Conference concludes with strong expressions of support for the CTBT and urgent calls for its entry into force

The fifth Conference to promote the CTBT took place in the former imperial palace Hofburg in Vienna, Austria.

The fifth Conference to promote the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) concluded on 18 September 2007 with urgent calls to hold-out States to sign and ratify the Treaty.

Representatives of 106 States, including two non-signatory States, participated in the two-day Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT that took place in the former imperial palace Hofburg in the centre of Vienna, Austria. A total of 43 States addressed the Conference, including 33 State Ratifiers, nine State Signatories and the two non-signatory States, Pakistan and Barbados. Pakistan, which enjoys observer status, spoke for the first time since 1999 in this Conference.

In attendance were seven of the ten Annex 2 States, whose ratification is needed for entry into force of the CTBT but who have not yet ratified the Treaty. These States are China, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India and the United States of America were not represented.

The Conference gathered representatives from 106 States.

A strongly worded Final Declaration was adopted by consensus on the final day of the Conference with a clear political message in support of the Treaty. It described the ban on nuclear testing as an "effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects".

Ratifiers and Signatories expressed their concern that the Treaty had not entered into force eleven years after its opening for signature on 24 September 1996. Developments since the 2005 Conference "make entry into force of the Treaty more urgent today than ever before" , States said.

The Foreign Ministers of Austria and Costa Rica, Ursula Plassnik and Bruno Stagno Ugarte, presided jointly over the Conference.

States welcomed the significant progress that had been made by securing 15 ratifications and one signature in the two years since the last Conference in 2005. The Treaty had achieved near universal adherence with signatures of 177 States and ratifications by 140 of those States. This progress demonstrated "the strong determination of the vast majority of States not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion".

The aim of the Conference was to define ways and means to promote the Treaty. States agreed on eleven practical measures to accelerate the ratification process and bring the Treaty into force. They urged States to sustain the momentum generated at the Conference and said they encouraged bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives by interested countries to facilitate entry into force of the Treaty.

States also agreed that the Special Representative, Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, should continue his activities to promote the entry into force of the Treaty. In his address to the Conference, Ramaker said that, in the two years since the 2005 Conference, he visited or contacted most of those hold-out States that had not yet signed and/or ratified the Treaty. This included most of the outstanding ten so-called Annex 2 States, whose ratification was a prerequisite for the Treaty's entry into force. The Special Representative was first appointed in 2003 and had his appointment reconfirmed in 2005.

VERTIC organized a seminar on the margins of the Conference which attracted 120 participants.

The Foreign Ministers of Austria and Costa Rica, H.E. Dr. Ursula Plassnik and H.E. Bruno Stagno Ugarte, shared the presidency of the Conference. They jointly called on the United States to take up the leadership role in the CTBT ratification process. Minister Stagno Ugarte voiced optimism over recent developments in the US in relation to the Treaty. He referred to an article by well-known foreign and defense policy leaders of both the Republican and the Democratic Parties who advocated bipartisan support for the Treaty.

The fact that Austria and Costa Rica shared the Conference presidency symbolized a shared concern over weapons of mass destruction, Ministers Plassnik and Stagno Ugarte said. "The arguments around the CTBT are not a North-South or an East-West issue. There is really no geographic divide", Stagno Ugarte said.

Lilly Gundacker of the Women's Federation for World Peace International delivered the statement on behalf of 44 NGOs.

In the margins of the Conference, the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre - VERTIC - and the Arms Control Association (ACA) hosted a seminar on 18 September. The title, The CTBT: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities, reflected the topics addressed by the moderator and three well-known presenters from the NGO community and US academia. Over 120 persons were in attendance.

Andreas Persbo, VERTIC's nuclear law and policy researcher, highlighted a decade of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission's achievements. These included a substantial growth in staff, IMS stations and signatories/ratifiers of the Treaty over the past decade, as well as an impeccable IMS network performance in detecting and localizing North Korea's announced nuclear test in October 2006.

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association spoke on the "Prospects for CTBT Ratification by the United States", said that Treaty ratification was "within reach". Conditions conducive to US Senate approval of the CTBT should be created, including strong Presidential and bipartisan support for the Treaty and popular support from the US public. He said it was "vital that CTBT supporters put the Treaty back on the US political map … and move to secure ratification by other key States before it is too late".

Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, Special Representative to promote the Ratification Process of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, urged all Treaty advocates to "keep chipping away at the hold-out States", making particular mention of the ten outstanding Annex 2 States who had not ratified the Treaty. Asserting that the international norm was working, he said "we have to try to break the deadlock. Ratifying countries can help".

Professor Emeritus David Hafemeister of the California Polytechnic State University, USA, made an optimistic presentation on the CTBTO Preparatory Commission's "Decade of Achievements". Hafemeister pointed out the technical strengths of the verification regime, in particular its capability to detect and identify potential underground nuclear explosions of a low yield. He said that the CTBT was not only "really important" in the political sense, but that it was also "effectively verifiable".  

Close to 40 speakers addressed the Conference on its second day, including the two non-signatory States, Pakistan and Barbados, and the representative of the NGO community. Among the speakers on the second day were also representatives of three nuclear-weapon States, France, the Russian Federation and China.

H.E. Ambassador François-Xavier Deniau, representing France, reminded participants that the CTBT was the result of some 40 years of negotiations around the issue of nuclear disarmament. He said, "nothing justifies that this simple and powerful gesture in favour of nuclear non-proliferation should be postponed until tomorrow".

"We consider the CTBT as one of the key elements of the nuclear weapon non-proliferation regime and an important instrument for the maintenance of international security," said H.E. Alexander V. Zmeyevskiy, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation. He deplored that there was currently "no positive dynamism" with regard to its entry into force but confirmed that Russia would maintain its position of a voluntary nuclear-testing moratorium "as long as other Nuclear Weapons States do the same".

The State of Israel was represented by H.E. Dr. Itshak Lederman, who said that Israel considered the prohibition of nuclear testing as "pivotal to global nuclear non-proliferation regimes."

Pakistan, as an observer, had its statement delivered by its Permanent Representative, H.E. Ambassador Shahbaz, who said that "despite being a non-signatory State, we are not opposed to the objectives and purposes of the Treaty".

A total of 17 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had responded to the invitation to attend the Conference as observers. Lilly Gundacker of the Women's Federation for World Peace International addressed the Conference on behalf of 44 NGOs from around the world. She said that "the CTBT is important to all States" and "essential to the prevention of nuclear arms races … the protection of human health and the global environment from the devastating effects of nuclear weapons production and testing".

Addressing the US and China in particular, Gunacker said that "the world's patience is wearing thin with Signatory States that do not appear to be exerting good-faith efforts to ratify". On behalf of the international NGO community, she called on both countries to come forward and ratify the CTBT.

In closing with an emotional appeal, Gunacker reminded participants of the moral dimension of the CTBT. She told participating States that "your citizens and future generations depend on your wisdom and courage to protect them from the effects of the most dangerous weapons ever to curse humanity". She reiterated that "no Government should stand in the way of this indispensable step toward eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons and preventing nuclear war".