Civil Society Crucial to Ban Nuke Testing

Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Photo: 2011

Civil Society Crucial to Ban Nuke Testing

By J. C. Suresh
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

TORONTO (IDN) – Foreign ministers and senior officials from 160 countries have affirmed their commitment to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) that bans all nuclear testing, and agreed to “encourage cooperation with intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society”.

They had gathered together at the United Nations for a Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT. Such cooperation would aim “to raise awareness of and support for the Treaty and its objectives, as well as the need for its early entry into force,” the final declaration endorsed on September 23, 2011 in New York said.

The declaration appeals to holdout States to commit themselves at the highest political level to join the CTBT, urging “especially those whose signatures and ratifications are necessary for the entry into force of the Treaty, to take individual initiatives to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay in order to achieve its earliest entry into force.” It refers to nine specific countries – China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

CTBT was opened for signature at the UN headquarters in New York on September 24, 1996. Since then, 182 States have signed and 155 States have ratified the Treaty, including 35 whose ratification is necessary for its entry into force.

Fifteen years later, the ratifying States, together with other States Signatories discussed “concrete measures to facilitate the entry into force of the CTBT at the earliest possible date, thus ridding the world once and for all of nuclear test explosions.”

They declared: “The entry into force of the CTBT is of vital importance as a core element of the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. We reiterate that a universal and effectively verifiable Treaty constitutes a fundamental instrument in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

There is little expectation, though, that selected nations that must ratify the pact before it could be formally implemented – China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and the United States – will all do so in the foreseeable future, writes Elaine M. Grossman of the Global Security Newswire. Three others – India, North Korea and Pakistan – must also sign and ratify the agreement for it to enter into force.

“This is a tough list,” Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, said of the nine holdout nations at an event on September 22 in Washington DC. “It will take a very long time before all of the states [required would] consent to ratify this treaty,” he wrote in a blog post.

Even in Washington, which has upheld an informal moratorium on nuclear explosive tests since 1992, prospects are seen as dim that President Obama could get enough Senate Republicans on board to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification, particularly in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

Obama has championed the accord but has not indicated when he plans to submit it to the Senate for ratification, writes Grossman, and adds:

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, expressed confidence that some of the key nations would consider ratification once China and the United States acted to do so. He did not forecast that Beijing or Washington would act anytime soon on the matter, though.

“The treaty’s tortured entry-into-force provision was the handiwork of China, Russia and France, whose leaders felt obligated to sign, but remained reluctant to end nuclear testing permanently,” Krepon wrote in his blog. “They resolved this conundrum by giving other recalcitrant states vetoes over the treaty’s entry into force.”

Even though the treaty itself could remain hamstrung into the future, Krepon and Kimball said they think making the CTBT Preparatory Commission and Provisional Technical Secretariat permanent could offer the international regime against nuclear explosive tests a symbolically important boost.

The CTBT Preparatory Commission – or, more formally, the ‘Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization’ – operates facilities in more than 70 countries and employs a staff numbering 260 or so. The commission’s role is to promote the treaty and create a verification regime that would be ready to operate once the agreement enters into force.

The Provisional Technical Secretariat provides assistance to the commission, including managing an International Monitoring System and an International Data Center that analyzes incoming data.

With roughly $120 million in annual international funding, the CTBT headquarters has completed roughly 80 percent of the global monitoring system’s construction, including more than 250 monitoring stations and 10 laboratories. It has already succeeded in detecting seismic activity that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, including a very low-yield North Korean test in October 2006, according to Krepon and other nuclear experts, reports Grossman.

The 1996 agreement would ban all nuclear explosions, whether for military or peaceful purposes. Because it has not yet entered into force, the organizations created to promote the agreement and build its verification regime were labeled temporary from the outset.

“We propose to eliminate [the] words ‘provisional’ and ‘preparatory’ from the letterheads” of CTBT-related institutions and from international “lexicon,” said Krepon.

The idea would be to help preserve the benefits offered by the Vienna, Austria-based CTBT Organization’s international seismic monitoring and radiation detection services, Krepon added. The treaty organization also plays a role in detecting and warning nations about incoming tsunamis.

The September 23 final declaration reaffirmed their determination of ratifying States, together with other States Signatories, to take concrete steps towards early entry into force and universalization of the Treaty and to this end adopted the following measures, which would involve cooperation with intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and other representatives of the civil society:

– Encourage the organization of regional seminars in conjunction with other regional meetings in order to increase the awareness of the important role that the Treaty plays;

– Call upon the CTBTO Preparatory Commission to continue its international cooperation activities and the organizing of workshops, seminars and training programmes in the legal and technical fields;

– Call upon the Preparatory Commission “to continue promoting understanding of the Treaty, including through education and training initiatives, and demonstrating, on a provisional basis, and bearing in mind the purpose and specific mandates as foreseen in the Treaty, the benefits of the civil and scientific applications of the verification technologies, inter alia, in such areas as the environment, earth science and technology, tsunami warning systems, detection of the accidental release of radioactive particulates and gases, and possibly other disaster alert systems”;

– Request that the Provisional Technical Secretariat continue to provide States with legal assistance with respect to the ratification process and implementation measures and, in order to enhance these activities and their visibility, maintain a contact point for the exchange and dissemination of relevant information and documentation;

– Request the Provisional Technical Secretariat to continue to act as a ‘focal point’ for collecting information on outreach activities undertaken by ratifying States and States Signatories, and to maintain an updated overview of the information based on inputs provided by ratifying States and States Signatories for this purpose on its public web site, thereby assisting in promoting the entry into force of the Treaty;

Significantly, the UN Conference was open to civil society organizations, and 12 of them indeed took part: Arms Control Association (ACA); Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Kenya; Global Security Institute (GSI); International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALA); International Human Rights Observer (IHRO); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Partnership for Global Justice; Pax Christi International; The World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows; United Nations Association of New York; and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). [IDN-InDepthNews – September 25, 2011]

2011 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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