Fifty-Fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Statement by Executive Secretary on 19 October 1999


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to take the floor today to tell you about recent developments regarding the CTBT and our work to implement it.

Three years ago, on 24 September 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (the CTBT) was opened for signature, crowning over 40 years of negotiations aimed at stopping all nuclear test explosions in all environments. The Treaty’s adoption was a milestone in the history of efforts for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. And showed a determination to put an end to over 50 years of nuclear test explosions – during which time there were more than 2000 nuclear test explosions.

To enter into force, the Treaty has to be ratified by 44 nuclear-capable States listed in the Treaty. So far, 41 of them have signed the Treaty and 26 have deposited instruments of ratification. Now, as at 19 October 1999, counting the other 114 States that have signed the Treaty and the other 25 of them that have ratified it, we have an overall total of 155 signatures and 51 ratifications. And I am greatly encouraged that the pace of ratifications has quickened in the last few months, particularly by those whose ratification is necessary for the Treaty to enter into force.

The CTBT creates an international norm prohibiting all nuclear test explosions, for military, civilian or any other purpose. Even before its entry into force, the CTBT and the global monitoring system are capable of contributing to the enforcement of this international norm. But the existence of a norm – and the high political price of violating it - cannot replace a legally binding commitment by signature and ratification of the Treaty. If the Treaty is to fulfil its promise, set out in the preamble, of enhancing international peace and security, it is essential that as many States as possible sign and ratify it without delay. By doing so, they will be pledging their trust in the Treaty’s verification regime to detect clandestine nuclear testing and thus to deter possible violations.

Last week’s news that the United States had voted not to give its advice and consent for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is deeply regrettable and a matter of concern to all of us. However, we have noted that President Clinton announced that the United States will maintain the moratorium on nuclear tests and continue to press for the Treaty’s ratification. I should like to assure you all that the Preparatory Commission will continue to carry out its task of building up the global verification regime, which will take several more years. We hope that during this time the United States and other States will see their way to ratifying the CTBT.

Three weeks ago, ratifying, signatory and non-signatory States met in Vienna, at the invitation of the Treaty’s Depositary - the Secretary-General - to examine the extent to which the requirement for the entry into force of the Treaty had been met and to agree on measures consistent with international law to accelerate its ratification. The outcome of the Conference was the unanimous adoption of a Final Declaration that calls for the early signing and ratification of the CTBT by all States that have not yet done so. The Declaration also calls on the non-signatory nations to refrain from acts that could defeat the Treaty’s object and purpose before it enters into force.

Speaking as the Secretary of that Conference, I am glad that the ratifiers requested the Secretary-General - in convening the Conference - to invite all States to it, regardless of whether or not they had ratified or signed the Treaty, and that provision was made in the rules of procedure for delegates to hear statements by non-signatory States, one of which spoke. This was another welcome opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the CTBT, to stress its universality and indispensability, and the urgent need for it to enter into force, and to send a strong unequivocal message to the world. Many speakers echoed the opinion that delay in the Treaty’s entry into force not only postpones much-needed progress in arms control, but also increases the risk that nuclear testing could resume. And in the Declaration, the 92 ratifiers and signatories recalled the fact that two non-signatory States whose ratification was needed for the Treaty’s entry into force had expressed their willingness not to delay the entry into force, and called on them to fulfil those pledges. In addition, they noted the ratification by two nuclear-weapon States last year and called on the remaining three to accelerate their ratification processes "with a view to their early successful conclusion".

Another important aspect of the Declaration was the agreement of ratifying States to select one of their number to promote cooperation to facilitate the Treaty’s early into force, through informal consultations with all interested countries. Kindly allow me, Mr. Chairman, to use this occasion to appeal to all the members of the First Committee to use their good offices to assist us in this endeavour.

The Declaration takes a further step, in reaching out to a larger public, by appealing to all relevant sectors of civil society to raise awareness of and support for the objectives of the Treaty, as well as its early entry into force. The Declaration thus recognizes that the task before us is joint one in which the collective efforts of everyone who is in a position to assist are needed.

I was also glad, as the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission, to note the widespread recognition by delegates of the Commission’s considerable achievements to date in establishing the global monitoring system to verify compliance with the Treaty. I, too, feel that we have come a long way in the short space of 31 months since the Provisional Technical Secretariat took up its work on 17 March 1997.

Currently, 209 staff members, from 65 States Signatories are working in the Secretariat. And 88 per cent of the assessed contributions for the 1999 budget of US$ 74.7 million has been paid, as has over 90 per cent of those for the 1998 budget of US$ 58.4 million.

Thanks to this strong support of our member States and the hard work of my staff, we have continued to make tangible progress in developing all four components of the CTBT global verification regime, which has to be operational when the Treaty enters into force.

This verification regime – unprecedented in the history of arms control – consists of: first, an International Monitoring System; second, a consultation and clarification process; third, on-site inspections; and, fourth, confidence-building measures.

Let me take, first, the International Monitoring System. This is the cost-effective global network of sensors capable of detecting, locating and identifying the signals generated by a nuclear explosion using four complementary technologies: seismology, infrasound, hydroacoustic and radionuclide monitoring. The sensors are attached to 321 monitoring stations that we are establishing or upgrading in the 89 countries named in the Treaty. These monitoring stations will transmit, in near real time, a constant stream of data – generated by the technologies - to our International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna, where the data and IDC products will be processed and made available to the States signatories for final analysis.

