Non-proliferation and disarmament conference reaches consensus

UN Secretary-General receives paper cranes, symbols of hope for a nuclear-free world.

“Lots of applause in the room, huge sense of relief,” Rebecca Johnson, a well-known arms control expert, noted on the afternoon of Friday, 28 May 2010. After four weeks of intense negotiations, 189 countries agreed on the final document of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

“This is crucial for reinvigorating multilateralism in general and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in particular,” said Tibor Tóth, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). “The agreement on concrete actions will advance all three pillars of the treaty – disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy,” concluded United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

CTBT of vital importance

“The strong commitment of the Conference to the cessation of all nuclear explosions and the reaffirmation of the vital importance of the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) are significant pledges. There can be no strong NPT without a CTBT in force,” Tóth said. Among other provisions, the “Conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions” adopted by the Conference reaffirmed the vital importance of the entry into force of the CTBT as a core element of the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. “Putting an end to nuclear explosions is […] one of the longest-standing goals of the United Nations,” said Ban on the margins of the Conference.

Commitment towards the test-ban at NPT meetings

Discussed for more than four decades, the completion of the CTBT negotiations was promised at the 1995 Review Conference as part of a package allowing for the indefinite extension of the NPT.  With the CTBT’s opening for signature on 24 September 1996, a de-facto international norm on nuclear testing was established. The Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference contained a 13 step action plan on nuclear disarmament, with the first step being to secure the early entry into force of the CTBT without delay or conditions.

Ambassador Omar Zniber, Ambassador Florence Mangin, and CTBTO ES Tibor Tóth.

Efforts to encourage further signature and ratification of the Treaty

“At the last Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT in September 2009, the CTBT ratifying and signatory States agreed by consensus to spare no effort and use all avenues to encourage further signature and ratification of the Treaty,” said Tóth. Convinced of the importance of achieving the CTBT’s entry into force, the participants urged all States to remain seized of the issue at the highest political level and to support and encourage bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives to promote the entry into force of the Treaty.

Impressive CTBT support at the 2010 NPT Review Conference

During the first week of the Conference, more than 90 of the 130 high dignitaries lined up to expound their country’s views and visions on reviewing the NPT highlighted the importance of the CTBT for the disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Despite the many past challenges, this attention and commitment proved that support for the Treaty has continually increased.

Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Further steps towards the Treaty’s entry into force

On the first afternoon of the Conference, Marty Natalegawa announced Indonesia’s decision to initiate “the process of the ratification of the CTBT,” expressing his country’s “fervent hope that this further demonstration of commitment […] will encourage other countries […] to do the same.” Of the speakers following the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 15 applauded Jakarta’s step, as “a cause for celebration” or as an announcement underscoring Jakarta’s regional and global leadership role.

A number of other countries seized the opportunity to bring the CTBT one step further. Papua New Guinea revealed that is was in the process of “formally ratifying the CTBT.” Guatemala expressed its wish to “promptly” ratify the Treaty. The five permanent members of the Security Council committed themselves to continue their “efforts aimed at early entry into force of the CTBT and achieving its universality.” Leading the U.S. delegation, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “we have made a commitment to ratify the CTBT.”

Officials at the treaty depositing event.

Central African Republic and Trinidad and Tobago ratify the Treaty

During the last week of the Conference, against the background of the CTBT exhibition “Putting an end to nuclear explosions”, the Central African Republic and Trinidad and Tobago deposited their instruments of ratification with the United Nations. “I would like to commend [these governments] for this important step that shows not only their commitment, but also the contribution that small countries can bring to advancing the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament by promoting the entry into force of the CTBT and its universalization,” said Sergio Duarte, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

Eight more ratifications are needed

“With Indonesia’s action, only eight more ratifications are needed,” Ban told a CTBTO side event, referring to China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States, the Annex 2 countries whose consent is needed for the Treaty to become legally binding. “It is unacceptable […] that the continuing refusal by a number of countries to ratify the CTBT is preventing it from entering into force,” argued Tetsuro Fukuyama, Japan’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in the NPT debate “We must make real progress towards entry into force of the CTBT,” said Norwegian State Secretary Gry Larsen.

Consensus builder at the Review Conference

Numerous delegations noted the challenges facing the NPT regime on many fronts and the key role of progress at the 2010 Review Conference. “Mr. President, strengthening the international disarmament and non proliferation regime requires, in Italy’s view, additional – but very important – steps. The first is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” Italy’s Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Vincenzo Scotti told the Conference. More than 40 countries underlined the importance of the CTBT within the NPT regime. The CTBT’s entry into force “may pave the way to solving many of the current and future challenges facing the NPT,” said Tóth. “We believe the CTBT can serve as a key complementary document to the NPT,” Vuk Jeremić, Serbia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told the Review Conference. 

The 2010 NPT Review Conference reached consensus and adopted a final document.

One of the strongest catalysts for nuclear disarmament

“Entry into force of the CTBT would be a major step forward for disarmament,” Stephen Smith, Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, outlined his country’s position. More than 20 delegations underscored the key role of the Treaty in this respect. The CTBT provides, among others, a firm legal barrier against testing, a strong global and regional confidence and security building measure, and an essential element for deeper nuclear arms reductions. Talking about the Middle East, Tóth noted that the “CTBT ratifications carries no political cost while the positive spillover effects can increase mutual trust and significantly enhance stability.” Valentin Rybakov, the Assistant to the President of Belarus, said that “one of the most important prerequisites for progress in the disarmament track is the early entry into force of the CTBT.”

An important instrument for nuclear non-proliferation
 
“We strongly believe that the CTBT is essential to avoid the development of nuclear weapons,” said Máximo Medina Morel, the Director of Nuclear Issues at the National Commission of Energy of the Dominican Republic, emphasizing the non-proliferation role of the Treaty. Designed, for example, as a last barrier on the road to nuclear weapons, the CTBT provides the final “downstream” proof of one state’s intentions. No less than 20 countries mentioned the Treaty’s non-proliferation benefits in their prepared statements to the Conference.

Much has changed since 2005 – Now is the time to act

Only five years ago, merely 95 countries spoke at the beginning of a Review Conference that was ultimately widely considered to have failed in its attempt to advance the disarmament and non-proliferation regime. In the 2010 final document, adopted by consensus, States undertook to ratify the CTBT with all expediency, were committed to continuing the moratoria on nuclear explosions, and pledged to promote the Treaty at national, regional and global levels. 

In the general debate, more than 50 countries underlined the importance of the Treaty’s entry into force and over 20 urged the remaining outliers to ratify – both about double the number from 2005. “I would like to thank all delegations that have expressed their support for the CTBT in the statements during the past few days,” said Tibor Tóth at the close of the first week of the Conference. “It is now time for each and every country to act on the commitments made: it is time to bring the CTBT in force,” he concluded upon the successful outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.