Five Decades of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Time to Pass the Baton to the UN Security Council?
Keywords:NPT, nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, NPT weaknesses, potential role of UN Security Council, Security Council Resolutions 1540 of 2004 and 1929 of 2010
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) came into force in 1970. After renouncing its nuclear weapons programme, South Africa became a party to the NPT in 1991. The NPT is the principal international instrument aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT has generated various other treaties with similar aims, which, together with the NPT, constitute the ‘nuclear non-proliferation regime’. The NPT has, for various reasons, not been a success. Whether the NPT has achieved nuclear non-proliferation is a moot point–a concept which implies nuclear disarmament. For example, there is evidence of a network of covert operations marketing nuclear technology; some non-NPT states have clandestinely embarked on nuclear weapons programmes, and some NPT states have threatened to adopt a policy of actual or pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons even against non-nuclear weapons states for its deterrent value. Alarm bells are ringing regarding the interpretation of ‘peaceful’ and ‘non-peaceful’ uses of nuclear energy. Despite the NPT, nothing prohibits the testing and refinement of existing nuclear weapons technology. Certain questions need to be answered. Has the NPT not become an instrument of rhetorical posturing by the five major nuclear weapon states–the ‘Club of Five’? Why has none of the Club of Five given their nuclear weapons up? Where do the Club of Five get the moral authority to declare that introducing new members on the Club is unacceptable? Instead of concentrating on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as the NPT does, should there not rather be an emphasis on the total prohibition of all nuclear weapons? It is submitted that a more active role for the UN in nuclear non-proliferation issues be considered. All UN Secretaries-General have made nuclear non-proliferation one of their top priorities. Kofi Annan concluded that the NPT was the victim of insufficient progress in not only nuclear non-proliferation but also nuclear disarmament and that the world was sleepwalking towards a nuclear disaster. The basis for greater involvement of the UN Security Council in nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament is to be found in the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Statute of the NPT, the UN Charter and in Security Council Relations 1540 of 2004 and 1929 of 2010. The argument is put forward that as the Security Council has the legal authority to determine threats to the peace or acts of aggression and make recommendations or decide what measures shall be taken regarding it, utilising that body may be a more meaningful route to follow than the NPT which appears to have reached its sell-by date.
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