Group of Eminent Persons meets in Sweden to promote the CTBT

A meeting has concluded in Stockholm, Sweden, that brought together a number of senior statesmen, active and former politicians and internationally recognized experts for two days with one very clear objective: to promote the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and reinvigorate international endeavours to achieve this goal.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt

The positive developments of the Iran nuclear negotiations can help the cause of the CTBT.

Through their expertise in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and their political standing, members of this Group of Eminent Persons – commonly known as the GEM – are injecting new energy and dynamics into the entry-into-force process.  Click here to read about the members.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense, William Perry

We lived through one very dangerous nuclear arms race during the Cold War. We do not want to live through another one. We were lucky that that arms race did not result in nuclear catastrophe. We may not be so lucky a second time.

Launched at the United Nations Headquarters in September 2013, the meeting of the Group was hosted by the Swedish Foreign Ministry from 10 to 11 April 2014.

Left to right: Hans Blix, former IAEA DG; Des Browne, former UK Secretary of State for Defence; and Nobuyasu Abe, former UN USG for Disarmament Affairs

The inauguration of the GEM last September has reaffirmed my belief that the eminent personalities that have become part of this Group possess the insight and experience to finally break the political stalemate that has engulfed the CTBT in recent years.

In order to ensure that the global ban on nuclear weapons testing becomes binding international law, the CTBT must first be ratified by the remaining Annex 2 States, namely: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States. These eight countries, which were defined as nuclear technology holders in Annex 2 of the CTBT, must all ratify the Treaty before it can enter into force.

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini

The CTBT is unique – although not yet in force, its stations are fully operational, detecting any test by the North Koreans as well as providing data about tsunamis.

During the opening session, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo outlined a strategy and action plan to secure ratification by the outstanding Annex 2 States. Since each of these countries has its own very specific issues, the meeting provided an opportunity for the Group to analyse the issues and develop strategies to address them.

Nobuyasu Abe (left) with Des Browne.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt joined GEM members in a brainstorming session on 10 April. The main focus areas of the session were the future role and value of the GEM and ways to promote the Treaty by raising the profile of the CTBTO.

The meeting concluded with a panel discussion in which former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joined the CTBTO Executive Secretary and Hans Blix as panellists.

Left to right: Kevin Rudd, Hans Blix and Lassina Zerbo during a panel discussion, 11 April 2014

The panel discussion was organized by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Movement by the United States and China is key for advancing the CTBT's entry into force.

Topics covered included the role of the CTBT in disarmament and non-proliferation and its importance as a fundamental guarantor of peace and security. Acknowledging the changing geopolitical landscape, Zerbo stated that this should not, however, impede the Treaty’s entry into force. On the subject of evasive testing, Zerbo pointed out that "it's hard today to envisage anyone conducting a militarily relevant nuclear test without it being detected."

Zerbo also outlined a number of the verification regime’s civil and scientific applications such as providing tsunami warning centres with monitoring data and tracking  radiation from nuclear accidents quickly and accurately. Most recently, the case of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 raised the possibility of using CTBT data to locate the whereabouts of the missing aircraft.

The way forward

After two days of brainstorming, GEM members agreed to work closely with the CTBTO to secure ratification by the remaining Annex 2 States and identified a number of strategies to achieve this goal. These include media outreach activities, engaging in high-level events, direct engagement with key role players, and the utilization of networks and force multipliers.