As CTBTO Marks 15th Year, Test Monitoring Capabilities Exceed Earlier Expectations

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) celebrated its 15th anniversary February 17, 2012. Established in 1997 following the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the organization has matured and its global monitoring capabilities have improved, particularly in the paste decade.

Speaking at an event marking the anniversary at the CTBTO’s headquarters in Vienna, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged all countries, particularly those whose ratifications are necessary for entry into force, to sign and/or ratify the Treaty without delay.

To date, 157 countries have ratified the CTBT. China, the North Korea, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran, Pakistan and the United States all need to ratify the treaty before it carries the weight of international law. Ban Ki-moon committed to meeting with the leaders of these countries to discuss their concerns in his speech.

The Secretary General, who chaired the CTBT preparatory commission in 1999, also said that “there is no good reason to avoid signing or ratifying this treaty” and that an end to nuclear testing is “essential to eradicating nuclear arms.

Executive Secretary of the CTBTO Tibor Toth focused his remarks on the growth of the organization and the development of its international monitoring system (IMS) over the past fifteen years. Toth reported that since the year 2000, 280 monitoring stations representing over 80% of the system, have become operational. He called the system “truly multilateral and all inclusive” saying that it serves all parties in “an equal and transparent manner.” When complete, the international monitoring and verification system will have over 300 monitoring stations worldwide.

Also speaking at the event were Swedish Foreign Minister Karl Bildt, and Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Wolfgang Waldner. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Juan Jose Gomez Camacho, spoke on behalf of Mexico’s Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano. Bildt and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Catellano are the current co-chairs of the Article XIV process, the purpose of which is to advance the CTBT’s entry into force. Both Bildt and Espinosa called for the Treaty’s entry into force in their statements.

In her remarks delivered by Ambassador Gomez Camacho, Espinosa said: “Even if the CTBT has yet to enter into force it is paramount that we all understand that its regime already constitutes a legal corpus to be observed by the international community.”

While Bildt also said that the treaty created a “strong norm against nuclear testing,” he said that entry into force was necessary to “close the door on nuclear testing once and for all” and ensure the “legal commitment and obligations” of the Treaty.