27 March 2012, New York, USA - About 80 delegates convened to attend the UNITAR seminar “Outlook for the Preparatory Committee for the 2012 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. (the 2012 PrepCom for the NPT)”.  The event, which took place at the Permanent Mission of Egypt to the UN, was jointly-sponsored by the Egyptian Mission, the Australian Mission, and UNITAR.

In the opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Maged Abdelaziz, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN noted that the large number of participants spoke of the urgency and anxiousness in the world around this issue, and said that the past was important to informing the future of the NPT. Both he and H.E. Mr. Gary Quinlan, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN, noted that the action plan we have now is the result of what was possible in the past; however, as Mr. Quinlan said, “this should not put limitations on what we want in the future.”

Session I, titled “From 2010 to 2015: setting the state for the 2012 PrepCom,” was led by H.E. Mr. Libran N Cabactulan, the Chair of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and H.E. Mr. Peter Woolcott, Chair-designate of the 2012 Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Mr. Woolcott discussed the historical importance of the 2010 Review Conference and gave three objectives for 2012, saying that “the achievements of 2010 make the work of 2012 easier.” Mr. Cabactulan echoed this sentiment, saying that “the prospect of the 2012 PrepCom is really bright.” He closed by noting that the action plan for 2012 must focus on forward movement, as “it is good to reaffirm, but we need to act.”

Professor W. Pal Sidhu from New York University's Center on International Cooperation opened and moderated the second session, “Reviewing the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan and its implementation.” Panelist, Mr. Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the UN said that the 2010 Action Plan “is a comprehensive road map for the coming years” and that “its implementation is a common responsibility” of states and non-state actors. Speakers discussed the issue of nuclear-free zones in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, legal issues for the 2010 Action Plan such as reporting, and—in the words of Mr. Sidhu—the need for groups to keep focus on the Action Plan as a way to “hold up a mirror” so states can see what must be done.

Session III, “The NPT backdrop—opportunities and challenges” was moderated by Mr. John Burroughs, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy. The panel discussed the opportunities for non-nuclear states to push for a more robust NPT. Mr. David Robin Wensley, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of South Africa to the UN, discussed the work of international groupings such as the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) in providing political leverage for a stronger NPT. Mr. Zia Mian, Research Scientist, Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, noted the ways in which the nuclear states themselves have moved toward transparency. For example, in 1997 U.S. National Academy of Sciences proposed complete transparency with Russia. “We have gone backward since then,” he said, but also said that this positive history gives precedence for new offers and options. Difficulties include issues of reporting and transparency, but as Mr. Woolcott noted in his closing remarks, “it’s these sorts of seminars…that can lead to new ideas and solutions.”

(Photo: UNITAR/Panel discussion on "Reviewing the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan and its implementation")