What's In Blue

Posted Thu 22 Sep 2016

Vote on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Draft Resolution

Tomorrow morning (23 September), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution proposed by the US on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The meeting will be presided over by New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully. A number of high-level officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, are expected to attend.
The treaty, which obligates each state party not to carry out any nuclear test explosion or any other nuclear explosion and to prohibit and prevent any such explosion at any place under its jurisdiction, opened for signature on 24 September 2006, but has yet to enter into force. While 183 states have signed and 166 have ratified it, eight of the 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries listed in Annex 2 to the treaty, whose ratification is required for it to enter into force, have yet to do so. They include Council members China, Egypt and the US, in addition to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan. All other Council members have both signed and ratified the treaty.

The Draft Resolution
The proposed draft, which is the first Council resolution specifically on the CTBT, stresses the “vital importance and urgency” of achieving the early entry into force of the treaty and urges all states that have either not signed or ratified it, particularly the eight Annex 2 countries referred to above, to do so without delay, while encouraging all state signatories to promote its universality and early entry into force. It calls on states not to conduct any nuclear-weapon test explosion and to maintain current national moratoria in this regard, while noting that such moratoria do not have the same legally binding effect as entry into force of the treaty. It also takes note of a 15 September joint P5 statement on the CTBT in which the P5 noted that a nuclear test explosion “would defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT”. (In the statement the P5 also expressed their commitment to nuclear disarmament and pledged to strive for the early entry into force of the CTBT, while reaffirming among other things their own moratoria on nuclear tests and calling on other states to do likewise.) Furthermore, the proposed text calls on all states to provide support to the CTBT Preparatory Commission to ensure completion of the treaty verification regime. (The Commission, created in 1996 and located in Vienna, is tasked with building up the verification regime in preparation for its entry into force and promoting its universality.)

It also encourages states hosting facilities that are part of the CTBT international monitoring system to transmit data to the international data centre created for this purpose. It welcomes voluntary information sharing by states, encourages the completion of monitoring facilities and invites the CTBT provisional technical secretariat to provide a report to all state signatories within 180 days of the adoption of the resolution on the status of assessed and voluntary contributions to the Commission.

Finally, the draft affirms that the entry into force of the CTBT will contribute to international peace and security by preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and contributing to nuclear disarmament; recognises that the monitoring elements of the CTBT verification regime contribute to regional stability as a significant confidence-building measure and strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime; and encourages the Preparatory Commission to share its expertise with the international community and provide capacity building.

When first presenting the idea of a Council resolution on the CTBT, the US explained that the aim would be to reinforce global support for the treaty and its verification system and “stigmatise those countries that continue to test and act in ways contrary to a de facto norm of international behavior”, while emphasising that the resolution would not create any new legal obligations. The initiative is widely seen as motivated by domestic US politics and a desire to strengthen US President Barack Obama’s nuclear non-proliferation legacy. While the US was among the first signatories of the treaty, the US Congress in 1999 voted against ratification and despite sustained efforts, the Obama administration has been unsuccessful in its attempts at re-engaging Congress.

Negotiations on the Draft Text
It appears that the initial reaction to the idea of a CTBT Council resolution among Council members was less than enthusiastic, and negotiations were difficult. A draft was first agreed among the P5, with the joint statement forming an integral part of the discussions, and was then shared with the elected members last week. On Tuesday (20 September), after two rounds of negotiations and bilateral consultations, the US put a final draft under silence until Wednesday at 1pm. Silence was broken, however, by Egypt supported by Senegal and Venezuela. Following bilateral consultations, the US then circulated a revised text this morning, which was put in blue for adoption tomorrow.

Among the P5, it seems that from the outset concerns were raised about the appropriateness of the Council adopting a resolution on the CTBT, and a presidential statement was suggested as an alternative. Also, the initial P5 draft contained a reference to Chapter VII and included an obligatory reporting provision requiring states responsible for monitoring facilities to provide a report to the Secretary-General within 60 days of the adoption of the resolution, and requiring states signatories to similarly report about financial and other support provided to the Preparatory Commission. In addition, the provision requested the Secretary-General to provide a report to the Council within 180 days of the adoption of the resolution. These elements were deleted due to opposition from China and Russia, which argued among other things that creating this type of reporting requirement risked undermining the Preparatory Commission and went beyond the Council’s mandate.

As negotiations moved to the full Council, there were significant reservations on the part of members who have traditionally held strong views on nuclear disarmament and have been critical of the nuclear weapon states for not fulfilling their obligations under the NPT, most notably from Egypt and New Zealand, who are in the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) in the General Assembly’s First Committee. NAC, which also comprises Brazil, Ireland, Mexico and South Africa, sponsors an annual resolution in the First Committee titled “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments”, which is normally adopted with several abstentions, including China, and with the other P5 voting against. The current Council composition also includes several members of the Non-Aligned Movement which has been consistently critical of the P5’s lack of compliance with their nuclear disarmament obligations, namely Angola, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela, in addition to Egypt.

It seems that during the negotiations several proposals were made by Egypt, New Zealand and Senegal to strengthen references to the NPT and nuclear disarmament. In the preambular part, agreed but controversial language from resolution 1887, adopted at a high-level Council meeting in September 2009, referring to the Council’s resolve to “create the conditions” for a world without nuclear weapons, was taken out and replaced with a simple reaffirmation of the Council’s commitment to the NPT. (Resolution 1887 focused on the NPT and non-proliferation more broadly.) A new preambular paragraph was added that underlines the importance of the NPT in relation to nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It seems, however, that a proposal made by Japan to include a reference to the role played by the CTBT monitoring system in detecting the five nuclear tests conducted by the DPRK did not make it into the final draft, due to opposition from China.

In the end, it seems that the main sticking point was the reference in the draft to the P5 Joint CTBT statement. Several elected Council members were uncomfortable with the inclusion of the reference for various reasons, but mainly due to objections over the statement’s description of nuclear stockpile maintenance as being consistent with NPT and CTBT objectives, which they dispute. They therefore asked for the reference to be deleted. For the P5, however, this was non-negotiable. While most elected members now seem prepared to support the draft even with the reference retained, a few appear still to have serious reservations. After silence was broken yesterday by Egypt, Senegal and Venezuela, efforts to find a compromise resulted in the inclusion of language recalling statements made by each of the P5 in which they give security assurances against the use of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear-weapon state parties as noted by resolution 984.

At press time, it was unclear whether this revision would be enough to secure the support of all Council members. Despite the reservations expressed by several members during the negotiations, the US initiative is seen as an honest attempt at creating new momentum towards the entry into force of the CTBT, reinforcing the existing moratoria and enhancing support for the provisional CTBT organisational and monitoring structures. It is viewed as significant that the resolution will be the first ever stand-alone decision on the CTBT, highlighting in particular the reference to the P5 statement that any nuclear test explosion will be against the object and purpose of the CTBT. This is considered important in the context of the UN Convention on the Law of Treaties which stipulates that pending entry into force treaty signatories “are obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty.”

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