Project News

US Abstains on CTBT at UNGA First Committee

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The United States appeared to walk back its support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the 2017 UN General Assembly First Committee, which discusses disarmament issues. The United States abstained on an annual resolution expressing support for the CTBT, which it had voted for last year, although U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood explained to Arms Control Today that it had only done so because it the United States is undertaking a review of international treaties.

Final NDAA Restricts CTBTO Funding

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre and Daryl G. Kimball

The final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law includes an amendment restricting the U.S. contribution for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), except for funds related to the International Monitoring System.

The amendment was originally penned into the House version of the bill. Although it was absent from the Senate version, it was ultimately incorporated into the conferenced version of the bill as section 1279E. The House passed this compromise NDAA on Nov. 14, and the Senate followed suit on Nov. 16. Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

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.

North Korea's Sixth Nuclear Test

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, which some experts assessed to be a test of a hydrogen bomb, on September 3rd. At a magnitude of 6.1, according to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, the test was North Korea’s most powerful to date.

The Nuclear Ban Treaty and the CTBT

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ (TPNW) includes a provision prohibiting nuclear testing but some questions have emerged about the relationship of the new treaty to the CTBT.

While some claim that prohibiting nuclear testing in the TPNW would strengthen the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by further reinforcing the global moratorium on nuclear testing, others argue that it could undermine the CTBT by creating inconsistencies in between the two treaties.

Amendment on CTBTO Funding Undermines Global Test Ban

An amendment to “restrict” all funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization—except for the International Monitoring System—was introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, based on Feb. 7 legislation introduced by Wilson and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

Also in the amendment is a declaration by Congress that UN Security Council Resolution 2310 passed Sept. 15, 2016 does not “obligate...nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT, which could undermine the U.S. obligation—as a signatory to the treaty—not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

This legislation is in spite of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s joint statement with other G7 foreign ministers this April which noted in part that all nations “should maintain all existing voluntary moratoria” on all nuclear test explosions, and “recalls” UN Security Council Resolution 2310 as an important contribution to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament

The CTBTO 2017 Science and Technology Conference: Day 5

Brenna Gautam is a CTBTO Youth Group Member who will be working with the Project to post brief daily updates about the on-goings at the conference as it relates to the CTBTO Youth Group, civil society, and capacity building. She is a student at Georgetown Law School. Shervin Taheran is the program and policy associate at the Arms Control Association.

Day 5: Friday, June 30, 2017

The final day of the 2017 Science and Technology conference began with a discussion of how the CTBT can be advanced through “science diplomacy.” In addition to more traditional confidence building measures such as information sharing and research collaboration between government scientists, panelists proposed the establishment of summer schools and scholarship programs in the nonproliferation field and applauded the increased role of the CTBTO youth group at scientific conferences.

Although the conversation focused on the actions of scientific communities, panelists noted that there needs to be political will and vibrant civil society engagement to fully reap the benefits of science diplomacy. Later, scientists discussed how to use the International Monitoring System and other monitoring technologies to foster global development by affecting realms such as climate change and disaster risk reduction.

The CTBTO 2017 Science and Technology Conference: Day 4

Brenna Gautam is a CTBTO Youth Group Member who will be working with the Project to post brief daily updates about the on-goings at the conference as it relates to the CTBTO Youth Group, civil society, and capacity building. She is a student at Georgetown Law School. Shervin Taheran is a program and policy associate at the Arms Control Association.

Day 4: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Day 4 of the conference began to focus on the intersection between science and policy, and the importance of translating complicated science into simplified language for diplomats and policymakers. Jonathan Forman, senior advisor to the scientific advisory board of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (OPCW), took the stage to share advice of how the OPCW tries to convey the science behind the convention to lawmakers, using tools such as using wasabi to metaphorically show the effects of tear gas and how it makes the eyes water, to going back to old-fashioned molecule models to explain stereochemical configurations.

"Disarmament requires scientist-policymaker collaboration," Forman noted. As scientists tend to think in terms of technical insight and analytical thinking, and policymakers tend to think of the broader global communication, it is particularly important that these groups retain good communication between them, he said.