Near Universal Support for the CTBT at First Committee

04 November 2009 - Page 1

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.