CTBTO Invests in Future Generation of Policy Makers

“You are the future generation of diplomats,” Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), told a group of Disarmament Fellows attending a seminar at the CTBTO’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, from 16 to 18 September 2013. “One day you will serve in leadership positions, carrying out the important work of fostering international peace and security. I wish for some of you to come and support us in our endeavours. My source of motivation is my belief in this Treaty and the progress we have made,” Zerbo said. For the fourth year in a row, the CTBTO hosted a special seminar as part of the United Nations Disarmament Fellowship Programme. The CTBTO segment of the programme has become an integral component of the Disarmament Fellows’ visit to the international organizations in Vienna. The seminar fell under the umbrella of the CTBTO’s education and outreach activities, which aim at educating and training the next generation of experts on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Treaty that bans all nuclear explosions. During the seminar, 25 junior diplomats engaged with CTBTO experts on topics concerning the CTBT and its verification technologies. The Disarmament Fellows learned about the political, legal and technical aspects of the Treaty, including the history of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons development, the Treaty's role in international peace and security, and prospects for its entry into force and universalization.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo, centre of the front row, and Chief of External Relations and International Cooperation, Jean du Preez, front row second from right, with the UN Disarmament Fellows.

Fernando Araujo, Chief of the Operations Section at the International Data Centre, explaining how the Operations Centre functions.

Visiting the radionuclide station on the rooftop of the Vienna International Centre.

"Undoubtedly this is among the most enriching seminars in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in which you can participate. While it is pretty exhausting, it is really worth the effort."

Welcoming the UN Disarmament Fellows, the Director of the CTBTO’s Legal and External Relations Division, Genxin Li, highlighted the objectives of the organization’s educational activities: “This visit aligns perfectly with the CTBTO’s goal of building capacities by training and educating the next generation of CTBT experts in the political, legal, scientific and technical aspects of the Treaty. I think it is self-evident that you, as young diplomats, are one of our core constituents in this area.” Part of the seminar focused on the CTBT verification system. This included an overview of the International Monitoring System (IMS), a unique network of over 330 monitoring facilities around the world, and an introduction to data processing and analysis at the International Data Centre (IDC). The seminar also explained how the verification system detected the nuclear tests announced by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2006, 2009 and 2013. See video. At the heart of the action at the IDC is the Operations Centre where participants were able to witness first-hand how CTBTO experts observe monitoring data coming in from IMS stations.

Radionuclide Engineering Officer Barbara Nadalut showing participants the noble gas station on the rooftop of the Vienna International Centre.

UN Disarmament Fellows attending one of the many sessions.

Ibrahim Said from Egypt defending the fictitious country, Azania, which had been suspected of conducting a nuclear explosion, during the simulation session of the Executive Council deliberations on an OSI request.

"It was a real life experience for me. Besides getting familiar with the Executive Council diplomatic interactions and negotiations, I also learned a lot about the verification system and the CTBT, its significance and importance. All of that came with a scientific and technical flavour that adds more to the political and diplomatic experience."

The seminar also featured a visit to the radionuclide and noble gas stations located on the roof of the Vienna International Centre where the CTBTO has its headquarters. The rooftop detector still picks up traces of radionuclide emissions from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Once the CTBT enters into force, an on-site inspection (OSI) can be launched to establish whether or not a nuclear explosion has been carried out. Another important aspect covered by the seminar was therefore the development of the OSI regime and preparations for the 2014 Integrated Field Exercise in Jordan which will simulate an almost entire OSI. The programme culminated in a full-day simulation session of deliberations by the Executive Council of an OSI request. When the CTBT is global law, this Council will respond to requests from Member States for the inspection of another State’s territory following the detection of a suspicious event and will decide whether an OSI should go ahead.  Participants had to consider a scenario concerning a possible violation of the Treaty and decide on ways to address the situation.

Huda Mohamed Yusuf from Ethiopia receiving her certificate from the Chief of External Relations and International Cooperation, Jean du Preez, upon successful completion of the seminar.