Near Universal Support for the CTBT at First Committee

175 countries vote for the CTBT resolution

An overwhelming number of countries have expressed their support for the Treaty by voting in favour of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) resolution at this year’s United Nations General Assembly First Committee. The resolution was put up for a vote and adopted on 30 October 2009, with 175 countries voting in favour of the resolution. Only one country voted against the resolution (North Korea) and three abstained (India, Syria, Mauritius). The backing of the Treaty by nearly every State exemplifies the near- universality that the CTBT enjoys. The resolution comes just one month after a two-day high level ministerial conference that unanimously adopted a final declaration calling on all hold out States to sign and ratify the Treaty.

Nine States must ratify 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 listed in the Annex 2 of the Treaty. Of these, nine have yet to do so before the Treaty can enter into force: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. Of the nine remaining Annex 2 States, seven voted in favour of the resolution (an increase from the six States that voted for it last year): China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and for the first time in nine years, the United States. Of these, China, Indonesia, Israel and the United States expressed support for the Treaty during the general debate that preceded the vote. The DPRK, which did not participate in last year’s vote, voted against the resolution while India abstained.

Political Momentum in the United States

The United States has always played a special role for the CTBT.  Its leadership was instrumental in the negotiations of the Treaty and it became the first country to sign when the Treaty opened for signature on 24 September 1996. More recently, U.S. leadership has again been significant in renewing the momentum for the Treaty’s entry into force. Only months after his election to the U.S. presidency, Barack Obama declared in his famous Prague speech in April 2009 that he would “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification” of the CTBT. In preparation for the debate in the U.S. Senate, the Obama administration has commissioned the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to “review and update”  a 2002 NAS report on the CTBT to provide technical updates on  the Treaty’s verification capabilities and on the sustainability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. For the first time in ten years, the United States participated in the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT in September 2009 by sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lead the delegation. In addition, President Obama chaired a United Nations Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, held concurrently with the CTBT conference, which unanimously adopted a resolution calling on ““all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing the treaty into force at an early date.”

The CTBT Resolution

The resolution on the CTBT in the UN General Assembly’s First Committee was tabled by the original co-sponsors, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand, and co-sponsored by another 74 States, including for the first time ever, all the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. The resolution “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 in particular those whose ratification is needed for its entry into force, to accelerate their  ratification processes with a view to ensuring their earliest successful conclusion.” The resolution also welcomed “the ratification of the Treaty by Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as the signature by Trinidad and Tobago, as significant steps towards the early entry into force of the Treaty.” With these latest signatures and ratifications, the Treaty now enjoys near-universality with 182 signatures and 150 ratifications.

Support for the CTBT from all parts of the world

Reinforcing the call to achieve the early entry into force of the CTBT, regional and individual countries appealed to the remaining nine hold out States to sign and ratify the Treaty: Speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), the representative of Sweden stated: “The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is of crucial importance to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The renewed political commitments to pursue ratifications, in particular within some Annex 2 States, of the CTBT and recent progress in the build-up of its verification regime give new impetus to our efforts to achieve the earliest possible entry into force of this key treaty.” The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), represented by Indonesia, underscored “the significance of achieving universal adherence to the CTBT, including by all nuclear-weapon States, which, inter-alia, should contribute to the process of nuclear disarmament. We reiterate that if the objectives of the Treaty are to be fully realized, the continued commitment of all States signatories, especially the nuclear-weapon States, to nuclear disarmament would be essential.”

Myanmar, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), was encouraged by the increasing number of signatures and ratifications and emphasized that: “The earliest entry into force of the CTBT is necessary if the treaty is to constitute an effective nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation measure. In this connection, we reiterate our call to all States particularly those whose ratification is needed for its entry into force to sign and ratify it.”

The African Group, represented by Nigeria, reiterated its support for the Treaty and encouraged “all Nuclear Weapons States to sign and ratify the treaty.”

Brazil, speaking for the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), an alliance of seven countries formed in 1998 to help promote the elimination of all nuclear weapons, welcomed the recent ratifications by several States and viewed “positively the prospects for further key ratifications of the CTBT which have been greatly enhanced by the commitment made by the US to pursue ratification of the Treaty.”

China stated that its government is “committed to promoting the early ratification of the CTBT, and wishes to join the efforts of [the] international community in bringing the Treaty into its early [entry into force].”

The United States reiterated its support for the Treaty, declaring that its administration “will pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and its entry into force, so that nuclear testing remains a distant memory.”

Russia referred to its early commitment to the Treaty and hoped “that all the countries, which have not yet done so and on which the CTBT entry into force depends, will sign and ratify the Treaty as soon as possible.”

Israel expressed its advocacy for the CTBT, listing its participation in several of the Preparatory Commission’s activities and stressing the need to complete the Treaty’s verification regime.

Indonesia emphasized that “concrete steps by the nuclear-weapon-States will accelerate progress towards the entry into force of the CTBT,” and stated that U.S. ratification would lead the remaining countries in Annex 2 to follow suit.

Reference to the CTBT in other Resolutions

Support for the CTBT was also mentioned in the following resolutions: 
Introduced by Kazakhstan and co-sponsored by 16 countries, the resolution recognizes that an end to nuclear tests is a key to achieving a world without nuclear weapons and “Declares 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests.” A testimony to the universal understanding for the need to permanently end nuclear testing, the resolution was adopted without a vote on 23 October.
Submitted by Japan and co-sponsored by 87 countries, this resolution recalls the need for all countries to take further steps “towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” and elaborates on these steps, including the CTBT. It urges those States who “have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty at the earliest opportunity” to achieve its entry into force. The resolution was adopted on 29 October by a majority of States, with 161 States voting in favour, only 2 against (India and DPRK) and 8 abstentions (Bhutan, China, Cuba, France, Iran, Israel, Myanmar and Pakistan).
Elaborating on a vast number of measures to be taken in the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, this resolution tabled by Myanmar and co-sponsored by 32 countries, also calls “for the early entry into force and strict observance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.” This resolution was adopted with 112 States voting in favour, 43 against (the majority of  the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Member States, Canada, Israel  and the United States) and 21 abstentions (mainly non- NATO countries).
Co-sponsored by countries in the Middle East region, this resolution also acknowledged the number of countries that have signed the Treaty, including those in the Middle East region.  It was adopted with 164 States voting in favour, 5 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, United States), and 6 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Canada, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia and India).
Includes a recall of the adoption of the CTBT in 1996 and expresses its satisfaction with the number of States who have signed and ratified the Treaty. The resolution was adopted with 126 States voting in favour, 29 against (most of the NATO Member States, Canada, Israel and the United States) and 22 abstentions (mainly non-NATO).
Co-sponsored by the NAC countries Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden, this resolution recognizes “the continued vital importance of the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to the advancement of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives.” It was adopted with 165 States voting in favour, 5 against (DPRK, France, India, Israel, United States), and 4 abstentions (Bhutan, Micronesia, Pakistan and the United Kingdom).