The 2nd Meeting of States Parties (MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York City from November 27 through December 1. Participants in the Meeting included 59 member nations, 35 observer states, around 700 civil society registrants, members of the scientific community, and representatives of communities affected by nuclear weapons.
The Meeting culminated in agreement by states parties on a joint declaration and package of decisions. Arguably, the most significant outcome of the 2nd MSP was the consensus joint declaration challenging long-held assumptions of nuclear deterrence theory and affirming the security risks it poses.
What’s happened since the first MSP
The first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW occurred in Vienna, Austria in June 2022, where states parties adopted the Vienna Action Plan. That plan listed 50 actions for States Parties to implement the TPNW and goal of global nuclear disarmament and created three working groups on disarmament verification; victim assistance, environmental remediation, and international cooperation and assistance; and universalisation. The Vienna Plan additionally created thematic focal points for gender and complementarity of the TPNW with other fora like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The working groups each met several times during the intersessional period.
The first MSP also created a Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) of 15 experts to study and provide scientific and technical expertise on a variety of issues related to nuclear weapons. The SAG is the first international scientific body formally created by a multilateral treaty process to promote nuclear disarmament. The group met nine times during the intersessional period to prepare its report to the second MSP, and its final report drew heavily upon research conducted by independent open-source analysts, including the Federation of American Scientists.
Several states have joined or taken action toward joining the treaty during the intersessional period. The Bahamas, Barbados, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, and Sierra Leone signed the treaty; the Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Malawi ratified the treaty; Sri Lanka acceded to the treaty; and Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world by population, recently enacted the TPNW into law within its parliament and is expected to soon complete ratification.
Nearly half of NPT states parties have now signed the TPNW, reflecting growing unacceptance of the lack of progress on nuclear weapons states’ Article VI disarmament obligations.
Noteworthy happenings during 2MSP
The 2nd Meeting of States Parties included a large number of national and other statements and reports. The proceedings notably included moving testimony from nuclear-affected communities, active participation and presentation of research by civil society, a report from the Scientific Advisory Group, notable observer state attendance, and statements from a group of parliamentarians from around the world and the financial community.
One of the most important features of the TPNW is its focus on impacted communities. Participants and attendees included victims of nuclear testing in Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Australia, and French Polynesia; Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki; downwinders from the U.S. Southwest; and communities impacted by uranium mining.
Benetick Kabua Maddison, Executive Director of the Marshallese Education Initiative, delivered a joint statement to the Meeting on behalf of 26 affected community organizations and supported by 45 allied organizations that provided testimony of the harm of nuclear weapons and called for land remediation and universalization of the treaty.
Scientific Advisory Group
In addition to numerous civil society research presentations and statements throughout the week, the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) presented its Report on the Status and Developments Regarding Nuclear Weapons to the Meeting. This presentation marked the first formal participation of the SAG in the proceedings of the TPNW following its formation.
SAG co-chairs Dr. Zia Mian and Dr. Patricia Lewis introduced the report to the MSP. The report, heavily citing the work of FAS’s Nuclear Information Project, included an overview of the global status of nuclear stockpiles, nuclear modernization, nuclear risks, humanitarian consequences, and disarmament verification. Additionally, the SAG recommended a global scientific study sponsored by the UN on the effects and consequences of nuclear war.
Unsurprisingly, none of the nuclear-armed states attended, but several U.S. treaty allies – Australia, Belgium, Germany, and Norway – attended the MSP as observers. Two of the observers (Belgium and Germany) are part of the NATO nuclear sharing arrangements to deliver U.S. nuclear weapons in times of war.
The delegate from Norway made a statement in support of NATO as a nuclear alliance: “Norway stands fully behind NATO’s nuclear deterrence and posture, including the established nuclear sharing arrangements.” According to some analysts, this may be the first time Norway has explicitly supported U.S. nuclear weapons deployments in Europe in a multilateral disarmament forum. This continues a trend of increased support of NATO nuclear missions by Norway since the end of the Cold War, which has recently included participating in joint exercises with US B-52 bombers and a US B-2 bomber landing in Norway for the first time.
The German delegation similarly supported NATO’s nuclear mission in its statement to the Meeting while criticizing Russia’s announcement of nuclear weapons deployments to Belarus. The representative stated that “confronted with an openly aggressive Russia, the importance of nuclear deterrence has increased for many states, including for my country.”
Three observer states to the first MSP were notably absent from the second: The Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden. The Netherlands is the only NATO member to participate in the initial negotiations of the TPNW. Despite this, the Netherlands has consistently voted against UNGA resolutions welcoming the adoption of the TPNW, and, after the first MSP, the Dutch Foreign Ministry reported that continued observation of TPNW proceedings “is not useful.”
