Ambassador Cabactulan, President of the Review Conference,
Ambassador Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to congratulate you, Mr. President, for the chairmanship of this Conference. You can count on my delegation’s best cooperation.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty is an intrinsically unfair treaty, which divides the world between “haves” and “have-nots.” It is an expression of the imbalances of the international system. It is a product of an era in which military might, especially nuclear weapons, was the main, if not the sole, source of prestige and political power. The very unfortunate identification of the permanent member of the Security Council with the five nuclear-weapon states recognized by the Treaty reinforces the perception that nuclear arms are a means to political prominence.
Unfair as it is, the NPT contains in Article VI, the seed of its own selfcorrection. Failure to implement Article VI, however, perpetuates a destructive imbalance. Forty years after the entry into force of the NPT, the fundamental goal of a world free of nuclear weapons remains little more than a mirage.
Brazil is convinced that the best guarantee for non-proliferation is the total elimination of nuclear weapons. As long as some states possess nuclear arms, other states will be tempted to acquire or to develop them. We may deplore this perverse logic, but we cannot easily deny it.
A decade ago, Brazil participated for the first time in a Review Conference. Then as today, the Brazilian delegation had in mind that, in ratifying the Treaty, the Brazilian Congress established the government’s obligation to seek real progress in nuclear disarmament.
In the year 2000, negotiations with the nuclear-weapon states, largely led by the New Agenda Coalition, resulted in a forward-looking and realistic programme of action, which came to be known as “the thirteen steps to disarmament.”
The Conference agreed, among other measures, on an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. It is sad to note that this and many other pledges remain unfulfilled.
Even as we continue to strive for the implementation of those steps, we must build upon the objectives of 2000 and move further. This is precisely what the New Agenda Coalition envisaged in presenting a working paper with 22 recommendations on nuclear disarmament.
A clear commitment of no first use by the possessor states would certainly add credibility to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. So would legally binding security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states. Nuclear-weapon states should also renounce the upgrading or development of new atomic devices.
Last year, the United States and Russia committed themselves to a nuclear-free world. President Obama provided, in his Prague speech, fresh motivation for those who pursue the total elimination of nuclear arsenals. The new START agreement added a necessary step in that direction, however limited.
Brazil welcomes conceptual advances in the US Nuclear Posture Review, mainly in relation to negative security assurances and in regard to the commitment by the US government to seek ratification of the CTBT.
Just three weeks ago, in Washington, leaders from more than forty countries confirmed their willingness to engage in issues related to nuclear security. But the conference was also reminded, by more than one speaker, including President Lula, that the most effective way to reduce the risks of misuse of nuclear materials by non-state actors is the total and irreversible elimination of all nuclear arsenals.
Important as they may be, unilateral, episodic measures will not lead us to zero nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament requires comprehensive and verifiable steps, as well as a precise and realistic timetable.
Arguments used to justify the possession of nuclear arms during the Cold War, if ever valid, can no longer be sustained. Everyone agrees that the days of mutually assured destruction (MAD) are long gone. Paradoxically, the mindset of that era seems to linger on.
Nuclear weapons are of no use to address the security threats of the present-day world. They serve no purpose in combating transnational crime, preventing ethnic and religious conflicts, or curbing cyber war or terrorism.
If anything, nuclear weapons diminish the security of all states, including of those who possess them. A world in which the existence of nuclear weapons continues to be accepted is intrinsically insecure. The risks of relying on command and control are well known to all those who have studied the Cold War. They have been pointed out by experts, including persons who occupied high places in the hierarchy of nuclear commands.
Efforts to avoid nuclear proliferation should be conducted in all seriousness. But containing the dissemination of human knowledge is an elusive, if not impossible, task. It is the belief that nuclear weapons will be eliminated in a foreseeable future that offers us the ultimate guarantee against nuclear proliferation.
No country should be denied the right to peaceful nuclear activities as long as it complies with NPT and agreed IAEA requirements. Legitimate concerns with non-proliferation must not hinder the exercise of the right to peaceful nuclear activities.
This does not diminish the importance of preventing violations and asserting that all NPT members fulfill their obligations. Doubts about the implementation of the Treaty must, to the maximum extent possible, be dealt with through dialogue and negotiation.
We must not forget that the NPT is part of the overall goal of the international community to promote peace, in line with the principles and purposes of the UN Charter.
Ten years prior to acceding to the NPT, Brazil enshrined in its Constitution the prohibition of nuclear activities for non-peaceful purposes. Even before, Brazil and Argentina had engaged in an unprecedented confidence-building process, by implementing a comprehensive control and accounting system of nuclear materials. It is our conviction that the Brazilian-Argentinian model of cooperation should be a source of inspiration for other countries and regions.
Brazil is also proud to be a Party to the Tlatelolco Treaty, which established the first nuclear-weapon-free zone in an inhabited part of the planet. We are convinced that the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in regions with tensions, such as the Middle East, can contribute to peace and security.
Any commitments additional to those prescribed in the NPT must be considered in the light of the Treaty’s overall implementation, particularly with regard to nuclear disarmament.
We are fully aware that disarming is a complex, expensive, and long process. But it is as much a political decision as the decision not to proliferate.
The world will only be a safe place when all countries feel that they are being treated with fairness and respect, when their voices are heard, and when the root causes of conflict, such as poverty and discrimination, are overcome. The presence of nuclear weapons only aggravates those problems. Nuclear weapons breed instability and insecurity. They deepen the sense of injustice.
Let us not wait another five years to translate our shared goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world into concrete political action.
Celso Amorim is the Foreign Minister of Brazil. This speech was delivered at the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on 3 May 2010.