Second CTBT Academic Forum meets in Vienna

Around 40 academics from a diverse range of universities and research institutes converged in Vienna, Austria, from 8 to 9 May. Representing 20 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America, participants at the 2nd annual CTBT Academic Forum were able to share ideas on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s (CTBT) education and research opportunities. The event was organized by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) as part of its education activities and integrated capacity building initiative, which seek to train and educate the next generation of CTBT experts. The event was sponsored by the European Union and the Kingdom of Norway.

Academic institutions from the eight non-ratifying Annex 2 States (whose ratification is precondition for the CTBT's entry into force) with the exception of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea were represented. Here: Zhenming Zhong, Tongi University, China (left) and Sameh Aboul-Enein, American University in Cairo, Egypt

Because of you, this Treaty is alive. We can now bridge the gap between the generation that suffered from nuclear testing and negotiated the CTBT and the generation that will banish nuclear weapons.

This year’s Academic Forum presented an opportunity for educators from around the world to share their experiences in teaching courses on the policy, legal, technical and scientific aspects of the CTBT as well as in the use of online educational resources developed by the CTBTO. Participants devised ways of integrating CTBT-related materials into international security and nuclear disarmament curricula in their institutions, exchanged ideas about the format and content of potential courses and worked on further developing CTBT education materials. A number of universities are already offering courses specifically on the CTBT or have included the Treaty in broader security studies.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo opened the Forum

European Union Ambassador Györgyi Zanathy highlighted the many ways in which the EU supports the CTBTO's work.

I think more people need to know the amazing work that the CTBTO is doing- the world’s largest verification network that has applications to everything really - not just the nuclear test ban, but also to other fields and other areas - I think it’s just so important.

The nexus between science and technology for CTBT education was also one of the focal points of discussions. With academic backgrounds ranging from international relations and law to science, engineering and physics, participants repeatedly stressed the importance of interdisciplinary research based on both policy and technical expertise.
Back in the late 1990s, the overall sentiment on the CTBT was that it’s inacceptable. Now, there is a real discussion on the CTBT in Pakistan’s academic world, its merits are being discussed.

In this context, CTBTO’s Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo announced the creation of CTBT fellowship opportunities for scholars conducting advanced research on these areas. These fellowships will be financially supported by the European Union. Integrated in the CTBTO’s organizational structure, the fellows will carry out research on developments in the CTBT verification technologies and their impact on the prospects for the Treaty’s entry into force.

Asra Hassan (left) and Sufian Ullah from the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) University, Pakistan

This is a good way to reach out to universities around the world and to build a network of universities with the CTBTO.

"At the CTBTO we assign high value to the exchange with young academics. This Treaty is here to stay and in a fast-changing world, fresh ideas are important to stay at the state of the art and to combine the political and technical strength of the Treaty and the organization in the best possible way," the Executive Secretary highlighted.
It’s really important to focus on the younger generation. This is a golden opportunity to come up with explanations about security regimes, non-proliferation, CTBT being part of that with other organizations.

Other avenues of collaboration between the CTBTO and academic institutions were also discussed. For example, the CTBTO is sharing monitoring data with academic institutions by providing access to its virtual Data Exploitation Centre (vDEC), which enables scholars to use the data for research purposes.
The data collected by the CTBTO infrastructure and provided via the vDEC is a rich hunting ground for physicists- I am a geophysicist by training and I was not aware of this huge amount of data.