CTBT Public Policy Course: Proven Treaty, Political Challenge

The latest public policy course on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) titled Proven Treaty, Political Challenge: The CTBT and Multistakeholder Security gave an in-depth look at the political and diplomatic themes and challenges related to the Treaty.

Around 600 participants followed the course from 15 to 19 July either in person at the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna or online. Participants included government officials, students, academics and scientists, including from a number of non-ratifying Annex 2 States – those who have yet to ratify for the CTBT’s entry into force.

Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth, in his last public speaking engagement in his current capacity, pointed to the CTBT and its verification regime as an example of how a global approach can be used to address some of the major emerging security challenges of the 21st century, summing up his conclusion in the two words: “global works”.

In the special panel on the Treaty’s negotiations in Geneva, Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang described the CTBT as “the most important treaty since the Second World War in the field of arms control”.

Discussing the current status of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala remarked that “the only weapon of mass destruction that has not been rendered illegal is the nuclear weapon, which is by far the most destructive weapon invented”. Other highlights included a description of nuclear testing programmes from history by James Acton from the Carnegie Endowment, including some of the surprising applications of “Peaceful Nuclear Explosions”, which today fall under the CTBT’s ban.

Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukan

The announced nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 12 February 2013 and the country’s nuclear weapons programme were a key issue discussed during the course. Siegfried Hecker, former Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States, shared his experiences of visiting the DPRK nuclear facilities and discussed the possibility of a fourth test. DPRK expert Daniel Pinkston from the International Crisis Group explained the motivations and ideology behind the country’s nuclear programme.

Former UN Undersecretary General Jayantha Dhanapala

Participants engaged in a simulation of a future CTBTO Executive Council deliberation on whether an on-site inspection in a fictional country should be approved. The simulation was an opportunity for participants to put their new knowledge to use in a complex simulation game and to gain insights into the motivations behind foreign policy choices of a country other than their own.“

Vote during the simulation of the Executive Council deliberations

The simulation made me think about things like how the radionuclide information would affect a real decision to go forward with an On-Site Inspection.

The course was part of the CTBTO’s education and outreach activities, which aim to inspire the next generation of experts in all aspects of the CTBT. Content from previous courses is available on the CTBTO iTunes U Beyond Campus channel. An introduction to the Treaty and its verification regime is also available as the CTBT Tutorial in seven languages.