Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The Postponement of the NPT Review Conference. Antagonisms, Conflicts and Nuclear Risks after the Pandemic


The following is a document from the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs concerning nuclear problems and tensions in the time of COVID-19. The document has been co-signed by a large number of Pugwash colleagues and personalities,  who are listed on the original publication.

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The new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has already inflicted great damage on a number of nations and on the world at large, resulting not only in many tens of thousands of deaths but also in economic, financial and social crises. It also forced the international community to cancel or postpone a number of important meetings, including big international conferences. One such victim, unfortunately, is the 10th conference to review the operation of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — a central pillar in the current architecture of nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The 10th NPT Review Conference was scheduled for April 27 to May 22 of this year. However, the designated President of the Conference, Gustavo Zlauvinen, recently announced that the Review Conference has been postponed to a date not later than April 2021, depending on the state of the pandemic. This was, of course, an appropriate and necessary reaction to the COVID-19 crisis.

Ironically, the postponement represents an opportunity to address mounting pressures within the NPT regime. The risks for the Conference and, ultimately, for the Treaty itself, have been multiplying. There is a large list of serious worries and problems: the renewal of the nuclear arms race; the crisis in the architecture of nuclear arms control treaties; the crisis in the relations among nuclear weapon powers; new setbacks with regard to the Iranian nuclear deal and the proliferation crisis in North-East Asia; and growing antagonisms between nuclear-weapon-possessor and non-possessor states. It is therefore essential that the parties to the NPT use the time between now and the start of the Review Conference to look for ways to ensure substantive progress. If nothing is done, the situation is likely to become even worse....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. "The Postponement of the NPT Review Conference. Antagonisms, Conflicts and Nuclear Risks after the Pandemic." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 12, 2020.


John P. Holdren

Steven E. Miller