At LALIT’s International Conference to Free Diego Garcia, Noel Stott spoke by Skype video from South Africa on the Pelindaba Treaty.
Here are excerpts from his talk:
It’s a pleasure to be here and thank you for the opportunity to speak on this issue of the Pelindaba Treaty. As your listeners or participants will know, the Treaty of Pelindaba creates an African-wide Nuclear Weapon Free zone, and it has been in force since July 2009. At the moment, there are 40 ratifications. So, not every country in Africa has ratified the Treaty yet. Nevertheless it has entered into force, and all countries, all States, have in fact signed the Treaty. So that means they are obliged not to do anything that is contrary to the spirit of the Treaty. So, it is in force.
You are correct, in your question, when you say that part of the Treaty is, in fact, to set up a Commission on Nuclear Energy, AFCONE.
Now that has been quite a long process, and the process is still on-going. OK?
Let me deal with the role of the Commission first. There are a variety of roles, but one of the things is for AFCONE to establish what they call a “bureau” which is like a secretariat. And that will be hosted in South Africa. So, obviously there is a process for a host country agreement between the African union and South Africa. That has been done, and signed last year (2015). So, the actual physical office is being established at this moment (October, 2016). The head of the bureau is an executive Secretary. He has in fact been appointed. And I know that he has arrived in South Africa. [He is Dr Mohamed Derdour.] It’s his job to employ other staff and things like that, and get the secretariat, that they call a bureau, up and running.
And obviously the bureau is accountable to a number of Commissioners.
Commissioners have been appointed. And in fact this is the second lot of Commissioners. They are all accountable to the Conference of States Parties, which happens once a year. Now, as far as I know, the Commissioners are, in fact, working -- even if the bureau is not yet working. The Commissioners mainly consist of Ambassadors. They are not full time, they work in their respective countries. Their role is, to my knowledge, to set up working groups to look at various aspects of the Treaty.
Now, you’ve got to understand that the Treaty is both a compliance mechanism in terms of ensuring that the spirit and the law of the Treaty is not violated, and other functions. In other words no country starts building a nuclear weapon or allows a nuclear weapon to be stationed on its territory. That’s one role. Importantly, AFCONE and the Treaty itself, is also there to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. And by energy, I don’t only mean electricity. It would include the use of nuclear material for medical isotopes, for agriculture, for sterilization of mosquitoes to prevent malaria and so on.
You asked about the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, and its link to Pelindaba. Now obviously you don’t really want a regional body to duplicate the work of an existing body like the IAEA. So there has to be some sort of memorandum of understanding as to how they divide the work up.
I was just looking at the terms of reference of the executive Secretary of AFCONE, or the bureau, and I see one of the points mentioned is to “seek and receive suggestions from States Parties, organizations, agencies and industries regarding the activities of AFCONE”. So, I would presume therefore, that as civil society, one could write to the executive Secretary of AFCONE if you have any ideas or any concerns about the Treaty or about its implementation, both positive and negative suggestions and concerns. That is certainly possible. Another way of course would be to try and get invited to the Conference of States Parties. This is because, in terms of compliance, each one of the states parties needs to report to the African Commission on Nuclear Energy as to whether it has put in place effective legislation to ensure that there is no trafficking of nuclear materials on its territory -- and no country is allowed to station nuclear weapons on its territory, so there are quite a lot of issues discussed at this annual Conference, and states parties are supposed to report on these things on a yearly basis.
Maybe I should just say something on another point: you know there is the Treaty, which African states sign and ratify, and then there are a number of protocols. There are 3 protocols that other states, you know the US, UK and Spain, Russia, China, they are all supposed to sign and ratify. It is interesting that the USA has not ratified the protocols. I think it was in 2010 already when Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State, she announced that her Government, the Obama Administration, would ratify. It’s now 2016 and it still has not been done. You know the United Kingdom has always argued that the so-called British Indian Ocean Territory cannot be included in the geographical area of the Treaty of Pelindaba. And Russia and also, if your participants know much about international law, when Governments or rather States sign up to or ratify a Treaty, they are allowed to have a reservation. Both Russia and the UK have a reservation regarding Diego Garcia.