The CTBT and the 10th NPT Review Conference

October 8, 2020

On October 6, 2020, Dr. Bill Potter moderated a webinar discussion exploring the linkages between the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Hosted by the CTBT Organization (CTBTO) in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the panelists discussed the challenges facing the two treaties—both of which are foundational cornerstones of the global nonproliferation regime—and how the upcoming Tenth Review Conference of the NPT can be leveraged to strengthen both.

High-Level Speakers

Following Dr. Potter’s brief welcoming remarks, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, executive chairman of the CTBTO, highlighted the resilience of the CTBT monitoring and verification regime in the face of great technical, legal, and political challenges. He lauded the CTBT for “democratizing” the capability to detect nuclear explosions and allow all member states to “enjoy the many side benefits of an expanded base of national technical expertise and equipment.”

In her introductory remarks, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu presented a grim overview of the multilateral nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime, characterized in part by increasingly antagonistic relations between the US and Russia, as well as threats to resume nuclear testing. She noted that since the NPT and CTBT “inextricably interlinked,” the upcoming Review Conference is an opportunity to recognize the value of CTBT to the nonproliferation and disarmament regime at large. She suggested that the conference should agree on the need to permanently ban all nuclear tests, as a way to demonstrate states parties’ unanimity in seeking to strengthen both pillars I and II of the treaty.

Other panelists included:

  • German Ambassador Rüdiger Bohn, who also emphasized the democratic nature of the CTBT, which provides all states parties with the data from the International Monitoring System
  • The EU Special Envoy for Nonproliferation and Disarmament Ambassador Marjolijn van Deelan, who reaffirmed the EU’s continued support and promotion of the CTBT, including by supporting CTBT Youth Group and the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM)
  • Australian Ambassador Mitch Fifield, who discussed Australia’s efforts to support the CTBT, including through its participation in the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) and “Friends of CTBT” grouping
  • Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, the president-designate of the Tenth NPT Review Conference, who also expressed his appreciation and support for the efforts of the CTBT Youth Group

High-Value Support

During the robust question-and-answer period, the panelists delved further into their efforts to support both the CTBT and the NPT’s Tenth Review Conference. Much support was reiterated for the CTBT Youth Group, as well as other civil society and track-two initiatives, such as the CTBT Science and Technology conferences and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey’s efforts to train the next generation of nonproliferation and disarmament experts.

As Dr. Zerbo had pointed out, the CTBTO’s verification regime is “strong yet fragile,” and it will require all parties committed to the objective of a nuclear-weapon-free world to continue collective efforts to ensure both a successful Review Conference as well as the entry-into-force of the CTBT. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our efforts in this regard, said High Representative Nakamitsu, “it is vital that we carry on with our work including by holding events such as this one, which help maintain momentum and lay the ground for success at the Tenth Review Conference.”

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