NUCLEAR ABOLITION: Considerable Progress Towards a Test-Ban Treaty

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By Jaya Ramachandran

An international pact outlawing all atomic explosions for military or civilian purposes is not yet around the corner but there is reason to rejoice at considerable advances made towards entry into force of a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty.

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed some "remarkable achievements" driven by "a vision to bring an end to the era of nuclear weapons," says Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

This is underscored by the fact that the monitoring system of the treaty -- adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996 -- has expanded to 263 certified facilities from zero in 2000. Ten years ago there were 51 ratifications. In 2010 with the ratifications by Trinidad and Tobago and by the Central African Republic the number has tripled to 153 ratifications and the Treaty has been signed by 182 States.
Taking stock of the advances achieved in the previous decade, the CTBTO says that new ratifications entered into law two days before the successful outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference -- on May 26, 2010 -- when they were presented at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

On the eve of the conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Indonesia had announced its intention to ratify the treaty. During the conference, four more CTBT signatories -- Iraq, Papua-New Guinea, Thailand, and the United States -- also declared their intention to move forward with ratifications, the CTBTO informs.

And, as the NPT Review Conference advanced, an exhibition opened in the UN headquarters on May 4, 2010, depicting the history of nuclear testing and the road to adopting the CTBT. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declaring: "Putting an end to nuclear explosions is more than the name of this exhibition -- it is one of the longest-standing goals of the United Nations."

In 'annual highlights' web posted at the turn of the year, the CTBTO quotes actor/producer and UN Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas stating at the opening of the exhibition that there was no reason "our children" should live in the shadow of "these terrible (atomic) weapons."

Douglas' appeal that "the necessary steps can be taken now," were echoed by Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who stated that his country believed it could enhance its contribution to nuclear disarmament by acting now to begin the process of ratifying the CTBT, the CTBTO said.

"This underscores the leadership role of Indonesia in regional and global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts," Tóth said in April 2010, when Natalegawa first announced his country’s decision.

The outcome of the NPT Review Conference that put an end to a decade-long political deadlock and adopted an action plan giving strong support for the CTBT, was warmly welcomed by Tóth.

"Support for the Treaty in 2010 also came from the UN General Assembly, which gave strong endorsement of the CTBT. The Russian Federation and the United States introduced for the first time a resolution on bilateral strategic arms reductions including recognition for early entry into force of the CTBT. Earlier in the year the new Nuclear Posture Review released by the U.S. clearly underlined the importance of the CTBT," the CTBTO said in its 'annual highlights'.

It added: "The September 23 Joint Ministerial Statement launched by Foreign Ministers at the Fifth Ministerial Meeting to promote early entry-into-force of the CTBT was another strong political message in favour of the Treaty. The CTBTO also deepened cooperation with its pool of partners. In February UNESCO and the CTBTO signed an agreement to enhance disaster mitigation efforts and capacity-building in developing countries."

The CTBTO recalled that in November 2010 support for the nuclear test-ban treaty was voiced by Nobel Peace Prize laureates, at their meeting in Hiroshima. "They urged the remaining nine countries, whose ratification will bring the CTBT into force, to act now."


The CTBTO notes with obvious satisfaction that the architects of the CTBT made no concessions to the standards it sets for verification. "Very high system capabilities and performance, as well as a rigorous certification process are required for each station."

According to the CTBTO 'annual highlights', at the end of 2010 there were 264 stations in the International Monitoring System (IMS), representing more than 80 per cent completion of its system of 337 stations. Six new facilities were certified in the Russian Federation alone in 2010. In August the first noble gas monitoring station was officially integrated into the system in the United States, the CTBTO said.

The Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization further informed that the International Data Centre (IDC) in January 2010 completed a five-year project to renew its computer system with a migration to Linux systems. New global communications infrastructure is also in place and fully operational providing higher availability and reliability of data.

A highlight was when in November 2010 the CTBTO staged a simulated on-site-inspection beside the Dead Sea, in Jordan, says the 'annual highlights', adding: "A team of 35 experts from 20 countries participated in the exercise, preparation for conducting on-Site Inspections, which will form a major component of the verification regime, available to member states, when the Treaty enters into force."

In addition, the CTBTO is giving priority to training experts from member states. A series of national and regional training workshops and seminars have been held on-line and at the headquarters in Vienna.

"Many courses offer Member States the technical capabilities to better access and use data collected by the CTBTO's global monitoring system. Every day 10 gigabytes of data flows into the Vienna headquarters of the CTBTO and is made available to all Member States on an equal basis," the 'annual highlights' said.

According to the 'annual highlights', the CTBTO's verification network also provides significant civil benefits. In November 2010 France became the eighth country to sign an agreement with the CTBTO on receiving tsunami warning data.

"The continuous expansion, upgrading and maintenance of a vast, state-of-the-art global monitoring network and communications infrastructure, represents an unprecedented joint investment. Since the treaty opened for signature in 1996 almost $1 billion has been invested by member states in the verification regime," the CTBTO said.

The organization informs that the CTBTO's annual budget, of $115,579,600 (€80,601,500) in 2010, remains below zero real growth, and its level of staff remains unchanged since 2003. "Managing the onerous increase in the workload with a constant level of resources has been a serious challenge," Tóth told representatives of CTBTO member States at a regular meeting of the CTBTO's executive body in November 2010.

"In December the rate by which Member States pay their assessed dues stood at 85% compared to the previous year's rate of 79%. It is crucial for all Member States to fulfill their financial obligations in full, on time and without condition. Frank Becker, Permanent Representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, told the CTBTO executive body meeting in November," the CTBTO said.

In 2010 an extra-budgetary contribution of €5.3 million was made by the European Union to strengthen CTBTO monitoring and verification capabilities, including its cooperation with the scientific community.

Addressing the 2010 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Hiroshima on November 13, 2010, Tóth said: "In 2010, the international community clearly reaffirmed its resolve to move forward. Several high level events and pronouncements by world leaders provided a new sense of optimism. They were also a reminder that multilateralism has not withered away; that multilateral action to face common challenges is indeed still possible. It is perhaps the only way forward in a world of increasing complexity."

On December 13, 2010, addressing the UN General Assembly, Tóth said:"The CTBT is clearly of great significance for the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime. It has a key role to play in today’s security environment. More than two thousand tests were conducted prior to the treaty’s conclusion in 1996.

"Every test eroded global security, and widened the gap in political trust. In the last decade, there have only been two nuclear test explosions. The difference is clear. But it is high time for concrete action. The entry into force of the Treaty may be the single defining factor for the nuclear nonproliferation regime in the next 30 years," Tóth said.








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