2017 Article XIV Conference

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

At the 10th Article XIV Conference aimed at moving the CTBT towards entry into force, the United States and several other “Annex II” states that need to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force remained silent. China and Egypt were the only Annex II states to speak during the conference. At the 9th conference, the United States had voiced support for the treaty.

The United States is one of eight countries that must ratify the treaty before it can enter into force. The others are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan. Of the eight, India, North Korea, and Pakistan have not taken the first step of signing the treaty.

Other state representatives and senior officials expressed support for the agreement at the September 20 conference.

“The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization responded immediately and effectively to the nuclear tests conducted by the the DPRK in 2016 and 2017: it demonstrated the verification regime’s ability to provide independent and reliable data. These data play an important role in deterring non-compliance with the Treaty and developing appropriate responses. This is an important contribution to regional and international stability: it helps to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and is essential for verifiable nuclear disarmament. The CTBTO has provided the world with a truly global hi-tech monitoring system for nuclear explosions - something that no single country alone would be able to do. Nonetheless, the absence of the CTBT’s entry into force prevents the use of on-site inspections, an important verification tool,” claimed EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. 

“A CTBT that is in force would be a milestone on the road to a world free of nuclear weapons. It has the potential to prevent a nuclear arms race and an escalation of regional and bilateral tensions...I applaud the CTBT Preparatory Commission for raising awareness about the dangers associated with testing and for its partnership with the United Nations,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the start of the conference. 

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jafari co-chaired the conference.

“Belgium has supported the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty since its signature and welcomes the near universal end of nuclear testing… The ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is essential in order to establish a definite ban on nuclear testing, verified by an international organization. Without the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the risk that new or more powerful nuclear weapons will be developed remains greater. Only a world without nuclear testing can lead to a world without nuclear weapons. The meeting today is just one initiative to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Over the next two years, Belgium and Iraq wants to roll out a comprehensive action plan. Through targeted initiatives, the two countries will encourage countries to accede to the treaty. Iraq and Belgium does not want to just appeal to policymakers, but to civil society and the youth. The status quo is not acceptable. Given the current security context and North Korea's nuclear tests, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has only gained more importance,” Reynders told the conference. 

In a September 16 joint editorial, the two co-chairs and CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo highlighted the importance of the accord. “In the face of the current political deadlock, the track record of the CTBT is clear: since the Treaty opened for signature only three countries have conducted nuclear test explosions, and only the DPRK has detonated a nuclear device this century. As a legal instrument, even before entering into force, the CTBT has reinforced an international norm against nuclear testing to the extent that any violation is now met with universal condemnation.”

Kathy Crandall Robinson, interim director of Women’s Action for New Directions, delivered a statement to the conference on behalf of more than 40 civil society leaders.

“It is essential that the incoming co-chairs of the Article XIV process Belgium and Iraq—in coordination with the previous co-chairs Japan and Kazakhstan, other key CTBT states-parties, and civil society—develop a pragmatic, effective, and dynamic action plan to advance prospects for ratification and entry into force. That plan must also be designed to ensure that the financial and technical support for the CTBTO remains steady and strong so as to maintain the capacity to verify compliance with the treaty pending its entry into force. Concrete action on ratification of the CTBT by the remaining hold-out states would strengthen international and regional security, advance the goals and objectives outlined by Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and advance the interests of the eight states listed in Annex 2 that must still ratify to trigger the treaty’s entry into force.” 

The final declaration of the conference praised the treaty and urged its entry into force. However, it notably left out reference to UN Security Council Resolution 2310 which reaffirmed the international moratorium on nuclear weapon testing. In response to the omission, Mogherini stated: "We welcome the positive developments since the 2015 Article XIV conference . . . the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2310, which reaffirms the vital importance and urgency of achieving prompt entry into force of the treaty and its universalization. The European Union would have preferred to see a direct reference to this resolution in the final declaration."