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On March 19-20, 1998, former Canadian Senator and Ambassador, the Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., collaborating with seven international NGOs—the Global Security Institute, the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms, the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility, the International Peace Bureau, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom—created the Middle Powers Initiative. Senator Roche was appointed Chairman of the new Initiative, which was housed under IPPNW’s Boston headquarters.

MPI set out to encourage and educate high-level policymakers, including Foreign and Prime Ministers, in middle power countries and in nuclear weapon states, to advance practical steps that reduce nuclear dangers, and commence negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Immediately after its inception, MPI began publishing strategic briefs and sending formal delegations to middle power capitals in Europe, Asia and the Pacific for consultations with leaders who can have the greatest impact on policy and lawmaking.

In January 2000, MPI held its first major consultation at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, bringing together high-level ambassadors from middle power and nuclear weapon states, laying the groundwork for compromises that would ensure a successful NPT Review Conference in May. The head of the US delegation, Ambassador Robert Grey, Jr., credits the Atlanta Consultation with the preparatory work that made compromise on the historic Thirteen Practical Steps possible.

In 2002, the MPI International Steering Committee and the Global Security Institute Board of Directors unanimously endorsed a resolution accepting "the Middle Powers Initiative as a program of the Global Security Institute." Under this new agreement, MPI became part of a dynamic, integrated set of programs which include the Bipartisan Security Group and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, with the efficacy of each program enhanced by the interlocking programmatic structure of GSI.

After the failure of the NPT Review Conference in 2005, MPI created the Article VI Forum (A6F), a new and creative initiative to bring together like-minded states to examine the political, legal, and technical elements required for a nuclear weapons-free world. Six meetings of the A6F were held, many co-sponsored by the host governments, including Germany, Austria and Ireland. Twenty-six governments and scores of NGOs participated in the Forum, which focused on producing a substantive, consensus document at the 2010 Review of the NPT. The A6F culminated in the third consultation at the Carter Center, Atlanta. The 2010 NPT Review Conference’s Final Document reflected many of the recommendations flowing from Atlanta Consultation III.

MPI is now designing strategies for the implementation of the commitments made by governments at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the Five Point Proposal of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which includes the development of a convention or framework of instruments on the elimination of nuclear weapons. The stage is set for MPI to deepen its work with key middle power governments on a process leading to a global legal ban on all nuclear weapons.