Currently, we have completed about 55 per cent of the site surveys to select the most appropriate locations for the stations specified in the Treaty and to assess the equipment they need. And about 45 per cent of the work to install the stations is either under way or has been completed. We are now installing devices to authenticate and ensure the accuracy of the data that are generated at the stations and transmitted to the International Data Centre. And for 16 stations, we have initiated the process of certifying that they meet the System’s stringent specifications.

Before a station can be certified, however, it needs a direct satellite connection to Vienna for the swift and secure two-way transport of data between the monitoring facilities (or national data centres), the International Data Centre and the States Signatories. Over the past 12 months, we have installed the backbone of our Global Communications Infrastructure: a terrestrial frame-relay network, four land-based hubs in Germany, the United States and Italy (where there are two), as well as independent subnetworks in Canada, France, Norway and the United States, all of which feed into the International Data Centre. We are now connected to nine destinations by terrestrial lines and to 12 remote sites by geostationary satellite.

Our state-of-the-art International Data Centre in the Vienna International Centre is the nerve centre of the Monitoring System. Its progressive commissioning is based on the operational experience of a prototype international data centre in Arlington, Virginia. Some of you may remember that this centre participated in the technical tests of the Group of Scientific Experts that was founded by the Conference on Disarmament in the early 1980s. This summer, we received the second of four releases of application software from Arlington for installation and testing at our Data Centre. This software will allow us to start providing initial services and distributing monitoring data and the Centre’s products to States Signatories for seven days a week by next January. In the meantime, automatic acquisition and processing of seismo-acoustic data is being conducted continuously 24 hours a day to assess the capability and robustness of the software. And reviewed event bulletins and reviewed atmospheric radioactivity reports are now being produced regularly. In addition, training for operators and managers of monitoring stations has continued this year, as have programmes to recruit trainees for analyst review positions in our Data Centre.

The on-site aspect of the regime is unparalleled and here we are breaking new ground. While these challenge inspections can only be mandated once the CTBT enters into force, we have been busy with preparatory activities. These have continued to focus on compiling an operational manual, specifying and obtaining equipment for testing and training purposes and introducing training and exercise programmes to develop a cadre of potential inspectors. In December, we shall have our first tabletop exercise – a simulation of various phases of the on-site inspection process by role-playing by the main actors during a real on-site inspection.

Confidence-building measures, which are also part of the global verification regime, are of a voluntary nature. At its ninth session in August, the Preparatory Commission agreed to establish a database on chemical explosions, thereby creating the basic technical conditions for the implementation of confidence-building measures after the Treaty enters into force.

This year two countries, Israel and Kazakhstan, are contributing to research to improve implementation of the CTBT. Last month, we took advantage of a calibration experiment, involving a conventional explosion, that Kazakhstan conducted jointly with the United States. Ten days after the explosion, at the invitation of the Kazakh Government, a team of international experts inspected the area in the vicinity of the explosion to see what evidence of it could be found and were able to pinpoint its location. This gave us valuable insights into the ways in which an on-site inspection could be conducted for the CTBT. Next month, a series of three controlled underwater explosions will be conducted in the Dead Sea in November, allowing the travel times of seismic waves across the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean to be calibrated. This will give us a point of reference for accurately locating future events in the region. I should like to thank all these countries for their cooperation in sharing their work with us and contributing to our work to build up the Treaty’s verification regime.

The international cooperation activities that we instituted with a Workshop in Vienna in November last year, followed by another regional one in Cairo this June, continue. Here, I should like to thank the Egyptian Government for hosting the meeting and contributing to its success. The Workshops not only highlight the fundamental importance of the CTBT in promoting global peace and security, but also provide a forum for pooling expertise in station operation and data analysis as well as for sharing knowledge of other possible spin-off uses of the four verification technologies. In addition, our database of relevant scientific meetings, accessible through the Internet, should help researchers, particularly in less technologically advanced countries, to strengthen contacts and to pursue international cooperation under the Treaty regime. Indeed, the effectiveness of such activities in encouraging signature and ratification of the Treaty, by demonstrating the benefits of the application of verification technologies for peaceful purposes, was recognized in the Final Declaration of this month’s Conference that I spoke of earlier.

These wide-ranging achievements reflect the commitment of our member States to the Treaty and our work in implementing it. The amount of surveys conducted, equipment procured, stations installed, training provided, meetings convened and money spent are the results of the collective decision making and consensus of member States to chart the course for getting the verification regime ready for the entry into force of the Treaty. By entrusting us with the resources to carry out this task, the member States express their confidence that we can deliver the verification regime on time. The question is, when will entry into force come about? We hope that it will come sooner rather than later.

In the Secretariat, we are carrying out our mandate on the technical side, creating a stable and durable foundation to verify compliance with the Treaty. It is now up to the States Signatories to follow through and take the necessary political steps in tandem with the technical tasks. That is to ensure that the CTBT enters into force and that all the components of the regime can be brought to bear to make the world a safer place for generations to come. Only then will the Treaty truly meet the high and justified expectations placed in it by the world three years ago and serve the purpose for which it was intended.

I thank you for your kind attention.