Update: Postponed 2020 NPT Review Conference

Viewpoint by Tariq Rauf *

Photo: Collage from images on www.un.org/en/conferences/npt2020

VIENNA (IDN) – On 30 March 2020, IDN-InDepthNews published my article, Challenge for the NAM: Move the NPT Review Conference to 2021 in Vienna, in which I had noted the announcement of the postponement of the 2020 review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), scheduled to be held in New York from 27 April to 22 May, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. [2020–04-03]

In the article I had recommended that the NPT States parties that are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) political grouping, numbering more than 110 of the current 191 adherents to the Treaty, propose to convene the review conference from 26 April to 21 May 2021 and to hold it in Vienna (Austria).

The reasons for shifting from New York to Vienna were described as including: being the headquarters of the IAEA, the United Nations Offices in Vienna (UNOV), the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) Vienna branch, and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

In its earlier communication to NAM NPT States, Indonesia in its capacity as the Coordinator of the NAM Working Group on Disarmament, had advised to "adopt a decision as soon as possible on the postponement of the Review Conference scheduled from 27 April to 22 May 2020 to another date no later than the end of 2021, preferably during suitable window of dates in April and May 2021".

Ramadhan al Mubarak 2021

Surprisingly, what NAM, UN ODA and I all had neglected to take into account was the calendar for Ramadhan al Mubarak in 2021 – the holy month during which observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

In a new communication (attached above), Indonesia in its capacity as the Coordinator of the NAM Working Group on Disarmament, informed UN ODA that, "We would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Holy Month of Ramadhan for the year 2021 will commence on 11/12 April 2021. Convening the NPT Review Conference during Ramadhan could be quite burdensome for a large number of delegations. Therefore, we hope that this would be taken into consideration in the process of proposing the new dates of the Conference".

Proposed Dates for NPT Review Conference 2021

Convening the review conference during Ramadhan al Mubarak next year would be of significant inconvenience to delegates from nearly 50 NPT States parties. In my view, NAM would be well advised to strongly recommend that the dates be after the end of Ramadhan next year.

In light of this new development regarding Ramadhan in 2021, I would recommend that NPT States parties, the NAM States, the Conference-president designate, and UN ODA now consider the new dates of 17 May to 11 June 2021 to convene the postponed NPT review conference in Vienna.

These dates would avoid overlap of the sessions of the Conference on Disarmament in March-April next year as well as Ramadhan and would occur at a time when there are no scheduled nuclear disarmament meetings. The June session of the IAEA Board of Governors could be held during the week of 14 June 2021 – which in any case might well be the normally scheduled dates.

In his Twitter post of 31 March, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi reaffirmed the Agency’s support for the NPT and its related nuclear verification activities, when he stated that "the IAEA brings the NPT into life". Thus, in my view, this further reinforces the rationale for holding NPT review conferences in Vienna starting from next year.

Tariq Rauf is former Head of Nuclear Verification and Security Policy at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, and former Alternate Head of the IAEA Delegation to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) review conferences. Personal views are expressed here. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 April 2020]

Photo: Collage from images on www.un.org/en/conferences/npt2020

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