The recent deterioration in relations between Russia and the West was among a series of factors that had dampened hopes that the NPT RevCon could deliver meaningful progress on arms control. Nonetheless, nuclear-weapons states may now be convinced of the need to show greater awareness of the widespread impatience fuelling efforts to ban nuclear weapons.

After four weeks of lively debate, the ninth Review Conference (RevCon) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) failed to result in agreement on a final document. Held at the United Nations in New York from 27 April to 22 May, the conference saw the nuclear-weapons states (NWS) attempt to answer growing demands for greater progress towards disarmament.

These five-yearly gatherings of states and non-governmental organisations have provided the principal forum for signatories to assess progress made in fulfilling the obligations of the NPT, which took effect in 1970. They also seek to chart a path forward, but typically they are contentious affairs. They focus on the implementation of the ‘grand bargain’ in the NPT, whose three pillars deal with non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Non-nuclear-weapons states (NNWS) generally stress the need to fulfil the disarmament obligations of Article VI, which contains the promise by all parties ‘to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’. Those who are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement frequently urge more action on Article IV, which calls for all parties to facilitate the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

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