The CTBTO at the Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS) Conference

Over 300 participants gathered from 11 to 13 January 2012 at the Vienna International Centre for a conference entitled "UN Agencies Connecting with Academics and Civil Society." The conference was organized by the Vienna liaison office of the Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS).

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was represented at the highest level by its Executive Secretary Tibor Tóth (image), who delivered a welcoming address and participated in the panel discussion on nuclear disarmament. Participants were given a tour of the CTBTO’s International Data Centre and braved the cold winds to visit the radionuclide station on the rooftop of the Vienna International Centre.
The CTBT, the CTBTO and its three pillared verification system, both historically and today, are very much the product of the close interaction and association between diplomacy, academia, and science and technology.

Tóth invited participants to step outside the conventional way of viewing the major global challenges of our time and to apply new ideas and cross-disciplinary approaches to advance theory and practice alike. He suggested for instance that scholars from the field of international security studies explore ways to draw parallels and to borrow analysis techniques and terminology from other fields of study, for example from the science of economics.

Tóth stressed the great importance of engaging civil society and creating partnerships with academic and scientific institutions from around the world. To this end, the CTBTO is conducting international scientific conferences on a biennial basis to foster cooperation with the broader scientific community in order to advance nuclear test-ban verification.
The CTBTO is also investing in the training and education of the next generation of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and verification experts through the recently launched Capacity Development Initiative (CDI). In 2011, the CDI featured a week-long Introductory Course in September and a two-week Advanced Science Course on the verification technologies of the CTBT in November. An in-depth presentation ( PDF ) on the CDI was given by Jean du Preez, head of CTBTO External Relations.

Other speakers such as the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Kandeh Yumkella, (image) drew from their work experience to provide illustrative examples and identify potentials for valuable synergies by linking theory with practice, and research with policy-making. Many pointed to the challenges and difficulties that have to be overcome, such as the perennial budgetary or bureaucratic constraints. But as UNIDO’s Willfried Luetkenhorst recalled from a famous quote: "If you think research is expensive, try ignorance."