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Protecting the Non-Proliferation Treaty

Our intergenerational Network is setting out to preserve the multilateral nuclear non-proliferation regime and prevent further erosion of the nuclear taboo and non-proliferation treaty (NPT). We’ll work to identify pathways to success in the eleventh review cycle, taking a holistic approach to the NPT and its three pillars.

Why?

International structures are resilient but not indestructible. The multilateral arms control regime is facing challenges and setbacks and requires investment. In 2018, US President Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme. In 2019, we witnessed the end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which had eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons since the 1980s. And today, the renewal of the last remaining treaty limiting US and Russian nuclear arsenals, New START, is under threat.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty is the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, enhancing stability and transparency and preventing nuclear arms races. Our intergenerational network will seek to identify pathways to success in the coming review cycle leading to the 2026 Review Conference, helping to strengthen this critical treaty.

How?

We will be multifaceted in our approach, supporting relevant initiatives to guard against losing ground the treaty has made, identifying and pursuing new pathways to diplomatic success, and investing in the next generation of arms controllers.

We will deploy our Networks of experts, expand, and establish sub-working groups focusing on the areas members deem the most pressing, provisionally concentrating on enhancing consultations in the NPT Review Cycle, reinforcing the nuclear taboo in line with recent statements made by the P5 and G20, and considering the implications of a changed European and global security environment on the non-proliferation regime.

Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2026 Review Conference (31 July–11 August 2023)

This table provides an overview of State Parties’ proposals submitted to the Working Group on further strengthening the NPT Review Process.

View the table as a pdf

Project publications

Commentary

Deterrence of non-nuclear strategic threats: the case against deterring new technologies

The US, Russia, and the UK have explicitly stated their intention to deter non-nuclear strategic threats from new technologies with nuclear weapons. ELN Senior Policy Fellow Julia Berghofer writes that this could have destabilising effects, opening the door to new vulnerabilities and escalation risks. The N5 should discuss these policies as part of their longstanding dialogue on nuclear doctrines, and a public debate is required to explore potential alternative approaches.

23 July 2024 | Julia Berghofer
Commentary

Never let a good crisis go to waste! The impact of great power conflict on the nuclear non-proliferation regime and what to do about it

In advance of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) 2026 Review Conference, ELN Policy and Research Director Oliver Meier argues that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has thrown the nuclear non-proliferation regime into crisis. Despite this, opportunities remain to revitalise multilateral frameworks. If N5 states are willing to compartmentalise nuclear arms control, and if the existing international organisations that govern arms nuclear control are better leveraged to build on past achievements, progress on mitigating nuclear risks can still be made.

18 July 2024 | Oliver Meier
Policy brief

Cloudbusting: Ways to address the growing salience of nuclear weapons in the NPT

The ambition of efforts to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons will depend on the overall trajectory of international politics. But the growing role and significance of nuclear weapons is both the result and a driver of rivalry between the nuclear-weapon states. Ahead of the 2024 NPT Preparatory Committee, this policy brief outlines what measures NPT states parties could take to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons depending on the international security environment.

16 July 2024
Commentary

Unleashing the power of Pillar III of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for sustainable development in Africa

The peaceful uses of nuclear energy pillar offers a unique opportunity to accelerate Africa’s journey towards sustainable development while reinforcing its commitment to the NPT. Daniel Ajudeonu writes that it should be embraced by both nuclear-weapons states and non-nuclear-weapon states.

8 July 2024 | Daniel Ajudeonu
Commentary

Preparing for the 2026 Review Conference: Pragmatic steps toward an improved NPT Review Cycle

The failure of the previous two Review Cycles to agree on a final document demonstrates that the NPT Review Cycle is in danger of becoming dysfunctional. From a proposed Chairperson’s document to the need for informal venues to discuss salient issues, Michael Biontino offers practical steps for a successful 2026 Review Conference, beyond a final document.

5 July 2024 | Michael Biontino
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Related content

Commentary

The UK Government’s change in nuclear policy could raise difficult questions with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) community

For the first time since the Cold War, the UK’s Integrated Review increases the limit for British nuclear warheads. While Russia’s nuclear doctrine and emerging technologies seem to be the most important driver behind the decision, it will be difficult for the UK Government to justify how this fits with NPT disarmament obligations.

22 March 2021 | Julia Berghofer
Commentary

Reflections on P5 risk reduction: milestones to date and recommendations for the eleventh NPT review cycle

The recent P5 affirmation that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” as well as the incorporation of strategic risk reduction into the nuclear doctrines and dialogues working group are impactful and are welcome first measures. The P5 must now build on this momentum to discuss a substantive programme of work which must will lead to the implementation of concrete risk reduction measures within the eleventh review cycle.

24 January 2022 | Maximilian Hoell and Goran Svilanović