Day 4 Report from Dave Webb
Yesterday was quite extraordinary. There has been a buzz right from the start of this conference. I have not come across such a positive attitude from such a wide section of Civil Society before. All the way, from the numerous positive opening speeches of the conference until yesterday, people have been daring to say –“Is this really it? Are we on the verge of a breakthrough to make nuclear weapons illegal?” Of course, there is still a long way to go and the absence of the nuclear weapons states (apart from the rather sad and feeble demonstration by some – including, embarrassingly, the UK ambassador – right at the start) has removed the possibility of any major negative input to the proceedings. However, there was an amazing interactive process that took place yesterday afternoon when Civil Society were given the top table and were asked questions from delegates from the floor. This is very unusual (maybe unique?) at these occasions and the panel did incredibly well at answering everything patiently and knowledgably. Certainly the chair of the session was impressed. It does seem that this process enabled some key points to be established and some concerns to be clarified. ICAN estimated that 91 states were present (around the average for the last 2 days) and that it is often easier and more informative for some states to ask questions rather than give speeches carefully prepared and vetted in advance. So, this all looked very positive.
There are signs that the nuclear weapons states are not happy – reports on visits to ambassadors have been mainly positive (the German Embassy was described as ‘open-minded’) but there have been some surprising exceptions (e.g. Belgium who were reported to have been somewhat aggressive). France was particularly mentioned as applying pressure to its former African colonies and I am sure the US and UK (and others) are doing the same.
Today there will be more short statements from 34 states and the institutional arrangements (terms and procedure for entry, withdrawal, etc) will be discussed. Issues on topics such as stockpiling, verification and general prohibition remain but today we will hear about the plan for the way ahead and a summary of the proceedings (not a conclusion) will be given. Most people here are looking forward to June with high expectations, it will be interesting to see what happens at the NPT Conference in Vienna in May!