The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), currently the only global instrument on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, entered into force in 1970 for an initial period of 25 years. Its duration was extended indefinitely by the Review Conference of 1995. The Treaty counts 191 States Parties, which include the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, all nuclear powers (United States, Russian Federation, China, France, and the United Kingdom).
The provisions of this fundamental instrument revolve around three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation and the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Each State Party is committed by Art. VI – the cornerstone of the rule on disarmament – “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”
Non-proliferation is addressed in Articles I and II, with which the NPT States Parties undertake not to transfer, receive, manufacture or “otherwise acquire” nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or to offer or ask for assistance in their production.
Finally, Art. IV guarantees the right of each State Party to have access to the production and peaceful use of nuclear energy and international cooperation aimed at it, which may include exchange of materials, equipment and scientific and technological expertise.
Among other provisions of the Treaty, Article III provides that all non-nuclear weapon Members of the NPT will accept safeguards to be negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) whose primary purpose is to prevent the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons. Art. VIII affirms the right of any group of States to stipulate regional instruments with the objective of creating Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ). To date, such zones exist in the following areas: Latin America and the Caribbean (established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco, 1967); South Pacific (Treaty of Rarotonga, 1985); Southeast Asia (Treaty of Bangkok, 1995); Africa (Treaty of Pelindaba, 1996); and Central Asia (Treaty of Semipalatinsk, 2006). In 1995 the NPT States Parties adopted a resolution urging Member States in the Middle East to take practical steps to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological) and the remaining members of the NPT, in particular those in possession of nuclear weapons, to cooperate to this end.
Every five years, a Review Conference (RevCon) held at the UN in New York assesses the status of NPT implementation and progress made in the context of its three pillars. The latest one, under the Presidency of Argentina, took place from 1 to 26 August 2022. Member States were unable to reach consensus on a final document, especially for lack of agreement by the Russian Federation on parts of the text concerning the nuclear risks related with the crisis in Ukraine.
The RevCon also has the task of developing recommendations for future action. The 2010 Conference was particularly important in this sense, as it adopted an Action Plan that many hoped would reinvigorate Treaty implementation after the 2005 Revcon’s inability to agree on a substantive final document. The 2010 Action Plan lists 64 recommendations for practical progress on the NPT objectives, with particular emphasis on the provisions regarding disarmament, including measures on the reduction and total elimination of nuclear arsenals; on guarantees of no nuclear weapons use against non-nuclear weapon States (so-called Negative Security Assurances – NSAs); on nuclear testing and fissile material management. In a separate section, the document was already mandating the Secretary-General to convene, during the year 2012, a Conference on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East that was required to involve all States in the region. The document also called for the appointment of a facilitator, responsible for assisting in the implementation of this recommendation through consultations with all relevant parties.
Italian participation in the NPT
Italy attaches primary importance to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the implementation of its provisions, as it remains the cornerstone of the global regime for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and a fundamental landmark for the development of peaceful nuclear energy applications.
For Italy, any progress in Treaty implementation must take into account the relationship of interdependence and mutual reinforcement amongst its three pillars. In this sense, one of the primary objectives is still represented by the full, comprehensive and balanced implementation of the concrete measures contained in the 2010 Action Plan.
The Italian contribution to the achievement of a safer world free of nuclear weapons, in accordance with Art. VI of the NPT, moves in many different directions.
Regarding the so-called “Humanitarian Initiative”, Italy shares the concern about the catastrophic consequences associated with the use of nuclear weapons; for this reason, it maintains an approach aimed at strengthening the NPT through an incremental and synergistic process amongst its three pillars. This approach is based on the principle of international stability and its ultimate objective is to achieve verifiable, irreversible and effective disarmament.
Italy is constantly striving for the creation of the appropriate conditions for the implementation of Article VI of the Treaty, with particular emphasis placed on shared items. With this in mind Italy, together with other 25 States, associated with the statement pronounced by Australia at the NPT Review Conference in 2015.
Convinced that disarmament and non-proliferation issues cannot be dissociated, Italy took part in the Group of Governmental Experts tasked to elaborate recommendations on possible aspects of a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices (FMCT). Like others, Italy believes that the time is ripe for an FMT negotiation process to begin within the Conference on Disarmament, pending which it also advocates a moratorium on the production of fissile material.
Other priorities pursued by our country include: the timely entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CBTB); the full implementation of a system of negative security assurances; the universalization of the IAEA Additional Protocols with regard to verification and safeguards. Finally, Italy has also consistently worked to help advance the goal of convening a Conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region.
Third Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference (New York, 29 April – 10 May 2019): General Debate; Cluster I; Cluster II, General Issues; Cluster II, Regional Issues; Cluster III (Amb. Gianfranco Incarnato)
Second Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference (Geneva, 23 April – 4 MaY 2018): General Debate (Amb. Gianfranco Incarnato, 23 April); Cluster I (26 April); Cluster II, General Issues (27 April); Cluster II, Regional Issues (30 April); Cluster III, Peaceful Uses (1 maggio)
First Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference (Vienna, 2-13 May 2017): General Debate (Amb. Vinicio Mati, 3 May); Cluster I (Amb. Vinicio Mati, 4 May); Cluster II, General Issues (Amb. Vinicio Mati, 8 May); Cluster II, Regional Issues (Amb. Vinicio Mati, 9 May)
Ninth Review Conference (New York, 27 April – 22 May): Main Committee I (Amb. Vinicio Mati, 4 May; Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons (Australia – Joint Statement, 30 April); Generale debate (H.E. Sen. Benedetto Della Vedova, 27 April)
Documents and Resources
Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference (with the 13 practical steps)