CTBT receives strong support at NPT Preparatory Committee

Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth opens CTBTO exhibition.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a key instrument of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. This notion and the call for the Treaty's early entry into force were reiterated by many States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) during the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, 30 April - 11 May 2007. The meeting took place in Vienna which is also the seat of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO.

The NPT is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. It aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to achieve nuclear disarmament and to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Every five years State Parties gather to review progress made in the implementation of the NPT.

CTBTO expert explains processing of monitoring data.

The NPT is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. It aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to achieve nuclear disarmament and to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Every five years State Parties gather to review progress made in the implementation of the NPT.

The following remarks were made by States during the general debate:

  • Strong support for the CTBT and its entry into force is one of the steps towards achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world.
  • The CTBT is a valuable instrument in the promotion of peace and international security.
  • The nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regimes would greatly benefit from the CTBT's entry into force.
  • Observing the moratorium on nuclear testing is a significant measure, but cannot substitute legal obligations arising from the CTBT.
  • Efforts need to be redoubled to complete the outstanding ratifications required for the Treaty to enter into force.
Briefing on the CTBT verification regime in the new Operations Centre.

Many States also referred to the announced nuclear test in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on 9 October 2006 and said that the global norm against nuclear testing established by the CTBT was severely challenged by this event. States commended the CTBTO Preparatory Commission for its work following the event and said that it proved the value and efficiency of the CTBT.

Urgent appeals were made to those States that need to sign or ratify the CTBT for it to come into force, to do so. Currently, ten of the 44 so-called Annex 2 States have not yet ratified the CTBT, including China, Columbia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States of America. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India and Pakistan have not yet signed the Treaty. To date, the Treaty has been signed by 177 and ratified by 138 states.

States called to support the upcoming Conference on Facilitating the Entry into force of the CTBT, the so-called Article XIV conference, which will take place in September 2007. Article XIV of the CTBT specifies the conditions for the Treaty's entry into force. The article also devises a mechanism of regular conferences to examine ways to speed up the ratification process leading to entry into force. Previous conferences took place in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005.

The CTBT and the CTBTO Preparatory Commission featured prominently on the margins of the conference. At a seminar organized by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) on 7 May 2007, State representatives, nuclear disarmament experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations discussed new opportunities for the CTBT under the motto Carpe Diem, cease the day. The event was jointly chaired by Dr. Patricia Lewis, the Director of UNIDIR and Mr. Tibor Tóth, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission.

Ambassador Ana Teresa Dengo from Costa Rica, who is also this year's Chairperson of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, recalled the event in the Democratic People's Republic in October last year. She said that it not only emphasized the importance of early entry into force of the CTBT, but underscored the need for the rapid build-up of the CTBT verification regime.

The event constituted a real-life and system-wide test for the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission and highlighted the potential value of the global verification system. It demonstrated the technical relevance of CTBT verification mechanisms and underscored the significance of on-site inspections as the final verification measure under the Treaty. It was therefore of utmost importance that the on-site inspection regime be fully operational at entry into force of the Treaty.

The event of October 2006 severely challenged the norm against nuclear testing established by the CTBT, Ambassador Dengo said. But, the strong international reactions that followed also demonstrated that the event created a new momentum within the international community in support of the nuclear test ban.

Over the past years, Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a well-known advocate for nuclear disarmament and strong supporter of the CTBT, had called for a provisional entry into force of the Treaty. At the seminar she went a step further and called for an immediate and full entry into force of the CTBT. Dr. Johnson said that today's political situation offered real opportunities that needed to be pursued. She pointed out that the announced nuclear test in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea showed that the CTBT verification regime really worked, even when dealing with a low-yield event. Speaking about political changes in the United States, Dr. Johnson pointed to the new democratic majority in the US Congress. She also noticed a shift in the public opinion in the USA, as shown by the January OpEd by Kissinger, Nunn, Schultz and Perry in the Wall Street Journal, which advocated a nuclear weapon free world and the entry into force of the CTBT. Lastly, she mentioned the proposed nuclear deal between the USA and India in which, as a minimum requirement, India would need to prove its stand on nuclear non-proliferation by signing and ratifying the CTBT.

Other speakers also referred to changes in the international political environment that opened up new opportunities to promote early entry into force of the Treaty. Ambassador Robert Grey, Director of the Bipartisan Security Group and former US Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, spoke about recent political developments in the United States and expressed hope that they might lead to the re-opening of discussions on the CTBT and its ratification.

Just outside the main conference room in the Austria Center, the CTBTO Preparatory Commission showed its exhibition "Verifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban". Devised to mark the tenth anniversary of the Treaty and its Preparatory Commission, the exhibition illustrated the Commission's achievements in building a sophisticated alarm system to monitor the globe for nuclear explosions. The central elements of the CTBT verification regime were depicted on five display walls.

For two days, the exhibition was complemented by a display of technical equipment, models of monitoring stations and computer screens showing the live feed of monitoring data and data products. Experts from the CTBTO technical divisions guided visitors through the exhibition and explained the functioning of monitoring stations, the processing of monitoring data and the procedures of an on-site inspection.

Visitors used the opportunity of guided tours to a radionuclide facility on the roof of the Vienna International Centre. The facility is a fully functioning radionuclide test station which serves training and testing purposes.

In March 2007, the PTS opened its new Operations Centre in Vienna which is the central location from where experts watch the functioning of all currently operating monitoring stations and communication installations. Interested delegates, NGO representatives and journalists joined tours of the Operations Centre. Using the 9 October 2006 event in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as an example, Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth together with technical experts gave presentations on the key aspects of the verification regime.

Over 30 non-governmental organizations (NGO) were present at the NPT Preparatory Committee to make their voice heard. On 2 May 2007, they presented their views on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation to States Parties to the NPT. In lunch-time seminars and other side events, NGO directed the attention of delegates to many related subjects, such as the general status of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, a nuclear weapons convention, nuclear disarmament and outer space, the use of nuclear energy and disarmament education.

The first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference ended with the adoption of the procedural report. The Chairman's factual summary was circulated as a working paper. The paper emphasizes the strong support that was expressed for the CTBT in the meeting. It also reiterates the appeal to those States which had not ratified the Treaty, especially those remaining 10 States whose ratification was necessary for its entry into force, to do so without delay and without conditions.