reynders-aljafari-zerboThe joint op-ed by Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Ibrahim Al-Jafari, Foreign Minister of Iraq and Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was published on 15 September 2017 in Le Soir (in French), and on 17 September in IDN-InDepthNews (in English). Ahead of the tenth Article XIV Conference to be held 20 September at the United Nations in New York, the two chairs of the 2017 Article XIV conference,  the Foreign Ministers of Belgium and Iraq, jointly stress with CTBTO’s Dr Zerbo, why banning nuclear tests matters. For the next two years, Belgium and Iraq will lead the process to promote the CTBT’s entry into force until the next Article XIV conference in 2019.

The Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans nuclear testing on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater, and underground. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1996, has been signed by 183 countries, and ratified by 166. Yet after more than twenty years, the future of the test ban remains in jeopardy. This is because there are eight States must still ratify the Treaty before it becomes legally binding international law. These are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, the United States, and the DPRK.

On 20 September, CTBT States Signatories will convene in New York to attend a conference (the so-called Article XIV Conference, the tenth of its kind) under the co-presidency of Belgium and Iraq. Its objective is to provide impetus to facilitating the Treaty’s long overdue entry into force.

In the face of the current political deadlock, the track record of the CTBT is clear: since the Treaty opened for signature only three countries have conducted nuclear test explosions, and only the DPRK has detonated a nuclear device this century. As a legal instrument, even before entering into force, the CTBT has reinforced an international norm against nuclear testing to the extent that any violation is now met with universal condemnation.

On the technical side, at about 90% complete, the Treaty’s verification regime is already so advanced that its detection capability is greater than negotiators had even thought possible. When nuclear tests take place, even in the most remote areas of the world, the CTBT is capable to disseminate timely, accurate, and trusted data to its Member States on the nature of the event.

The CTBT’s verification regime is an indispensable tool at the disposal of the international community. It is also a platform for international technical cooperation to address one of the most severe global security threats.

Although there are no easy solutions, meaningful steps can be taken to get us moving in the right direction. One of the most practical and effective ways is to bring the Treaty into force.

This is no small thing. By addressing the unfinished business of the CTBT, the international community would demonstrate beyond a doubt that effective, multilaterally verifiable nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament measures are indeed possible. As a confidence building measure it could unite countries in unwrapping other difficult security issues, including the crisis on the Korean peninsula. The CTBT is a critical step forward in this joint endeavour, and one which all of us should all consider to be within reach. We are ready to do our part.

Originally published on The Conversation on 13 September 2017, the article highlights the work of CTBTO and its International Monitoring System, in particular concerning the DPRK VI announced nuclear test. Illustrating the capacities of IMS stations and the reliability of CTBT’s Verification Regime, the article stresses out the importance of universal ratification of the Treaty. Read the full article on  The Conversation

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North Korea’s apparent nuclear detonation on September 3 has drawn our attention to a remarkable international organisation that helps detect and identify nuclear tests.

For the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the latest North Korean explosion was easy to detect and locate. With a seismic magnitude of 6.1 and a blast yield of 160 kilotons (Hiroshima was around 15), the purported hydrogen bomb test mimicked a major earthquake. It was quickly sourced to North Korea’s nuclear test site.


Nuclear test ban treaty

The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System, which detected the North Korean test, is designed to verify compliance with the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear tests in all environments for all time.


Currently 183 states have signed, and 162 have ratified. But 8 of the 44 with a nuclear capacity have still not ratified: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea and the United States. China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the US have at least signed. China says it is awaiting US ratification before it moves.

After a flawed lobbying effort, President Bill Clinton’s administration failed to secure Senate approval for US ratification in 1999. The treaty has not been resubmitted since, despite President Barack Obama’s undertaking that he would try.

Given President Donald Trump’s apparent focus on emphasising American military prowess, it seems unlikely that he will favour ratification of the treaty.

More immediately threatening is the return of periodic Republican attempts to defund the CTBTO. These are usually beaten back on the grounds that the US benefits greatly from the worldwide monitoring that only a global system can provide, notwithstanding impressive US national capabilities.

As it has in the past, the Australian government should make representations in Washington in support of CTBT ratification and preservation of funding for the system.

Paradoxically though, even if the other seven holdouts ratify, the one country that continues to conduct nuclear tests into the 21st century, North Korea, can stymie entry into force forever. Its accession to the CTBT should be part of any negotiation with North Korea on its nuclear program.

The good news is that the global monitoring system continues to go from strength to strength, providing reassurance that all nuclear tests, including those less brazen than North Korea’s, will be caught.

The CTBTO’s verification system provides hope that science can quietly triumph while political solutions elude us.


Read the full article on  The Conversation

Originally published on UN Radio on 5 September 2017, the article and podcast feature an interview with CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, who shares updates on the nature and the magnitude of the DPRK VI announced nuclear tests, as detected by the CTBTO International Monitoring System.

Lassina Zerbo. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

North Korea’s latest nuclear bomb test should be a “last wake-up call” to the international community, on the need to build diplomatic bridges through the test-ban treaty.

That’s the view of the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Lassina Zerbo.

He said that the pace of UN Security Council sanctions was not “in sync” with the reality of North Korea – or DPRK’s – nuclear weapons programme, and diplomacy needed to move faster to counter the threat.

Cristina Silveiro asked Mr Zerbo what the CTBTO’s data revealed about Sunday’s underground test in North Korea.

Listen to the full podcast here.

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