CTBT Public Policy Course: Verification through Diplomacy and Science

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo
Des Browne, Vice Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, former UK Defence Secretary, and member of the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM)

Vienna, 12 September 2014

The 2014 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Public Policy Course entitled “Verification through Diplomacy and Science” was held in Vienna from 1 to 9 September. The course was also available online and attracted over 500 participants from almost 100 countries. Participants included diplomats, representatives of governments and international organizations, National Data Centre analysts, station operators, researchers, journalists, students, and other members of civil society.


The course was part of the integrated capacity building approach of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and was made possible through financial support from the Kingdom of Norway, the European Union and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. Its main aim was to train and educate the next generation of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) experts by covering the policy and legal aspects of the CTBT, including its entry-into-force and universalization, as well as the CTBT verification technologies and the civil and scientific applications of monitoring data.

I work for the Meteorology Office and we have a National Data Centre that is provided by the CTBTO. We receive seismology data from three stations in the area: from Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil. On a daily basis we receive data and if there’s an event where we’d like more data, we send a request to the CTBTO and they send us additional data, with which we can analyse and determine the location of the event, such as earthquakes.Amierali Mohamed Firozali, Suriname

Public Policy course at a glance

Paul Richards, Professor Emeritus and Special Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
We need leadership: leadership from you, leadership from us, but also from the States that have signed the Treaty. Leadership to say it’s time to move forward and it’s time that the Treaty enters into force.CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo
Panel discussion on “Challenges of Achieving Entry into Force”

In his opening speech, Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo emphasized the significance of knowledge exchange between science and diplomacy and the importance of capacity building activities in developing countries to promote the Treaty's entry into force.


Des Browne, Vice Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, former UK  Defence Secretary and a member of the Group of Eminent Persons (GEM), and Paul Richards, Professor Emeritus and Special Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, delivered keynote speeches on “Verification through diplomacy and science”.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is a key piece for the global security architecture.Des Browne, Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative and former UK Defence Secretary and GEM member

Course highlights

Participants posed a number of questions during the panel discussion
Simulation exercise on the Executive Council. Representatives voting on whether an on-site inspection should be approved

One of the highlights was a panel discussion on “Challenges of Achieving Entry into Force”, comprising a number of high-level experts. The panel included Edward Levine, a member of the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation’s National Advisory Board who served with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Israel’s Ambassador Merav Zafary-Odiz; the Co-Chairs of the process to facilitate the CTBT’s entry into force: Hungary’s Ambassador Balázs Csuday and Indonesia’s Ambassador Rachmat Budiman; and Thomas Hushek, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Permanent Mission. Panellists reviewed the positions of their respective countries vis-a-vis the CTBT and outlined ways to achieve the Treaty’s entry into force.


Participants also received a comprehensive overview of the CTBT verification regime, which ensures that no nuclear explosion goes undetected. The lectures covered a wide array of topics including the evolution of seismic monitoring, technology foresight and the sustainability of the verification regime, case studies on monitoring nuclear testing, and the use of monitoring data for civil and scientific purposes. Participants also had the opportunity to observe CTBTO data analysts at work.

I came in with a very modest knowledge of the organization and the Treaty text. It’s very helpful for me to understand the process of how the data arrives at and is processed by the International Data Centre and to learn the procedure that will be undertaken by the Executive Council once the Treaty enters into force, this really gives me a good overview.Bill Wanderer, United States Department of Energy

CTBTO Executive Council simulation exercise

During the last two days of the course, participants were able to put their new knowledge into practice in a two-day simulation of the CTBTO’s future Executive Council in action. When the CTBT enters into force, this Council will respond to requests from Member States for an on-site inspection (OSI) of another State’s territory following a suspected nuclear explosion. The Executive Council will decide whether an OSI – the final verification measure under the CTBT - should proceed. In the simulation exercise, participants played the roles of representatives of the 51 States that will make up the Executive Council.

It was an amazing experience for all of us. I played the inspection leader, as the first time, I really enjoyed this experience and I learnt a lot. CTBTO is an active global institution for non-proliferation and for the nuclear test ban. Young leaders will go forward to ban all kinds of nuclear tests around the world.Mariama Madi, National Data Centre, Comoros