Lamenting the fact that nearly two decades after its negotiation the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has still not entered into force, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 29 September 2015 urged world leaders gathered at the United Nations to demonstrate the necessary political will to usher in a nuclear-weapon-free world.
“A breakthrough is long overdue,” Ban said at a conference on facilitating the entry into force of the CTBT, held on the margins of the General Assembly’s high-level debate.*
“I welcome all the Treaty’s steadfast supporters here. I am also pleased to see representatives from States that have not yet either signed or ratified the Treaty. I count on you to do so quickly.”
Adopted by the General Assembly in September 1996, the CTBT now has 164 State parties. For the Treaty to enter into force, ratification is required from the so-called Annex 2 States.
Of these, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States have yet to ratify it.
To the eight remaining Annex 2 States, Ban said: “You have a special responsibility. You must not wait for others to act before ratifying.”
Noting that more than 20 States not listed in Annex 2 have either not signed or ratified the Treaty, he called on them to take this step as soon as possible.
“We need every person in this room to show leadership on the urgent international imperative of ending nuclear tests,” said the Secretary-General. (*Source: UN).
The Existential Threat of Nuclear Testing
On 10 September 2015, top United Nations officials highlighted the existential threat posed by nuclear testing, and called for all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the international treaty that seeks to achieve a ban on such testing.**
“I have witnessed the lasting societal, environmental and economic damage nuclear tests have caused,” he told the gathering. “Since the first test in New Mexico 70 years ago, the world has endured over 2,000 nuclear tests. Those tests devastated pristine environments and local populations around the world.
“Many have never recovered from the legacies of nuclear testing – including poisoned groundwater, cancer, birth defects and radioactive fallout,” Ban continued. “Today let us also send a strong signal that the international community stands united to take action that will lead us to a safer and more secure world – a world free of nuclear weapons.”
The Secretary-General said that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted in 1996, was an essential building block for achieving this goal as a legally-binding, verifiable means by which to constrain the quantitative and qualitative development of nuclear weapons.
Stressing that the Treaty must enter into force in order to be truly effective, Mr. Ban called on all remaining States to sign and ratify the instrument, including China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States.
The importance of the CTBT was also highlighted by the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, who underscored the need for a world free of nuclear testing.
“Nuclear tests and weapons constitute an existential threat to humanity and contradict some of the fundamental principles of the United Nations,” he said.
“In its current session, the General Assembly reiterated its firm commitment to the Treaty,” said Mr. Kutesa. “I would like to use this occasion to stress the importance and urgency of realizing the CTBT’s entry into force without further delay.”
The Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Kim Won-soo, emphasized the need to universalize the norm against nuclear testing.
“It is true that we live in an increasingly complex security environment,” said Kim. “Yet we cannot allow the security environment to prevent us from making progress on nuclear disarmament. We should remember the lessons of the Cold War when arms control agreements provided valuable lessons to reduce strategic tension.
“We cannot delay in taking the path to nuclear disarmament,” he continued. “We must act with urgency to reach our goal of zero nuclear weapons. And we must do so with a sense of compromise and our common responsibility to rid the world of these devastating weapons.” (**Source: UN).
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