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Eighth CTBT Article XIV Conference hears calls for end to nuclear testing and nuclear weapons

Anna Eknor | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
27 September 2013

The Eighth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was chaired by Hungary’s foreign minister János Martonyi and Indonesia’s foreign minister Marty Natelegawa. Participating states highlighted their concerns with the continued refusal of some states to ratify the Treaty, ongoing nuclear tests—both explosive and non-explosive; and the continued possession, deployment, and modernization of nuclear weapons, which threatens humanity and wastes vast sums of money. Delegates also highlighted the achievements of the international monitoring system, commended moratoria against nuclear tests, and welcomed the creation of the new Group of Eminent Persons to promote the CTBT’s entry into force.

The vast majority of states participating in the conference urged outlier states to sign and ratify the CTBT as soon as possible, stressing that the Treaty is essential for international security and is a key element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. They particularly called on Annex II states, whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force, to take action. Eight Annex II states have not yet ratified the Treaty—namely China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. Congratulations were given to Brunei Darussalam, Chad, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, and Iraq, all of which have ratified the Treaty since the last CTBT conference.

Most delegations referred to the near universal norm of the moratorium on nuclear testing and urged its upholding. However, Bangladesh, Chile, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Malaysia, among others, stressed that whilst the moratorium is positive, it lacks the legal certainty of a legally-binding Treaty and thus cannot be viewed as a substitute for the CTBT. Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister highlighted that the entry into force of the CTBT is also essential to prevent further technological development of nuclear weapons. As noted by the civil society representative, Jonathan Granoff of the Global Security Institute, the letter and spirit of the CTBT aim at curtailing improvements in existing nuclear arsenals and lowering the prestige of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, “the existing nuclear-armed states pursue nuclear weapons research and development activities that perpetuate and in some instances have improved their nuclear weapons arsenals.” This is why several speakers, such as Costa Rica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, considers “any non-explosive experiment—including subcritical testing—to be actions that are without question contrary ot the purpose, objective, and spirit of the CTBT.”

Critiquing programmes to develop or modernize nuclear weapons, the delegation of Bangladesh accentuated the economic strains that the annual US$105 billion global spending on nuclear arsenals has on other economic priorities. Bangladesh’s Minister for Foreign Affairs highlighted that half that sum would be sufficient to halve poverty for nearly 5 billion people and meet all eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Malaysia’s delegation also highlighted the economic strain of nuclear weapons, expressing deep concern with the continuing build-up and modernization of nuclear forces. The Permanent Representative of Malaysia argued that nuclear weapons are destructive, inhumane, and indiscriminate, that they have no military or strategic utility, and that they are the only weapon of mass destruction that are not yet banned. He underlined “the urgency of concerted action” to prohibit and eliminate these “weapons of terror”.

In looking at the CTBT-related achievements so far, many states highlighted the effectiveness of the Treaty’s verification regime consisting of the International Monitoring System, International Data Centre, and On Site Inspections. The verification regime constantly monitors the planet for nuclear explosions. It is also used for disaster warning, which was emphasized as greatly beneficial and important by Burkina Faso, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Trinidad and Tobago.

However, despite the wide adherence to testing moratoria and the successes of the verification regime so far, explosive nuclear testing has not stopped altogether. The test explosion conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was condemned by most states that took the floor.

In order to increase prominence and pressure for the CTBT’s entry into force, the Executive Secretary of the CTBT Organization, Lassina Zerbo, has formed a Group of Eminent Persons (GEM). This Group was welcomed by many states. GEM is a group comprising internationally recognized experts who will support efforts to promote the entry into force of CTBT.

The final declaration, report of the credentials committee, and the report of the conference were all adopted. Jordan reaffirmed its commitment to host the Integrated Field Exercise in 2014.