Finland voted against the UNGA resolution on the TPNW for the first time in 2022 and chose not to observe the 2nd MSP, possibly due to its recent NATO membership. Sweden similarly voted against the resolution for the first time in 2022 and was absent from the 2nd MSP. These actions by Sweden could be related to its bid for NATO membership and its brand new Defense Cooperation Agreement with the U.S.
Points of tension
Although states parties came to agreement on a final declaration and package of decisions (with the MSP even closing around two hours earlier than scheduled on the final day), there were some points of disagreement and division throughout the week.
One primary disagreement was on nuclear sharing – particularly how strongly the final declaration should condemn it. European states parties pushed back on forceful language to prevent their regional allies and the U.S. from being implicated in the condemnation that they wanted centered on Russia’s nuclear deployments to Belarus. The final joint declaration avoided mention of specific sharing arrangements and simply included a condemnation of and call to cease all such arrangements.
In a similar vein, some states like South Africa wanted to include strong language on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that would condemn both Russia’s recent de-ratification and the fact that the U.S. has never ratified the CTBT. U.S. allies at the Meeting, however, wanted language focusing solely on Russia’s actions. Ultimately, neither country was identified by name in the joint declaration; instead, states parties made a broad call for all countries to sign and ratify the CTBT and promote its entry into force.
Alongside states parties, observer states, and civil society groups, the TPNW 2MSP included participation from a diverse, global group of parliamentarians as well as representatives from the financial community.
A delegation of 23 parliamentarians from 14 different countries, including US Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), delivered a statement to the Meeting urging governments (in some cases their own) to join the treaty.
The financial community provided a statement to the MSP on behalf of over 90 investors to promote collaboration between states parties and the financial community to divest from the nuclear weapons industry.
Results of the MSP: Final declaration and decisions
Through the joint declaration, states presented their consensus view that nuclear risks are growing due to the actions of nuclear weapons states: “Nuclear risks are being exacerbated in particular by the continued and increasing salience of and emphasis on nuclear weapons in military postures and doctrines, coupled with the on-going qualitative modernization and quantitative increases in nuclear arsenals, and the heightening of tensions.”
States parties additionally declared the catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons as the central impetus for pursuing and achieving global nuclear disarmament, spotlighting the human and environmental costs to argue that “the only guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is their complete elimination and the legally binding assurance that they will never be developed again.” States jointly rejected any normalization of nuclear rhetoric and identified nuclear threats and deterrence as security risks, declaring:
“The threat of inflicting mass destruction runs counter to the legitimate security interests of humanity as a whole. This is a dangerous, misguided and unacceptable approach to security… Far from preserving peace and security, nuclear weapons are used as instruments of policy, linked to coercion, intimidation and heightening of tensions. The renewed advocacy, insistence on and attempts to justify nuclear deterrence as a legitimate security doctrine gives false credence to the value of nuclear weapons for national security and dangerously increases the risk of horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation… The perpetuation and implementation of nuclear deterrence in military and security concepts, doctrines and policies not only erodes and contradicts nonproliferation, but also obstructs progress towards nuclear disarmament.”
On nuclear sharing, states parties called on all states with nuclear arrangements, including extended nuclear security guarantees, to cease all such arrangements and join the TPNW. They also reaffirmed the complementarity between the TPNW and the NPT and called out the lack of progress nuclear weapons states have made toward their NPT Article VI obligations on disarmament.
The package of decisions included an agreement by states parties to collaborate in challenging false narratives of nuclear deterrence by engaging in and promoting scientific work on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. This collaboration includes the establishment of a consultative process on security concerns of states to advance arguments against nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence.
States also agreed to engage in discussions on establishing an international trust fund for victim assistance and environmental remediation. Lack of progress and vague phrasing on such a trust fund is likely due to disagreements on whether or not non-states parties to the TPNW should be able to contribute to the fund. Some states fear non-states parties could use their contributions to the trust fund to avoid strong pressure to join the treaty.
Next steps for the intersessional period
The Third Meeting of States Parties to the treaty will take place in 2025 from March 3 to 7, again in New York.
During the intersessional period, the informal working groups established by the Vienna Action Plan will continue to meet, and focused discussions will take place in order to present a report to the third MSP on the feasibility and guidelines for an international trust fund.
States parties and signatories will engage in an intersessional consultative process along with the Scientific Advisory Group, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and others with the aim of providing a report to the third MSP containing arguments and recommendations to promote a counternarrative to nuclear deterrence rhetoric.
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