MEDIA ADVISORY: 2013 "Arms Control Person of the Year" and Runners-Up

2013 "Arms Control Person of the Year" Is CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo:
Receives Highest Number of Votes in Online Poll

For immediate release: January 13, 2014

Press contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x 107

(Washington, D.C.) The executive secretary of the Provisional Technical Secretariat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, garnered the highest number of votes in an online poll to determine the "2013 Arms Control Person of the Year." Nine other individuals were nominated by the staff of the Arms Control Association for their significant achievements and contributions to reducing the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons in the past year.

Dr. Zerbo, who became the executive secretary of the CTBTO in 2013, was recognized for helping to persuade China to provide data from its International Monitoring System stations to the International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna and for providing real-time data regarding North Korea's third nuclear test explosion. Zerbo is a geophysicist by training and hails from Burkina Faso. He served from 2004-2013 as the Director of the IDC.

In early 2013, the CTBTO's dense network of global seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide monitoring stations detected North Korea's third nuclear weapon test explosion. Fifty-four days after the test explosion, the radionuclide monitoring system detected tell-tale noble gas emissions from the explosion, helping to confirm that is was a nuclear (not a chemical) explosion. Such capabilities not only help detect, but they also deter illicit nuclear testing by the 183 states parties to the CTBT.

In mid-2013, Zerbo visited China, which, along with the United States, has signed by not ratified the CTBT. Unlike the United States and the vast majority of state signatories, China was not transmitting data from its International Monitoring System stations. Following Zerbo's meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in August and a training for Chinese station personnel in September, China agreed to begin sending the data.

As of Jan. 6, 2014, China's IMS stations are now sending data to the IDC in Vienna. Zerbo has also urged Iran--which has signed but not ratified the CTBT--follow the lead of China and other responsible CTBT states parties and begin sending data from its IMS monitoring sites to the IDC in Vienna.

Over the course of Zerbo's tenure with the CTBTO, its capabilities have improved considerably. See the recent front page article by Joby Warrick, "Surveillance network built to spot secret nuclear tests yields surprise scientific boon," in The Washington Post from January 1, 2014.

Shortly following his appointment to be the CTBTO executive secretary, Zerbo established a prestigious, new "Group of Eminent Persons" to "ensure an innovative and focused approach to advance the CTBT's ratification," which still requires the approval of the treaty by eight more hold out states.

"Dr. Zerbo and his team at the CTBTO have built up and successfully demonstrated the considerable capabilities of the International Monitoring System and the International Data Centre, and have established the technical basis for entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions and is an essential element to a comprehensive global nonproliferation and disarmament strategy," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of ACA.

The runner-up in the vote for the 2013 arms control persons of the year were EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for leading their respective diplomatic teams to reach the November 24 framework agreement and first-phase confidence-building steps that open the way for negotiations on a comprehensive final-phase agreement to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Ashton, who coordinated the joint diplomacy of the P5+1 group (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and her Iranian counterparts announced yesterday, January 13, that the two sides reached agreement on the sequencing and technical implementation of the Nov. 24 deal, which will formally begin on Jan. 20. Implementation of the first phase agreement opens the way for the more challenging negotiations on a comprehensive final phase agreement.

Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons program and her team were voted second runner-up for their work to verify the accuracy of Syria's declaration of its arsenal and oversee the destruction of its weaponization and production equipment and the removal of the remaining bulk and precursor chemical agents from Syria for verified neutralization outside of Syria.

Last week, the OPCW-UN team, including support from Denmark, Norway, Russia, China, and the United States, began removing priority one chemical material from the Syrian Port of Latakia, which will later be  transferred to the U.S. ship, MV Cape Ray, which will neutralize the material

The online poll was open between Dec. 17, 2012 to Jan. 7, 2013. The list of all 2013 nominees is available online.


Past winners of the "Arms Control Person of the Year" are: Gen. James Cartwright (2012); reporter and activist Kathi Lynn Austin (2011); Kazakhstan's Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and Thomas D'Agostino, U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator (2010); Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) (2009 ); Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his ministry's Director-General for Security Policy and the High North Steffen Kongstad (2008); and U.S. Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) (2007).

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.