By Sarah Bidgood,
CTBTO Youth Group member





The United Nations nonproliferation and disarmament communities have a persistent gender problem.[1] Deliberations on nuclear weapons issues are disproportionately dominated by men, and women are vastly underrepresented on national delegations.  At the 2015 NPT review conference, for example, only 26.5% of delegates were women. At the UN First Committee meeting that same year, women delegates made up a mere 29.7% of registered participants. This disparity has not been lost on Member States or civil society; members of both communities have increasingly called for more equal representation in recent years.[2]

This problem has many underlying causes.  The first of these relates to perceptions about disarmament and nonproliferation: as expressed in a 2016 UNIDIR study on the gendered aspects of nuclear weapons, security issues generally are viewed as men’s territory. We know this because, in UN bodies dealing with humanitarian issues and development, there is near gender parity.[3]  The second relates to education and training: the importance of nonproliferation and disarmament education in advancing the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons is being recognized more widely by the international community.[4]  Nevertheless, opportunities to build capacity on these issues—learning how to think and not what to think about nuclear weapons—are still too few to meet our needs.[5]  As a result, women who might be interested in these topics are not sufficiently exposed to them; those who are may lack the resources to develop an expertise. These and other challenges must be addressed if we want to fix this systemic problem.

Why should this be our objective? There are a multitude of motivations, each of which should resonate with any state regardless of its security concerns or priorities. I will highlight only two: First, women and girls are disproportionately more affected by nuclear explosions from a biological standpoint.  Ionizing radiation that is emitted by a nuclear blast has profoundly more severe stochastic effects on women’s bodies than men’s. This has been demonstrated by numerous scientific studies, including one which found that the rate of death from solid cancer for women survivors of the nuclear weapons attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was nearly twice as high as that of men.[6]  In this respect, women and girls must have an equal say in determining the future of these weapons.  While men can, and should, factor gender into the disarmament and nonproliferation agendas, women themselves must be a part of these conversations.  Without adequate representation, this is not achievable.

Second, and in some ways more urgent, the problems of nonproliferation and disarmament are proving to be enduring. While US President John F. Kennedy’s nightmare of a world with twenty nuclear armed states by 1964[7] was averted in no small part by effective diplomacy, the international community continues to grapple with realizing the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.  In this respect, we cannot afford to exclude any creative voices from conversations about these issues.  All people who can contribute to resolving this challenge must be empowered to do so irrespective of gender or, for that matter, nationality, race, sexual orientation, or any of the plethora of intersecting human identities. We are setting ourselves up for failure if discussions around nuclear weapons remain the purview of a select few.

With this as background, I have been very encouraged by the deliberate way in which the CTBTO has approached gender at its 2017 Science and Technology Conference.  For example, the conference planners have made a conscious effort to avoid “manels,” a portmanteau of the words “men” and “panels” that describes presentations delivered entirely by male participants.  This commitment was strikingly evident on the first day of the conference when six women experts from the scientific and commercial spheres discussed challenges to the IMS regime before a packed room.  Similarly, the opening ceremony of the conference featured exclusively women keynoters. This conference policy is valuable because it makes the remarkable women authorities in our field more visible. It also provides tangible evidence of the Organization’s commitment to reaching gender parity.  These optics are not lost on the many women members of the CTBTO Youth Group attending this year’s conference either, who can be confident that there is room for them to lead in this space.

The CTBTO’s approach to gender at SNT2017 is no accident. It is part of a larger commitment that the Organization has made to increasing the role of women in Treaty issues. Earlier this month, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, became a Gender Champion under the International Gender Champions initiative.  In doing so, he became part of a network of senior leaders who have pledged to advance gender equality at their organizations.  Upon joining, Dr. Zerbo instituted three new policies: First, to make working hours more flexible for new parents at the CTBTO; second, to create a shadowing program for students at a 4:1 ratio of women to men; and third, to involve more women in science-based diplomacy through the CTBTO Youth Group.[8]  These steps will help to address the two issues I identified at the outset. By creating workplace policies that make the CTBTO more friendly to women, the Organization makes it possible for them to rise to leadership positions. By providing channels for young women to become engaged with these topics, the CTBTO is helping to build a next generation of experts that is more balanced. By elevating women in concrete and visible ways, the CTBTO is addressing the existing gender disbalance in our field.  It is also helping to establishing a new standard to which other international organizations and negotiating bodies dealing with nonproliferation and disarmament should aspire. As both a woman and a member of this next generation, I appreciate these efforts.  It is changes like these will let me make my most valuable contribution to securing our collective futures.

Sarah Bidgood is one of the original members of the CTBTO Youth Group. She is also a research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California and a graduate of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies MA programme. The views expressed in this article are her own.



[1] See, for example, UNODA. “Gender Perspectives on Disarmament and Arms Control.” Fact Sheet, April 2017. UNODA

[2] For example, a CTBTO Youth Group side event at the 2017 NPT PrepCom highlighted this issue CTBTO.org

[3] UNIDIR.org, p. 23

[4] See UN.org and the reference to disarmament and nonproliferation education in the Chair’s Factual Summary of the 2017 NPT PrepCom: UNDOCS.org

[5] Richard Sabatini, et al. “Undergraduate Nonproliferation Education in the United States.” The Nonproliferation Review Vol. 18, 2011.

