Towards a nuclear weapons free world
Australia is committed to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and has long championed international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts including through its promotion of the incremental but more pragmatic and realistic 'progressive approach'. Eliminating nuclear weapons is not a quick or easy task. It will take sustained, practical and incremental steps. It requires inclusive processes that engage all relevant states, including those that possess or rely on nuclear deterrence for their security, without further entrenching divisions or lessening states' commitment to cooperation within existing disarmament architecture based on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
As a non-nuclear-weapon state, Australia has actively engaged with like-minded countries to advocate a progressive approach to disarmament and non-proliferation, consisting of practical "building blocks". This includes the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), progressing nuclear disarmament verification, and promoting risk reduction measures such as transparency and confidence-building in order to build confidence necessary to underpin practical progress towards disarmament. As we approach the 2020 NPT Review Conference (RevCon), we will strive to build cross regional support for a successful outcome including through the work of the cross-regional, 12 member Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) which Australia currently coordinates.
Non- Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI)
The NPDI, established by Australia and Japan in 2010, is a cross-regional group of 12 countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The NPDI's mandate is to implement the 2010 NPT 64-point Action Plan which includes the key steps to advance the disarmament and non-proliferation objectives encapsulated in the NPT.
The NPDI has been active in promoting practical actions and maintaining pressure on the nuclear weapon States to meet their commitments under the NPT. Australia is the current coordinator of the NPDI (from 2018-2020).
The NPDI's current thematic priorities include:
- encouraging greater transparency and better reporting surrounding nuclear disarmament efforts
- support for and conclusion of key legal instruments that facilitate disarmament including an FMCT and CTBT
- disarmament education, peaceful uses, de alerting, and
- strengthening the NPT regime.
NPDI has generated over 25 joint working papers.
The 10th Ministerial Meeting of the NPDI, Co-Chaired by Australia and Japan, was held in Nagoya City, Japan on 23 November 2019. For further information, see the NPDI Joint Ministerial Statement.
On 27 April 2020, the NPDI issued a message on the postponement of the NPT Review Conference due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT)
Fissile material (highly enriched uranium, plutonium and potentially other materials) is the central component to the composition of nuclear weapons. An FMCT, a central element to the "progressive" approach to nuclear disarmament, would be a quantitative disarmament measure by reducing the amount of fissile material available for nuclear weapons.
While the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has been unable to agree on a program of work to negotiate an FMCT, Australia has participated in both a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on an FMCT established under a UN mandate in 2014 as well as a 25-member High-Level FMCT Expert Preparatory Group established under UN auspices in 2016. Both these processes have furthered understanding of the composite elements required in a future FMCT.
Verification of nuclear disarmament (IPNDV, GGE)
The negotiation of future nuclear disarmament arrangements will rely on effective verification mechanisms being developed. To this end, Australia has been an active contributor to the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV), an informal partnership established by the US consisting of more than 25 countries working jointly since 2015 to develop technical solutions for monitoring and verification challenges across the nuclear weapons lifecycle. Australia participates actively in all of IPNDV's working groups, including co-chairing Working Group 5 since 2018.
The other key verification initiative is the UN-established Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on nuclear disarmament verification. While not a member of the GGE, Australia is very supportive of this Norwegian-led process and views this initiative as a practical and important step forward in increasing knowledge and understanding of the technical and other challenges of effective verification of agreed arms reduction measures.
Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZ)
A number of regions around the world have established NWFZs. These ban the deployment or use of nuclear weapons within those regions. Australia strongly supports the creation of NWFZs and believes their establishment, freely arrived at among the States in the region concerned, contribute to the more effective implementation of the NPT. They also serve as a security-enhancing interim step pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Australia is party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga or SPNFZT).