Background Information

Background Information

Figuring less prominently in public perception than the high-level political Article XIV-Conferences or the Ministerial Meetings to promote entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), but equally important is the host of workshops, seminars and training activities conducted out each year around the world to further the aims of the Treaty. The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBTO) facilitates these events, which can be grouped into two families:

I. International Cooperation Workshops, developed according to each region’s interests and needs, pursue the double objective of building national and regional capacities on the one hand and promoting the universality of the CTBT on the other. Since the CTBT’s opening for signature in 1996, around 20 such International Cooperation Workshops have taken place, covering all six of the world’s Treaty-defined geographic regions.

The Workshops have contributed to a better understanding of the Treaty and its verification regime by addressing both political and technical issues.

The workshops also offer a useful platform for identifying the existing legal and technical obstacles to CTBT signature, ratification and implementation by States, and they have had a crucial impact on the increase in the total number of signatures and ratifications (see interactive map).

In addition, the workshops assist exploring the civil and scientific potentials that the verification technologies offer for the welfare of States.

A number of workshops were possible thanks to the voluntary financial support of different Governments.

Click here for a list of previous international cooperation workshops (selection).

II. Technical Workshops and Training cover the entire range of verification and communication techniques and are often multi-disciplinary. Their objective is to maintain and improve the CTBT’s verification regime in all its aspects. Thousands of experts from all organizations and bodies involved in the verification regime meet annually in up to 15 workshops in Vienna or abroad: station operators or national data centre staff from the CTBT’s Member States, CTBTO staff, contractors, equipment providers, etc.

The technical workshops and training account for roughly US$ 2 million annually of the CTBTO’s budget and can essentially be grouped into three categories:

(1) workshops for station operators,
(2) assisting Member States in evaluating IDC data and
(3) preparation of on-site inspection.

Click here for a list of previous technical workshops (selection).

1. Workshops for station operators: ensuring high quality data harvesting

The first category of workshop focuses on the “producers” of the raw data transmitted by the stations of the International Monitoring System, i.e. the station operators. Their ability to operate and maintain the state-of-the-art measuring equipment correctly is crucial for the functioning of the entire system. As the technology in all four verification techniques – seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide - constantly evolves, the station operators require regular training.

2. Assisting Member States in evaluating IDC data

A second kind of workshop aims at assisting the “consumers”, i.e. the operators at the National Data Centres in Member States, who receive the data after it has been screened and refined by the CTBTO’s International Date Centre (IDC). Since it is these National Data Centres and not the CTBTO who make the final assessment on whether a detected event was actually a nuclear test or not, their staff requires the necessary technical means and expertise. Here the CTBTO’s focus lies on assisting developing countries, including by providing financial support for the participation of certain participants from developing countries in the workshops.

A separate pilot project, financed solely through voluntary contributions, aims at increasing the participation of experts from developing countries in official CTBTO technical meetings.

3. Preparation of On-Site Inspections

A third type of workshop is designed to prepare inspection teams for on-site-inspections, and consists of representatives from Member States as well as CTBTO staff. The Integrated Field Exercise (IFE08) in Kazakhstan in September 2008 was framed by an entire series of workshops to prepare and later evaluate the exercise. Real on-site inspections will, however, only be possible after the Treaty’s entry into force.

While these workshops help to keep all relevant actors abreast of the latest technological developments in verification technologies, the CTBTO also reaches out to scientists normally not involved in the CTBT’s verification regime. Through the Science and Technology Conference Series, the organization aims at further enhancing cross-fertilization with the scientific community.