This past week has witnessed the closing of two critical fora of particular importance for the Middle East, namely the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), held in Egypt, and the UN Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, held in New York. While many COP observers had hoped that the Conference’s final declaration would have been more ambitious as far as emissions reductions were concerned, other outcomes were viewed favorably, particularly the decision to establish a Loss and Damage fund for vulnerable countries impacted by climate disasters, including those across the Middle East. A notable development was the presence of the first nuclear pavilion at a COP event, which was led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and focused on the role that nuclear energy could play in combating climate change. This included the announcement of a new initiative, Atoms4NetZero, which seeks to assist countries in pursuing innovative nuclear technologies, such as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).
During the second week of COP27, the UN Conference on the Zone opened its Third Session, bringing together countries from across the Middle East to discuss the way forward for making progress on the establishment of the Zone, with particular emphasis on core obligations of a future treaty, as well as the necessity for Members to the Conference to accede to all relevant multilateral instruments related to weapons of mass destruction. The UN Conference was convened on the back of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference earlier this year, which failed to adopt a final declaration, and has generally dampened the mood on the prospects for substantive progress in other multilateral arms control mechanisms. Nonetheless, the UN Conference is providing regional countries with an alternative platform to inch toward their goal of a region free of weapons of mass destruction, and will continue to follow-up on the outcomes of the Third Session through a working committee during the intersessional period until the next Conference is held next year.