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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 13, February - March 1997

CTBT Moves to Vienna
by Rebecca Johnson

The resumed Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), chaired by Ambassador Jacob Selebi of South Africa, concluded its meeting in Geneva, 3-11 March, by agreeing the budget and establishment of the CTBTO, to be headed by Wolfgang Hoffmann of Germany. After the difficulties and disappointments of New York in November 1996, Hoffmann was clearly relieved that the PrepCom passed off so successfully this time. Preparing to leave Geneva, where he has been Disarmament Ambassador since 1993, Hoffmann said that the PrepCom had 'done everything it should do, with nothing left open.'

The successful decisions followed weeks of intensive behind-the-scenes consultations to resolve the problems over structure, staffing and budget that had prevented agreement four months earlier. In New York the decisions on how the CTBTO should be structured became tangled with different States' bids for their personnel to be appointed to key positions in the new hierarchy. