Fifty-Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Statement by Executive Secretary on 15 October 1998

Allow me first to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of the First Committee, for once again giving me an opportunity to address you on the progress being made by the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO to bring into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, known as the CTBT.

Just over two years ago, the CTBT was adopted by an overwhelming majority of States. The opening for signature of the CTBT on 24 September 1996 was a major milestone in the uphill struggle to ban all nuclear explosions and in arms control in general. Indeed, on signing the CTBT in its first days of existence, many States expressed their conviction that the Treaty would contribute to ending the nuclear arms race and to the process of eliminating nuclear weapons.

This year, however, has seen some unexpected developments, which are a sharp reminder that there can never be room for complacency in our efforts to stop nuclear explosions. Following the tests announced by India and then Pakistan, both the Chairman of the Preparatory Commission and I issued statements, echoing the deep concern expressed here by the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, appealing to all parties concerned in the region for restraint and urging both countries to join without delay and unconditionally the CTBT. At the sixth session of the Commission, in August, the States signatories expressed deep concern and regret at the decision by India and Pakistan to carry out the tests, noting that they were contrary to the goal of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament. Concern was also expressed that the tests would contribute to a nuclear arms race in South Asia. Delegations called upon India and Pakistan to sign and subsequently ratify the CTBT, without delay and without conditions.

This appeal was taken up at the twenty-ninth South Pacific Forum, held in the Federated States of Micronesia, in August, in which the Heads of State or Government of 11 countries, and representatives of five others, took part. The Forum reaffirmed its strong opposition to nuclear testing and condemned the tests by India and Pakistan. Grave concern was expressed at the challenge that the tests constituted to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, and at the risk of a nuclear arms race in South Asia. The Forum urged its members and those countries that had not already done so to ratify the CTBT before the end of the three-year period after it was opened for signature.

At the twelfth Summit of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, held in South Africa last month, in which 113 member States took part (including 45 at the level of Head of State or Government), the Durban Declaration for the New Millennium was adopted. In the Declaration, the complexities arising from nuclear tests in South Asia were noted. And the commitment by the parties concerned in the region to exercise restraint and to discontinue nuclear tests was considered positively.

Later last month, at the forty-second regular General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, member States expressed grave concern and strongly deplored the nuclear tests conducted in South Asia in May. All States that had not yet done so were urged to become parties to the CTBT, without delay and without conditions.

I mention these developments as a reminder of the threat that nuclear explosive testing poses and of our duty to respect the wishes of our 150 States signatories who, by signing the CTBT, have formally undertaken a commitment to ban nuclear testing and expressed their wish to see a universal ban enter into force. It is for this reason that I am encouraged by the self-imposed moratoria on further testing by India and Pakistan and the recent announcements by the Prime Ministers of both countries of the intention of their respective Governments to sign the CTBT. The Treaty is becoming increasingly universal, with its 150 States signatories and 21 ratifications. That figure includes 10 of the 44 States, listed in the Treaty, whose ratification is necessary for it to enter into force, and two nuclear-weapon States, France and the United Kingdom. Although the speed with which ratification instruments can be deposited depends on domestic national processes, I have been assured by many member States that the ratification process is advancing smoothly in their countries. Nevertheless, we need to ensure that we have as many ratifications as possible by the third anniversary of the opening for signature of the Treaty.

In line with the continuing momentum towards signature and ratification, the Preparatory Commission is also working towards universality in its task of establishing the Treaty’s global verification regime to monitor compliance with the test ban. Twelve countries - for instance, Pakistan - that are not signatories to the CTBT have offered to host stations or have placed existing facilities at our disposal.

The worldwide network of 321 monitoring facilities, supported by 16 radionuclide laboratories, and spanning some 90 countries, which will be capable of detecting and identifying nuclear explosions, has to be operational by the time the Treaty enters into force. Currently, about 60 stations - on a voluntary basis - are transmitting data generated by four complementary technologies (seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic) to our International Data Centre at Vienna. The Commission is now authorized - by an exchange of letters - to initiate work at 82 stations in 30 countries. Thus the groundwork has been laid for conducting surveys to assess the suitability of the locations chosen for new stations and formulating the technical specifications for their construction and for the purchase of the equipment they need. However, for the installation, certification, operation and maintenance of monitoring stations, we want to conclude facility agreements with States signatories as soon as possible.

The envisaged network of 170 primary and auxiliary seismic stations will receive the largest investment of capital over the next two years. So far, surveys at 11 sites have been concluded or are under way and procurement of equipment for 12 primary and one auxiliary site has been initiated. Looking at the projected 80 radionuclide stations, 19 site surveys have been conducted or are under way and procurement of equipment for 10 stations has been initiated. As for the 60 infrasound stations foreseen in the Treaty, 19 site surveys have been conducted or are under way and procurement of equipment for seven stations has been initiated. Taking the 11 hydroacoustic stations, four site surveys have been concluded or are under way and procurement of equipment for two stations has been initiated.

The International Data Centre, which will be processing the continuous flow of data - generated by the four technologies - from the monitoring stations, for transmission to the States signatories, was inaugurated in January. The first of four releases of applications software from the prototype international data centre at Arlington, Virginia, was delivered and initially tested successfully in April. By 15 May, real-time data from the stations I mentioned were being received at our Centre, using the newly installed high-speed communications link to the prototype centre.

Although our Centre could not provide real-time processing and analysis during the nuclear tests announced by India, because it was still installing the first release of applications software, it shortly afterwards retrieved data from 28 primary seismic stations, for 11 May, for archiving and analysis. Despite the fact that it was in the middle of software trials during the tests announced by Pakistan, the Centre received data for 28 and 30 May from 29 and 23 primary seismic stations, respectively. The automatic processing of these data provided reasonable first estimates of the locations of the events, which were passed on to States signatories.

Given the limited development of the current network of monitoring stations, the monitoring and analysis of the events this May were remarkably successful. Indeed, they should give us all a high degree of confidence in the ability of the evolving verification regime to detect the conduct of nuclear explosions in all environments and to monitor adherence to the CTBT. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done to ensure the reliable detection, identification and location of such events and to provide a deterrent to clandestine nuclear testing.

This year has seen the signing of the contract with an international partner to establish the global communications infrastructure for the CTBT, which is the largest single item of investment in the verification regime. Over the next 10 years, a complex global network of very small aperture terminals (VSAT) will be installed to ensure the swift and secure transport of data - even in the severest weather conditions - between the 337 facilities of the International Monitoring System, the International Data Centre and the States signatories. By April next year, 30 monitoring stations should be linked to the Centre by VSAT. The work involved in establishing this infrastructure is a major challenge for the communications industry because of its global coverage, spanning locations as far apart as Antarctica and Greenland and as remote as, for instance, Tristan da Cunha and the Galapagos Islands.

The Commission has also extended its outreach to States signatories and the host countries of stations, particularly the 52 who do not have permanent missions in Vienna. The talks that we have held with delegations in the duty stations, and capitals, concerned have broadened universal understanding of the relevance of our work in the context of each country’s specific priorities, increased participation in the Preparatory Commission, and accelerated the ratification process and the establishment of national authorities. The international cooperation workshop that we are holding next month will be another opportunity for bringing home to countries the benefits of joining the Treaty. We are equipping some 90 countries with the most up to date technology, paying for the operation of their stations and training staff. As regards training, regional workshops on the International Monitoring System have been held this year in Japan and Kazakhstan. The first technical training programme for the operators of monitoring stations will be starting next Monday in Vienna. Afterwards the participants will undergo in-depth training at facilities in Argentina, Norway and the United States. The International Data Centre in Vienna will begin its first training programme next month, lasting six months.

Work has also begun to lay the foundations for on-site-inspections, provided for in the Treaty, should the Executive Council consider that further clarification of an ambiguous event is necessary. An operational manual is being drawn up as well as a list of basic equipment for testing and training purposes. A third workshop on inspections will be held next month and the first introductory training course will be held in December.

As a newcomer, sharing premises with other older common-system organizations, the Commission is constantly aware of today’s need to remain cost-effective and efficient in achieving tomorrow’s target of universality. Currently, we have 155 staff members from 55 States signatories. There are 236 posts foreseen in the 1999 budget. As for participation in our work by States signatories, almost 400 experts from 43 countries are now using e-mail and fax facilities to take part in discussions on verification matters from their home countries. This innovation of the Provisional Technical Secretariat has accelerated the speed with which issues can be formulated, aired and then transmitted to the Commission for its consideration. A second secure web site is now being set up to enable documents on financial and administrative matters to be distributed electronically as soon as they have been finalized.

We are learning from the experience of other organizations based at the Vienna International Centre. A Joint Consultative Group has examined the potential for synergies between our organization and IAEA, which has already facilitated our work in many ways. Last year, IAEA provided us with financial services until we took over this function ourselves. We have also adopted the structure of the IAEA budget and modelled our financial rules on those of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which in turn followed closely those of IAEA.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization, too, helped us with procurement to get us started. But now that it has become clear that outsourcing is not always cost-effective, we are building up our own structures in order to take care of such core administrative tasks ourselves, with the backing of our States signatories. Put simply, our goal is to keep our administrative expenses below the target numbers of the United Nations administrative reform and to carry out many tasks at a cost lower than that prevailing in other international organizations.

Our efforts to achieve this goal have been acknowledged by our States signatories in their active participation in our meetings and their willingness to sustain our work financially. Currently, the collection rate for the 1997 assessed contributions is over 96 per cent; and for those for 1998, it is over 63 per cent; some 10 per cent higher than it was at the same time last year.

In November, the Commission will meet to agree on the budget for 1999. We have two choices: either we can opt for a high budget that enables the verification system to be completed in a short time-frame or we can adopt a more modest investment plan providing for steady growth, with a contingency plan for a significant increase should entry into force - as we all wish - come sooner. In any event, we can be sure that we will have a good verification system for a good treaty.

In concluding, I should like to reiterate my appeal to all States to participate in our endeavour and to continue to contribute to the CTBTO PrepCom in its efforts to prepare for the entry into force of this important arms control agreement.

Thank you.