Increasing pressure on the nine CTBT hold-outs at the United Nations

Only a month after the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) received strong political backing in the CTBT Ministerial Meeting on 24 September, a draft resolution calling for the Treaty's entry into force was supported by almost all States in this year's United Nations General Assembly's First Committee.
168 coutries vote for
The vote on the CTBT resolution on 28 October was an expression of the overwhelming support the Treaty enjoys: it was adopted with 168 votes, with one against (United States) and 3 abstentions (India, Mauritius, Syria).

The United Nations General Assembly in its 63rd session in 2008. Source: UN Photo/Marco Castro

Nine states missing for the CTBT's entry into force

According to the CTBT’s special entry-into-force provision, it has to be ratified by all 44 countries that are listed in an Annex to the Treaty for it to enter into force. Of these, nine have yet to do so: China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. Of these nine, six voted for the resolution, with China, Indonesia, Israel and Pakistan underscoring their support for the Treaty in the preceding general debate or in their explanations of vote. The three States not to vote for the resolution were DPRK, which did not participate in the vote, India, which abstained, and the United States, which voted against.

Political momentum in the United States

The United States has always played a special role for the CTBT. Its support for the Treaty was instrumental when the Treaty was negotiated in 1994-96, and it was the first country to sign it when it opened for signature on 24 September 1996. More recently, discussions on CTBT ratification have gained new momentum, with encouraging statements from both U.S. Presidential candidates: While John McCain has pledged to take another look at the Treaty, Barack Obama has stated his outright support for U.S. ratification and his intention to encourage other States such as India and Pakistan to follow suit. In addition, a group of over 40 leading personalities in US foreign and security policy, led by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, have expressed support for the Treaty’s entry into force from a bipartisan platform.
"...I will work with the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and then seek its earliest possible entry into force,"
[I would] "take another look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty..."

The CTBT resolution

The resolution on the CTBT was co-sponsored by 46 States, amongst them Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey and all European Union (EU) Member States. It stresses "the vital importance and urgency of signature and ratification, without delay and without conditions, to achieve the earliest entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty" and urges those states whose ratification is necessary for entry into force of the Treaty, to sign and ratify without delay. The resolution also welcomes the Joint Ministerial Statement on the CTBT, adopted at the Ministerial Meeting held in New York on 24 September 2008, the ratification of the Treaty in 2008 by Colombia, Barbados, Malaysia, and Burundi, as well as the signature in 2008 by Iraq and Timor-Leste, as significant steps towards the early entry into force of the Treaty.

UN Secretary-General Ban calls for entry into force of the CTBT

In a panel discussion in the margins of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee hosted by the EastWest Institute, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for new efforts to bring the CTBT into force in his keynote address. The discussion was aimed to begin the process of a new East-West consensus on weapons of mass destruction and disarmament. Ambassador of Russia to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, emphasized that the most important nuclear disarmament measure in the next year would be the entry into force of the CTBT. Support for the CTBT from all parts of the world In the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, both regional groups and individual countries from all over the world joined in their appeal to the remaining nine States to clear the way for the entry into force of the CTBT: Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of France said that the CTBT’s entry into force was of utmost importance, and he called on the States whose ratification is necessary for entry into force to sign and ratify the Treaty as early as possible.

(from left to right): Mohamed El-Baradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Sergey Kislyak, Russian Federation Ambassador to the United States of America; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and Henry Alfred Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State and Chairman of Kissinger Associates. Source: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

The G77, represented by Indonesia, stressed the "significance of achieving universal adherence to the CTBT" and highlighted the Treaty's role for State's committment to nuclear disarmament. Speaking in national capacity, Indonesia later highlighted that it was undertaking "serious preparations for ratification of the CTBT". Mexico on behalf of the Rio Group stressed that it "supports the speedy entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT), for the group is convinced that the quantitive and qualitative development of nuclear weapons". Also the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), represented by the delegate of Myanmar, underlined that they urged "all States, in particular the remaining States whose ratification is required for entry into force, to ratify the Treaty." Nigeria, speaking for the African Group, stated that the group reiterated "its long-standing support for the elimination of all nuclear testing. The Group stresses the significance of achieving universal adherence to...the CTBT, including by all Nuclear Weapon States". China highlighted its willingness "to make a concerted efforts with all other States to promote the early entry into force of the CTBT", while Russia underlined that it "has always supported the CTBT. Not only did our country ratify the Treaty, it is actively working on ensuring it's early entry into force". Israel stressed its support for the build-up of the CTBT’s verification system, which it wanted to see completed as soon as possible. Pakistan articulated its continued support for the objectives of the Treaty and stated that opponents of the Treaty needed to start supporting it for entry into force to be considered. Strong statements in support of the CTBT were also made by Arab countries such as Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Quatar.