CTBT in spotlight at Inter Parliamentary Union Assembly panel discussion

CTBT in spotlight at Inter Parliamentary
Union Assembly panel discussion

Geneva, 14 October 2008

A panel discussion on "Advancing Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and Securing the Entry into Force of the CTBT: The role of parliaments" was held  during the 119th session of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in Geneva on 14 October 2008. The discussion was a call to action for parliaments from all over the world on the urgent need for progress in the areas of non-proliferation and disarmament. They were also encouraged to re-energize political will to facilitate this objective, among which is the urgent entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Read the full report from the panel discussion here

Many delegations underlined the importance of the CTBT’s immediate entry into force, - especially the ratification of the Treaty by the nine remaining Annex 2 States whose ratification is necessary for entry into force. These nine countries are: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.  Discussions ranged from the need for parliaments to take on a leading political role in their respective countries in the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, to the discriminatory nature of the non-proliferation regime with its different rights and obligations for nuclear weapon States and non-nuclear weapon States.

The panel discussion was attended by well over 115 representatives from about 150 governments.   There was a great deal of interest and discussion on the issue at hand and about 37 speakers took the floor. The four panelists were the two parliamentarians, Roger Price of Australia and J.J. Mwiimbi of Zambia, Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarian for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

"A critical step that States could take in advancing the
objective of global security is to facilitate the entry into
force of the CTBT...(and) this is an immediate disarmament
priority for Australia as it should be for all States."Roger Price, Parliamentarian of Australia

Role of Parliament on Entry into Force of the Treaty

In his opening statement, Price stated that there are many challenges confronting parliamentarians today, including "another crisis-in-waiting which is today far too often overlooked - the immediate and horrific danger posed by nuclear weapons." He underscored that parliamentarians must play "our part in ensuring that nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are kept at the forefront of political agendas."  He concluded that a critical step that States could take in advancing the objective of global security "is to facilitate the entry into force of the CTBT...(and) this is an immediate disarmament priority for Australia as it should be for all States."

Ware drew attention to the fact that there has been no movement on addressing "the current nuclear weapons stockpiles, the policies of the nuclear weapons States to threaten or use nuclear weapons, and their ongoing programmes to upgrade their nuclear weapons systems."  He explained that the discussion and draft report had identified three important steps that would help "pave the way towards a nuclear weapons free world - a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, a treaty on fissile materials - the fuel for nuclear weapons - and further agreed reductions in current stockpiles."  He urged parliamentarians to act on making these steps a priority for their various governments.

Mwiimbi reiterated the urgency of the CTBT’s entry into force.  He maintained that the Treaty was not only a litmus test for progress in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament but also a "catalyst for progress in many nuclear non proliferation and disarmament processes..."  He continued by saying that it will be "particularly important that the CTBT is a non-discriminatory instrument: the ban on testing is the same for everyone, nuclear weapon State and non-nuclear weapon State alike."

"Particularly important that the CTBT is a non-discriminatory
instrument: the ban on testing is the same for everyone,
nuclear weapon State and non-nuclear weapon State alike."J.J. Mwiimbi. Parliamentarian of Zambia

Mwiimbi concluded that advancement on the Treaty’s entry into force is crucial and that there is "a need for all States regardless of their nuclear and other prowess....to continue to contribute to the CTBTO Preparatory Commission in its efforts to prepare for the entry into force of this important arms control agreement."

Support from Delegations for the CTBT

Canada noted that the CTBT "remains a crucial piece of unfinished business on the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agenda."  Greece stated that both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the CTBT were "steps in the right direction” and decried the fact that several countries have refused to sign the CTBT.  Greece continued by declaring that it seems "irrational at present, that countries still exist, which possess nuclear weapons (USA, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom) capable of completely destroying the planet."

In its capacity as co-chair of the Article XIV Conference to promote the early entry into force of the CTBT, Austria praised the CTBT verification regime which "has already demonstrated its validity in manifold ways.”  Other States  which expressed support for the early entry into force of the Treaty included  Chile, China, Cyprus, Italy, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand South Korea, Turkey, Nepal, Romania, Russian Federation and Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.

Other Views

Syria noted that it was "very important to have a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East" maintaining that "double standards are not acceptable."  India stated that the non-proliferation and disarmament regimes were “discriminatory”.  Pakistan stated that the draft report tabled by the panel rightly "concluded that all States must demonstrate the political will for accomplishing the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation." Malaysia proposed that a practical step which could be acted on immediately to reduce the risk of nuclear war would be to take nuclear weapons off alert.  Zimbabwe stated that "the CTBT may be destined to fade into oblivion unless the United States...provides determined leadership, strong international support and firm financial backing."  South Korea expressed skepticism as to how much parliament could achieve in autocratic regimes such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

IPU CTBT resolution in 2009

The IPU Assembly is the principal statutory body that expresses the views of the IPU on political issues, providing a forum for parliamentarians to study international problems and make recommendations for action.  The discussion laid the foundations for a resolution that will take on the CTBT at the 120th session of the IPU Assembly meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in April 2009.