Go to Home Page
  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, NGO Statement 5, 1999

NGO Statement 5

Thank you Mr. Chairman and delegates for affording the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the opportunity to communicate their views and recommendations. We wish you success in your efforts at this important gathering.

Printer Friendly


It is my task to convey to you the views of NGOs on a matter that is central to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the fulfillment of obligations made in New York in 1995 -- the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The CTBT limits the development of nuclear weapons by all states and is thus vital to the security of all nations.

One year ago this week, India and Pakistan's nuclear tests sent tremors around the globe. Those tests reminded the international community of the continuing risks of nuclear weapons and nuclear war, and the necessity of achieving concrete progress toward nuclear restraint -- particularly the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Fortunately, the nuclear tests in South Asia were short-lived. Additional rounds of testing did not follow. Key to this restraint was the strong condemnation of the tests from the international community and the promises by both nations to refrain from further nuclear tests.

Now, on the nuclear testing front at least, the two nations are moving in the right direction. In statements here in New York at the United Nations last September, Prime Ministers of both nations said they would not impede the treaty's entry into force by September of 1999, when a special conference of CTBT states parties will be convened to expedite the treaty's entry into force. The government of India has since changed. Living up to the promise of its predecessor will be a true test of the new Indian government's commitment to disarmament.

The situation could still spiral out of control if India and Pakistan do not chose the path of restraint embodied by the CTBT. This important norm has been greatly enhanced by the fact that 152 nations have signed the Treaty and 33 have ratified.

The CTBT has a special place here in the NPT review process. You will recall that a central outcome of the 1995 NPT extension conference was a commitment to conclude negotiations on the CTBT by 1996, a commitment that was kept. But the task of realizing the full benefits of the CTBT is not yet complete and it requires your urgent attention and action. Many hope that the CTBT will enter into force--or at least be well on its way--before the fall 1999 CTBT Special Conference or the 2000 NPT review conference, one year from now.

Unfortunately, the prospects for entry into force of the CTBT in the next 12 months are not good. Of the 44 states whose ratifications are required for entry into force, only 17 have done so, and the key nations that should be leading the charge--the United States, Russia and China--have not yet ratified.

You all have no doubt heard about the obstructionist role being played in the United States by the chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, and the Republican Majority Leader, Trent Lott. But make no mistake, it is incumbent upon President Clinton to take this issue to the Senate and the American public--which overwhelmingly supports the test ban treaty--in order to prompt Senate approval for ratification. However, he has not yet done so.

So we respectfully suggest to you, delegates of non-ratifying nations, do not wait for the United States to take the lead. Move ahead to ratify this important treaty with the goal of safeguarding your own national security and the purpose of isolating those that have not ratified.

We would also like to remind you of the fact that there will be an extremely important event this fall that can help make it clear who has ratified and who has not and to help expedite CTBT entry into force -- the upcoming Article XIV Special Conference on CTBT entry into force.

The powers of the special conference are intentionally vague but potentially far-reaching. If a state wishes to have a voting voice in the outcome of the Special Conference, it must ratify the Treaty. For the special conference to succeed in facilitating the CTBT's entry into force, it must be a large convocation of political leaders, non-governmental organizations and the media.

Two venues are being considered for the Special Conference -- Vienna and New York. Vienna is the home of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, the treaty's implementing body. New York is where the CTBT was opened for signature. We believe the first conference must focus on political and not technical implementation. A high-profile Special Conference in New York would be most suitable for this function.

The cherished goal of CTBT entry into force can be achieved by the 2000 NPT review--but only if treaty supporters convene a special conference under circumstances that are likely to accelerate ratifications. We respectfully ask each of your governments and the NPT Prep Com as a whole to express support for a Ministerial-level Special Conference on CTBT entry into force this fall. A group of NGOs have recently released a report on the CTBT entry into force conference to help provide information and ideas on the subject.

The global norm against testing is enhanced by the mere existence of the CTBT. But without entry into force the verification regime cannot be fully activated, and the deterrent effect of the Treaty will not be fully felt. This increases the possibility that a "seismic event" of unknown origin will go unresolved, that suspicions will rise, that nations will break out of the Treaty on the assumption--mistaken or not--that an adversary has cheated.

In this context it is all the more important that the nuclear weapon states refrain from activities that could be confused with underground nuclear tests. "Stockpile Stewardship" activities, such as "subcritical experiments" conducted by the U.S. and Russia, have already led to accusations of cheating. Discontinuing such experiments at the test sites and closing these sites--as France did--would be very helpful. At the least, all weapons states must conduct nuclear weapons research with the utmost transparency to avoid the appearance of violating the treaty.

The CTBT is too important to global security to be cheated out of its rightful entry into force. States that have not done so must stand up and be counted and ratify this treaty. Do not wait for the United States. In fact, isolating the US is the best way to get our obstructionist Senate to take notice.

We respectfully urge this body and individual member nations to reiterate their commitment to the CTBT and take the actions necessary to ensure early entry into force. Thank you.

CONVENOR: Tom Z. Collina
Union of Concerned Scientists
1616 P. St. NW, Suite 310 Washington, DC 20036, USA
Tel 1.202.332.0900; fax 1.202.332.0905; tcollina@ucsusa.org