Module 3:

The NPT Review Process

What Is the NPT Review Process?

  • Each NPT Review Conference (RevCon) is tasked with review of the implementation of the NPT over the preceding five years
  • Article VIII.3 of the NPT mandates that: “Five years after the entry into force of this Treaty, a conference of Parties to the Treaty shall be held ….in order to review the operation of this Treaty…”
  • By the time of the first Review Conference in May 1975, the NPT had ninety-one parties
  • States parties were able to reach agreement on a final declaration containing substantive language on the implementation of the NPT’s various articles in 1975, 1985, and 2000
  • The 2000 and 2010 RevCons’ Final Documents identified future steps for  furthering the goals of the NPT’s various articles, the ”13 Practical Steps” and the “Action Plan,” respectively
  • In 1995, while the states parties could not agree on a document reviewing treaty implementation, they adopted a package of decisions to extend the treaty indefinitely
  • In between RevCons, NPT states parties meet to begin preparatory work for the RevCon. These sessions are called Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings. In most cases, there are three PrepComs leading up to the RevCon, but if necessary, a fourth PrepCom may be held in the year of the RevCon

What Happens at an NPT PrepCom?

  • The purpose of the PrepCom meetings is to address both substantive and procedural matters ahead of the Review Conferences
  • The first two PrepCom sessions consider “principles, objectives and ways in order to promote the full implementation of the Treaty as well as its universality,” while the third session is expected to adopt the agenda for the Review Conference and make substantive recommendations to the RevCon (none of the PrepComs to date, however, have managed to adopt substantive recommendations)
  • The 1975 RevCon created a standard format for future conferences of holding short PrepCom sessions tasked with procedural matters
  • At the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, states parties decided to “strengthen” the review process and convene ten-day PrepCom meetings in each of the three years preceding the RevCon to begin work on substantive rather than procedural issues

Flow Chart of the Review Process


1st PrepCom

  • Adopts agenda to guide the rest of the review process
  • Considers ways to promote implementation of the NPT
  • Traditionally chaired by Western Group member, who then chairs Main Committee III at the Review Conference
  • Chair prepares factual summary


2nd PrepCom

  • Chooses chair of 3rd PrepCom
  • Considers ways to promote implementation of the NPT
  • Traditionally chaired by Eastern European Group member, who then chairs Main Committee II at the Review Conference
  • Chair prepares factual summary


3rd PrepCom

  • Makes procedural decisions for RevCon – nominates president and finalizes agenda, rules of procedure, and background
  • Provides (ideally) recommendations on ways to promote implementation of the NPT
  • Traditionally chaired by Non-Aligned Movement member, who then chairs Main Committee I at the Review Conference


4th PrepCom

  • Can be held the same year as the Review Conference to resolve outstanding issues if necessary
  • To date, only one has been held, in 1995, due to disagreement over whether to extend the treaty and inability to resolve the issue at the 3rd PrepCom

What is the Relevance of Past NPT Review Conferences to the Current Review Cycle?

1995 “Review and Extension Conference”

  • Twenty-five year benchmark at which, under Article X.II of the NPT, states parties had to decide whether to extend the NPT indefinitely or for an additional fixed period
  • Majority of states parties favored the NPT’s indefinite extension, but some NNWS wanted the treaty extended for a fixed period of twenty-five years to try to exert leverage on NWS to make progress on nuclear disarmament
  • Result: Package of decisions
    • Decision 1: “Strengthening the Review Process of the Treaty”
    • States parties agreed to hold PrepComs for the Review Conferences in each of the three years preceding a Review Conference
    • Decision 2: “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament”
    • Called for a program of action on nuclear disarmament: CTBT ratification, FM(C)T negotiation, step-by-step progress toward nuclear disarmament
    • Decision 3: Indefinite extension of the NPT
  • 1995 Resolution on the Middle East
    • Called on all states in the region to join the NPT and put all nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards
    • Called for the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the region

2000 RevCon + 13 Practical Steps Toward Nuclear Disarmament

  • Produced a consensus Final Document which, among other things, contained 13 Practical Steps for nuclear disarmament
  • These steps dealt with a number of matters in the 1995 Package of Decisions, multi- and bi-lateral steps toward nuclear disarmament, and the role of international organizations in nuclear disarmament

2010 RevCon + Action Plan

  • Failed to produce a consensus review of treaty implementation, but agreed on forward-looking Conclusions and Recommendations for Follow-on Actions
  • Conclusions and Recommendations contain an Action Plan on disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as well as a set of recommendations on the implementation of the 1995 Middle East Resolution:
    • 64 action items across the “three pillars” of the NPT: nuclear disarmament (actions 1-22), nonproliferation (action 23-46), and peaceful uses of nuclear energy (action 47-64)
    • Middle East decisions: Request that the UN Secretary-General, together with the three NPT depositaries (Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), convene a WMD-free zone in the Middle East conference in 2012, to be attended by all states of the region; request the UN Secretary-General, together with the three NPT depositaries and in consultations with states in the region, to designate a host government for the conference and appoint a Facilitator to assist in preparations for the Middle East conference and implementation of its decision
    • Conclusions and Recommendations developed from what was originally conceived as only a disarmament Action Plan
    • Assessment of implementation of the Action Plan, particularly its disarmament and Middle East sections, will likely be a contentious issue at the 2015 RevCon

What Is the Current Status of the 2010 Recommendation on the Middle East?

  • Historical basis:
    • 1974: United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) first endorsed calls for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) in the region following a proposal by Iran and Egypt
      • Resolution continues to be passed annually at the UNGA
      • 1988: UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar undertook a study looking at conditions surrounding the creation of a NWFZ and made a number of recommendations
      • 1990: Egypt put forward a proposal for a WMD-Free Zone (WMDFZ)
      • 1995 Review and Extension Conference: Resolution called for “the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems” as part of the indefinite extension package
      • 2010 Review Conference: States agreed to five practical steps to implement the 1995 Resolution
        • Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States were obligated by the 2010 recommendation to designate a facilitator and a host government for a WMDFZ conference. In October 2011, Finland was designated as the host country for the 2012 Conference, and the Finnish Undersecretary of State Ambassador Jaakko Laajava was named as the Facilitator
      • The conference was not convened in 2012, and it is not clear whether or when it will be convened. In the NPT context, the Arab Group and Iran have been critical of the non-convening of the conference; Egypt staged a walkout during the 2013 PrepCom to protest the lack of progress
  • Challenges to implementing the 2010 Middle East recommendation:
    • Only the Arab States and Iran have committed to attend the conference, while Israel has not yet committed to attending
    • Agreeing on an agenda and proposed outcome: the Arab states want the conference to establish a formal process for creating a WMD-free zone, while Israel has to date refused to negotiate a zone in the absence of peace in the region
    • Multilateral consultations among regional states, the conveners, and the facilitator to discuss the conference agenda, rules of procedure, and outcome finally took place in October 2013, but did not result in an agreement