The Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan is widely acknowledged as an unrelenting champion of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The country’s latest accomplishment is the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly along with the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed such a Declaration at the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April 2010. The Declaration adopted on December 7, 2015 is based on the draft submitted by Kazakhstan in October 2015. It was co-sponsored by 35 countries, and received support from 133 countries.
However, considering that 23 countries voted against it and 28 abstained, underlines, as Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov wrote in a recent article, “the campaign must continue”.
The General Assembly Resolution “invites States, agencies and organizations of the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to disseminate the Declaration and to promote its implementation”.
The Resolution requests the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session in 2018 a report on the implementation of the Declaration, and include it in the provisional agenda under the item “General and complete disarmament”, a sub-item entitled “Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World”.
According to observers, the Resolution crowns Kazakhstan’s persistent efforts to usher in a nuclear weapons free world, which started with the historic closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1991.
As the then Ambassador-at-Large of the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs Barlybai Sadykov said in an interview with The Astana Times: “It was the first case of closing a nuclear test site in the history of the world at the will of the people. After the closing of the Semipalatinsk test site, other major test sites in Nevada, Novaya Zemlya, Lop Nor and Moruroa fell silent.”
By April 1995, the Central Asian country had transferred all of its Soviet-era nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation. Kazakhstan earlier had 1,410 Soviet strategic nuclear warheads placed on its territory and an undisclosed number of tactical nuclear weapons.
As part of its persistent efforts for a world free of nuclear weapons, Kazakhstan initiated a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an International Day Against Nuclear Tests, inaugurated in 2010, in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The CTBT is one of the key elements of international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
As co-chairs, Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and his counterpart from Japan Fumio Kishida addressed the 9th Ministerial-level Conference on Facilitating the Entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) on September 29, 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The Conference, also known as the Article XIV Conference in accordance with the relevant Treaty article, adopted a Final Declaration, which affirms, “that a universal and effectively verifiable Treaty constitutes a fundamental instrument in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”.
The ATOM (Abolish Testing. Our Mission) Project is another significant initiative the Kazakhstan President launched with a view to continuing the policy commitment to achieve global nuclear disarmament. It embodies an international campaign designed to provide information about the threats and consequences of nuclear weapons testing.
The project aims to involve civil society, non-governmental and youth organizations in the struggle to end the testing of nuclear weapons, promotes the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and, finally, a world free of nuclear weapons.
In yet another substantial move at the initiative of President Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has made a significant contribution to the establishment of a Central Asian zone free of nuclear weapons. Since the signing of the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty (CANWFZ) in 2006 in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan has been making practical efforts for the institutionalization of the treaty.
As chair of the CANWFZ treaty for 2012-2014, Kazakhstan held meetings with the countries of the “nuclear five”, discussing the conditions of signing the protocol. On May 6, 2014 in New York, the P5 signed the protocol to the treaty on the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia.
Under the protocol, the nuclear-weapon states have provided “negative security assurances” and committed themselves not to use nuclear weapons against CANWFZ and threaten countries that are parties to the CANWFZ treaty. After the ratification of the protocol by the parliaments of the signatory countries, these commitments will be of a legal nature.
The CANWFZ is the latest nuclear weapons free zone treaty, joining the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Treaty of Rarotonga, South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, the Treaty of Bangkok, Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, and the Treaty of Pelindaba, African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty.
While the five nuclear weapon free zones are an important step towards nuclear disarmament they do not suffice. With this in view, the Universal Declaration on the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World adopted in December 2015 stresses the need “for effective measures of nuclear disarmament”, which have the highest priority.
The Declaration calls upon “all nuclear-weapon-possessing States to eliminate all types of their nuclear weapons and in the meantime diminish the role of nuclear weapons in security policies and avoid activities that hamper the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons”.
The Declaration reiterates that each article of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is binding on its States parties at all times and in all circumstances and call upon the nuclear-weapon States to implement their obligations under the Treaty and commitments made at the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences.
The Declaration adds: “We reaffirm our determination to implement nuclear disarmament commitments and obligations and to advance additional measures to strengthen the rule of law in disarmament, including the negotiation and adoption of a global, non discriminatory, multilateral, legally binding instrument for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”
This is particularly important because countries such as India have refused to sign the NPT stating that it is “discriminatory” because it the P5 have refused to take adequate steps toward nuclear disarmament as require by treaty.
The trust placed in Kazakhstan’s commitment to non-proliferation and a world free of nuclear weapons was confirmed in August 2015 when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed an agreement with the Central Asian country to set up the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in Oskemen, Kazakhstan.
“The IAEA LEU Bank, operated by Kazakhstan, will be a physical reserve of LEU available for eligible IAEA Member States. It will host a reserve of LEU, the basic ingredient of nuclear fuel, and act as a supplier of last resort for Member States in case they cannot obtain LEU on the global commercial market or otherwise. It will not disrupt the commercial market,” according to the Vienna-based agency.