[6] UNIDIR.org, p. 12

[7] John F. Kennedy, Third Nixon-Kennedy Presidential Debate, October 13, 1960  Carnegie Endowment

[8] “Zerbo Joins Gender Champions Initiative,” CTBTO Press Release, June 14, 2017  CTBTO.org

Reissued from American Geophysical Union and the Seismological Society of America

29 June 2017
AGU Release No. 17-51

WASHINGTON, DC/ SAN FRANCISCO — Scientific research in Earth and space sciences advances our understanding of our world and contributes to strong global economies, security, and public health and safety. The American Geophysical Union (AGU) and Seismological Society of America (SSA) today announced a revision of their position statement, “The Capability to Monitor the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Should be Expanded, Completed, and Sustained.”

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is an international agreement to ban all nuclear explosions, and is intended to impede the development of nuclear weapons as part of the international nonproliferation regime. The treaty is not yet in effect because it has not been ratified by all the requisite countries—including the United States.

The AGU-SSA statement was updated to reflect changes over the past five years, including that 183 nations are now signatories and the continued development of the International Monitoring System (IMS) is now more than 85% complete and currently detecting and locating seismic events of at least a magnitude 4 anywhere in the world.

“The IMS and International Data Centre of the CTBT Organization Preparatory Commission are playing an important role in providing nations with data and expertise to monitor the world for nuclear explosions,” said Bill Walter, Ph.D., chair of the CTBT Review Task Force for AGU and SSA. “Data from IMS not only contribute to critical national security efforts but also to public safety by enhancing our global scientific understanding of the Earth and informing natural hazard mitigation efforts.

“Maintaining a high-quality global network of seismometers is vital for detecting and characterizing both open and clandestine nuclear explosions, as well as earthquakes and other natural hazards,” said SSA President-elect Peter Shearer, a professor of geophysics at U.C. San Diego.

The seven-person panel that reviewed and revised the position statement included:

*   Bill Walter, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (chair)
*   Stephen Myers, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
*   Paul Richards, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
*   Brian Stump, Southern Methodist University
*   Raymond Jeanloz, University of California, Berkeley
*   Keith Koper, University of Utah
*   Thorne Lay, University of California, Santa Cruz

AGU and SSA maintain position statements to provide scientific expertise on significant policy issues related to the understanding and application of their members’ scientific disciplines.

The revised position statement was adopted by AGU’s Board and Council on June 29, 2017, and by SSA’s Board on April 17, 2017. The Seismological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union originally issued the joint position statement on the seismic verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999. The statement was reviewed and reaffirmed by both organizations in 2003, 2007, 2012 and was endorsed by the Geological Society of America in 2009.

Learn more about AGU position statements.
Learn more about SSA position statements.

Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | May 23, 2017

News Report and article by ORF

The news report as well as the article by Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) highlight the work and efforts of CTBTO towards detecting nuclear tests anywhere in the world. Watch the video in full length here and read the article here. Reproduced from ORF, originally published on 21 May 2017.

Atomwaffen: Überwachungszentrale in Wien

Ob es weltweit zu einem Atomtest gekommen ist, wird von Wien aus überwacht. In der Donaustadt werden rund 300 Messstationen im Kontrollzentrum der Atomteststoppbehörde (CTBTO) in der UNO-City im Auge behalten.

Bis auf einen Kilometer genau kann die Behörde weltweit Atomexplosionen lokalisieren. „Wir haben seismische Stationen für unter der Erde, Infraschallstationen für in der Atmosphäre und Hydroakustikstationen für Explosionen in Ozeanen. Dazu gibt es dann auch Radioaktivitätsmessstationen, die kontinuierlich die Atmosphäre überwachen, ob radioaktive Stoffe freigesetzt wurden“, sagte Kernphysiker Robert Werzi vom CTBTO gegenüber „Wien heute“.

Wenn eine der rund 300 Messstationen ausfällt, wird sofort Alarm geschlagen. So soll kein Atomwaffentest geheim bleiben können. „Wenn nötig, werden die Leute vor Ort kontaktiert, die dann entsprechende Reparaturen durchführen. Wir wollen die Stationen hochverfügbar haben, und die Daten sollen kontinuierlich nach Wien kommen“, sagte Werzi.

Täglich 15 Gigabyte Daten

OPsDie Daten aus aller Welt werden von den Computern in Wien vorsortiert. Bei verdächtigen Messungen werden die Analystinnen und Analysten sofort benachrichtigt – und das kann auch mitten in der Nacht sein. „Weil das sehr wichtig für die Mitgliedsstaaten ist, die wollen sofort wissen, ob jetzt etwas passiert ist“, erklärte Analystin Maria-Theresia Apoloner. Die 183 Mitgliedsstaaten sind Länder, die ein Verbot von Atomwaffentests schon unterzeichnet haben.

15 Gigabyte Daten kommen täglich in Wien zusammen. Sie alle werden händisch überprüft, um festzustellen, ob es wirklich eine Atomexplosion war oder doch nur ein Erdbeben. Die Analyse ist schwieriger als die Suche nach der Nadel im Heuhaufen. „Es ist mehr die Nadel im Nadelhaufen. Weil eben alles sehr ähnlich ausschaut, man muss sehr genau hinschauen – und dann kann man eben unterscheiden, was es ist. Aber es ist keine einfache Aufgabe“, sagte Apoloner.

ops2Die in Wien gesammelten Daten werden auch anderen Wissenschaftlern zur Verfügung gestellt. So werden Daten von Unterwasserbeben etwa zur Tsunami-Frühwarnung weitergegeben. Auch Atomunfälle werden registriert und können so nicht mehr von Regierungen geheim gehalten werden.

Full article on ORF.at

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