Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging all Member States that have not yet done so to ratify the United Nations-backed treaty banning nuclear tests, saying it is important to build on the momentum made on disarmament and non-proliferation over the past year.
In a message marking the first-ever International Day against Nuclear Tests, which is observed on Sunday, Mr. Ban stressed that “a world free of nuclear weapons is achievable,” adding that there had been important progress in 2010.
“The successful conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference invigorated the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime,” he said. “Bold initiatives by world leaders and civil society are showing the way toward changed policies and reduced arsenals.”
The Secretary-General said he was looking forward “working with partners to rein in spending on nuclear programmes and rid the world of the nuclear threat. A central pillar of this strategy is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).”
Of the 182 countries that have signed the treaty, 153 have ratified it. Nine more countries – China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States – must still ratify it before the pact can enter into force. Indonesia announced on 3 May that it had initiated the CTBT ratification process.
The International Day against Nuclear Tests was established by the General Assembly in January to enhance “public awareness and education about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”
The Day was proposed by Kazakhstan – which shut down the notorious test site in Semipalatinsk on 29 August 1991 – and the “idea won unanimous support, reflecting the international community's deep concern about the dangers posed by such tests,” Mr. Ban’s message stated.
In his message to mark the Day, General Assembly President Ali Treki noted that this year’s celebration serves as an opportunity for promoting educational activities and public awareness about the harmful and long-lasting effects of nuclear tests.
It is also high time, he added, for the international community to firmly embrace the idea of expanding the nuclear-weapons-free zones worldwide, including in the Middle East, as well as renew the commitment to achieve the ultimate goal of a world free of these weapons.
Annika Thunborg, a spokesperson for the organization set up to help implement the test ban treaty (CTBTO), said the Day has a vital awareness-raising benefit on the need for non-proliferation and disarmament.
Those issues represent a top priority of Mr. Ban, and he put forward a five-point plan in 2008 that includes recommendations on increasing security, verification, establishing a legal framework for nuclear disarmament, transparency and conventional weapons.
Beyond a global observation of the Day, seminars, awareness-raising events and commemoration ceremonies are being held this week at UN Headquarters in New York; Vienna; Astana, Kazakhstan; and other locations worldwide.
Mr. Ban sent a message yesterday to a high-level conference on the Day that is being held in Astana, noting that with “Kazakhstan having banished nuclear weapons and joined in creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia, Semipalatinsk has become a powerful symbol of hope.”
Traditionally, there are three types of nuclear tests: underground tests, atmospheric tests and underwater tests. With each possessing a tremendous potential for destruction, the CTBT bans them all.
To monitor the detonation of nuclear devices, the CTBTO has created a worldwide monitoring system that uses seismographs, infrasound, hydro-auditory and radionuclide detection technologies. The International Monitoring System (IMS) has 337 installations worldwide.
Despite the de facto moratorium on nuclear testing since the enactment of the CTBT, there have been six nuclear tests since 1996 – two each by India, Pakistan, and the DPRK.