TPNW, and that a path be created for countries to work together on these issues, transcending differences in their positions. In fact, the topics discussed at the NPT Review Conference on gender and disarmament education overlap significantly with the content of the action plan agreed to at the First Meeting of the Conference of the State Parties to the TPNW in June of this year.
The Japanese government could use these themes as a springboard for “bridge-building” efforts, especially in terms of nuclear inhumanity, by also engaging in the process of the TPNW. It is noteworthy that only two of the “nuclear umbrella” countries, Japan and Greece, endorsed the statement on the Joint Humanitarian Statement, submitted by Costa Rica on behalf of 147 State Parties on August 25. We look forward to further courage and determination on the part of Japan.