Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Vienna, Austria


From 30 April until 3 May I visited the first Preparatory Committee for the 2015 review cycle of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Officially an observer of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (one of some 40 officially registered NGOs at the conference), I went there to do some field research for my master’s thesis (and maybe have a look at Vienna, *cough*).

Now, I’ve never been to any of these—or any intergovernmental conference of this sort for that matter—which made it all the more exciting. Unfortunately, not too many state delegations seemed to agree since a large chunk of them vanished shortly after the opening of the conference (despite the expected absence of food and beverages on that occasion). To be fair, as is the case with many of these kinds of conferences, much happens behind closed doors and during yummy off-site Viennese lunches—or so I’ve been told.

Anyway, although the formal proceedings of the conference were quite interesting, I found the informal, less palpable processes and so called side events much more intriguing. Incidentally, gaining a better understanding of those was my primary rationale for attending, duh. Although NGOs have no formal influence on the process and are not much more than tolerated (and even that only to a limited extent, as closed-door meetings exemplify), their tedious work and the relentlessness with which it was conducted by many of their representatives was nothing short of impressive. Apart from such well known figures around the conference as Susi Snyder (IKV PAX CHRISTI), Ray Acheson (Reaching Critical Will/WILF) and Andrew Lichterman (Western States Legal Foundation), numerous student delegations and youth groups have found the way to the conference and provided good degrees of anything from provocative activism to critical and constructive input.

Incidentally, without any exception known to me, all the NGOs advocated the abolition of nuclear weapons under international law. Not a single one appeared to pay relevant attention to any of the other two of the NPT’s pillars (nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and peaceful use of nuclear energy). I wonder why that is … Oh yeah, it’s because almost 45 years after having made the pledge to pursuing “complete and general disarmament” “in good faith,” three of the five nuclear-weapons states recognized by the NPT (UK, US and USSR), despite having reduced their arsenals significantly decades after their peak, show little willingness to further reduce their nuclear weapons stockpiles. On the contrary, they have even begun to modernize them. But I’ll stop now, before this turns into any more of a rant.

On top of all that, Vienna (which I hadn’t seen in decade(s), roughly) has got to be one of the coolest of (western) cities on the planet; as is also confirmed by some livability indexes. It’s got just about the right mix of everything the heart of a regular German like myself might desire: few Germans (i.e. many foreigners), a pretty international cuisine, beautiful parks, sublime architecture all over, as well as some artsy, dirty and loud corners. I have to admit, that almost puts considering a UN career back on my table.

by: Christian Dietrich (Germany)