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Policy brief | 11 December 2023

Weathering the storm: A scenario-based approach to strengthening the NPT

This summer, states parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) gathered in Vienna for the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) one year after the 2022 NPT Review Conference (RevCon) ended without consensus on a final outcome document. The unprecedented two-year postponement of the 10th RevCon, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, means NPT states parties picked up where they left off without much of a break in an environment that is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.

Using a scenario-based approach, this policy brief takes stock of current geopolitical dynamics and their implications for the long-term health of the NPT and its review process. At a moment where the risk of use of nuclear weapons remains dangerously elevated, the PrepComs leading up to the next 2026 RevCon present an opportunity for states parties to begin establishing and advancing an agenda to reduce nuclear risks and strengthen the NPT in the long term.

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This paper is part of the ELN’s “Protecting the Non-Proliferation Treaty” project, supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project seeks to preserve the multilateral nuclear non-proliferation regime and prevent further erosion of the nuclear taboo and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Bringing together an intergenerational, pan-regional Network of experts, it works to identify pathways to success in the eleventh review cycle, taking a holistic approach to the NPT and its three pillars. We are grateful for comments and feedback from several NPT member state officials on drafts of this paper.

The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.

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