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CTBT: Synergies with Science (1996 - 2006 and Beyond)

Vienna Austria
CTBT Scientific Symposium (31 August - 1 September 2006)

Mr. Dahlman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It´s a pleasure for me to be here with you today, to celebrate with you - if celebration is the right word - the 10th anniversary of the CTBT opening for signature and having 135 countries today that have ratified the Treaty.

The CTBT is key to the system of security we are trying to build, a system of security that does not rely on nuclear weapons.

When the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was concluded in 1970, it had two "legs". One "leg" is non-proliferation, a commitment by all those who do not have nuclear weapons not to develop such weapons, and the other "leg" is a commitment by the five States with nuclear weapon at that time to move towards nuclear disarmament. It was on these two "legs" that the system of international security we meant to build in 1970 was supposed to develop.

We have, I think, gone a long way in developing that first "leg" which is non-proliferation. The NPT now has 189 member States. It is almost universal. The broad adherence to the NPT shows the commitment, the desire of the international community to build a system of security that does not rely on nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons deterrence or nuclear weapons threats.

With regard to the other "leg", which is arms control, in 1970 the CTBT was considered to be key to demonstrating the commitment by the nuclear-weapon States to move towards nuclear disarmament. If you look at the preamble of the NPT back in 1970, it says that one of the goals - the short term goals - after the conclusion of the NPT was to seek to achieve the discontinuation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time, and to continue negotiations on a treaty to this end. So the CTBT was considered to be the most logical step after the NPT to show, in a concrete manner, the commitment by the international community to make good on its desire to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons.

It is therefore distressing to me to see that, 10 years after its signature, the CTBT has not yet come into force, despite the fact that there are 135 countries that have ratified the Treaty, despite having over 170 countries that have signed the Treaty. These numbers tell me that there is a near absolute, almost universal, desire to have the CTBT come into force.

Why is the CTBT so important? Because it would send a very clear, very concrete signal that the nuclear-weapon States are really serious, that they are taking seriously the commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to move towards nuclear disarmament. But more importantly, I think, because it will also hamper the qualitative development of nuclear weapons and the development of nuclear weapons by new countries.

Without the CTBT the door is open for new countries to acquire nuclear weapons as we have seen recently. Without the CTBT we will continue to see qualitative development of nuclear weapons. Without the CTBT in force we risk that new countries might in fact be tempted to test nuclear weapons - without violating any legal norm.

Another reason I am concerned about the CTBT not coming into force is because it is not an isolated phenomenon. It is unfortunately symptomatic of the slow progress overall with regard to moving towards nuclear disarmament. For example, consider the negotiation that is supposed to be taking place in Geneva on a "Cut-Off" Treaty that would prohibit the production of nuclear material for weapon purposes; you are all aware that for 10 years now we have not even been able to agree on a mandate to start negotiating this Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).

The FMCT and the CTBT are intended to work together in parallel, to prohibit both the quantitative and qualitative tools that would enable countries to develop nuclear weapons - whether new countries or countries that already have these weapons.

This slow movement on nuclear disarmament is having an impact on the first "leg" I mentioned, on the non-proliferation front, our effort to make sure that no new countries will move to develop nuclear weapons.

As you are aware, we still have on our agenda, at least at the IAEA, a couple of specific cases. One of them, North Korea, has said that it has developed nuclear weapons. In another case, in Iran, our verification activity is very much a work in progress to establish the peaceful nature of the nuclear programme.

So we have challenges in the area of non-proliferation, concrete cases. In addition, we have seen at the last review conference of the NPT the total lack of agreement on even a final declaration as to where we would be heading in the future. After a full month, the conference could not agree on where the regime should be heading.

Worse yet, at the Summit of Heads of State in New York last year, a declaration of I believe more than thirty pages was compiled on what the vision of the future should be - and there was not a single word either about nuclear disarmament or nuclear non-proliferation. Not because these problems do not exist, but because, once again, there was a lack of agreement on the road ahead.

All these to me are the ramifications of the lack of concrete progress on the second "leg", which is nuclear disarmament. As I said, the CTBT and the "Cut-Off" Treaty are two key yardsticks by which the international community is judging whether we are in fact making good progress towards nuclear disarmament.

So as I stand here today, it is my sincere hope that every effort will be made to see to it that the CTBT will come into force. At the same time, it is my sincere hope that negotiations will start without delay with regard to the "Cut-Off" Treaty. I am not just expressing wishful thinking; I am saying that these measures will have a key impact on the kind of international security system we are trying to build. Either we are going to reinforce the clear message that we want to see a world free from nuclear weapons, or we will continue to see a gradual erosion of the system that we have tried to build since 1970 with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

I would like to pay tribute to the Provisional Secretariat, to Tibor Tóth and to Wolfgang Hoffmann, for all their valiant efforts to build the CTBT system, to ensure that the monitoring system is in place and to ensure that the Provisional Secretariat is up and running.

I also think, regarding today’s meeting, that the focus on the interaction between the CTBT and science is absolutely timely - because one of the arguments as to why the CTBT should not come into force is that it could not be adequately verified. I find that frankly a false argument, because there is no system of verification that´s perfect, as you know. I can draw on our experience at the IAEA. We established our system of verification in 1970, but that system continues to develop and grow, in part due to the evolving nature of science. You are working against a moving target, if you like, and you have to continue to refine your verification system. But to say that we should not bring a treaty into force because it could not adequately be verified - I don´t find that argument to be persuasive.

Consider the alternatives. Are we better off with no treaty at all - as we have now, with the CTBT and the "Cut-Off" Treaty not being in force? Would we be better off with a treaty that does not have any verification, as with the Biological Weapons Convention? Or are we better off with a treaty that is verifiable? I think the answer is clear - that a treaty with verification, as imperfect as it is, still creates much more confidence than a treaty that does not have any verification or having no legal norm at all. As a practitioner, I can say that these are obvious answers. And I hope that in your symposium today you will continue to make people understand that we should not make the "best" the enemy of the "good". It may be true that we cannot yet put into place the "best" verification system; but putting in place a legal norm backed by a verification system that is as "good" as we can have today is an important step towards moving away from relying on nuclear weapons.

We have nine States with nuclear weapons today. We still have some 27,000 nuclear warheads in existence. In my view, the moment of truth is coming. As I have said before, either we should expect to continue to see more proliferation of nuclear weapons, and more reliance on nuclear weapons, or we must reverse that trend and move seriously towards a world free from nuclear weapons. And to me the CTBT ratification, its entry into force, is a litmus test at this stage.

Recently, the CTBT was described as "the longest sought, hardest fought prize in the history of arms control". I think that is a very accurate description of how long the international community has worked to bring the CTBT into force, and how much the international community has fought for the CTBT. Jaap Ramaker is here, and he can tell you about how much effort it took to conclude the CTBT.

I think we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to humanity, we owe it to people everywhere that we endeavour to have the CTBT come into force as early as we can. I thank you again for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. I wish you the very best.

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Last update: 26 July 2017