Statement by the Executive Secretary on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the CTBTO PrepCom in Vienna

Vienna, 17 March 2017

Twenty years ago today, on 17 March 1997 the newly created Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) opened for business, joining the family of international Organizations based at the Vienna International Centre.  Initially only 9 staff members embarked on the process of breathing life into an Organization which until then had only existed as a concept on paper – and in the hearts and minds of delegates. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) itself had opened for signature a few months before, on 24 September 1996 and at this point had already been signed by 139 countries (with two ratifications), including all five nuclear-weapons states.

CTBTO Executive Secretary, Lassina Zerbo (2013-present)

Looking back at March 1997, we realize the enormous task that lay before those dedicated women and men of the Organization’s first hour: The goal was – and remains – to establish a global verification regime designed to detect any nuclear explosion anywhere in the atmosphere, under water and underground, and to provide timely, accurate and reliable information to Member States, in order to verify the global ban on nuclear testing.

CTBTO Staff in 1997

Moreover, the trappings of an international organization had to be put in place: from designing a logo to establishing an administrative framework for operations, from drafting the necessary rules and procedures, manuals and technical specifications for the International Monitoring System (IMS), to outfitting office premises, devising budgets and recruiting skilled staff. In the words of Executive Secretary Emeritus Ambassador Hoffmann: "The first challenge was to find rooms where to put people, then to find the right people to fill the rooms and make it work."

CTBTO Staff in 2016

Much has been achieved over these past twenty years: the initial group of 9 staff members have grown to more than 300 today. Over 90% of the planned 337 international monitoring stations have been certified or installed.  Two large Integrated Field Exercises, in 2008 and 2014, have shown our operational readiness to conduct an On-Site Inspection. The IMS and the International Data Centre have proven their functionality by accurately and reliably detecting and reporting on all five declared nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the only country still conducting these tests in the 21st century.

CTBTO's second Executive Secretary, Tibor Tóth (2005-2013)

Today, with 183 Member States and 166 ratifications (36 of which from Annex 2 states) the CTBT is one of the most universally respected and adhered to international instruments for nuclear non-proliferation. It has also succeeded in establishing a de facto global norm against nuclear testing and no Member State has conducted a nuclear test since the Treaty’s inception.

CTBTO's first Executive Secretary, Wolfgang Hoffmann (1997-2005)

However, let us not lose sight of the fact that the Treaty has yet to enter into force. It is high time that the international community rallies round to deliver on the promise made 20 years ago and to finish what it started.

Today, I want to pay tribute to my predecessors Ambassador Wolfgang Hoffmann and Ambassador Tibor Tóth, and to the staff, current and previous, for their dedication and commitment in serving this great Organization. We are united by a common goal: to make the world a safer place for future generations by putting an end to nuclear testing.