Disarmament Insight


Thursday, 10 May 2007

“Happy Birthday Mr President”

Things are in full swing at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) preparatory meeting in Vienna, and the atmosphere has changed completely. Interventions are constructive and chock full of ideas, information and proposals for ways forward. It may be only a temporary spurt, but this boat has all its sails up and a spinnaker at full wind. By Friday we may be back in the storm and heading for the doldrums as the delegations grapple with how to finalise the report, but for now everyone is enjoying the steady, sunny breeze.

Both on its own behalf and as part of the reinvigorated New Agenda Coalition (NAC), South Africa has often taken the helm – witness their save-the-day proposal that resulted in the “asterisked agenda” (see previous postings for details). Today, along with two excellent papers, South African Ambassador Abdul Minty announced to the room that today was the Chairman’s birthday.

Well, after that of course everybody – and I mean everybody – had to congratulate Ambassador Amano, who disclosed that it was the big 6-0 no less, and things began to get pretty repetitive. If only Ambassador Henrik Salander of Sweden had been there with his guitar, we could have all burst into song as happened a few years back. A breathy Marilyn Monroe would have just put the icing on any cake she had popped out of – and given the mood swings of the last couple of days, I have a feeling that few would have been too surprised.

For me the highlight of the day was the lunchtime panel held by the Global Security Institute and the Government of Sweden on the connections between preventing the weaponization of space and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Apart from yours truly, the other speakers were Dr Hans Blix (see my “On the Ropes” posting from 8 May) and Ambassador Robert Grey, former US Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Both were excellent speakers, who brought quite different perspectives to the topic. Hans was, as ever, forthright and focused on the big picture. Bob (who had earlier spoken at UNIDIR’s seminar on the CTBT on Monday) was hard-hitting, critical of his own government, yet tempering his hope for the future with reality.

It is certainly the season for anniversaries. At the panel presentation, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty and the 50th anniversary of the first satellite in orbit, Sputnik. In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is celebrating its 50th and the Comprehensive nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) provisional secretariat its 10th. In Den Hague the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is also celebrating its 10th year of operation.

Ambassador Amano is in good company. And, so as not to be out of line: “Otanjou-bi Omedetou Gozaimasu Amano-San!”

This is a guest blog from Dr Patricia Lewis. Patricia is Director of UNIDIR.

Disarmament Insight note: we promise, no more maritime references will be allowed on this blog for the rest of the month.


For more information on the NPT preparatory meeting, visit the UN’s page at: http://www.un.org/NPT2010/

Webcasted video interviews with Patricia and other participants in the NPT meeting are available online at: http://www.BanningTheBomb.tv.

Photo of Marilyn Monroe retrieved from Flickr, image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS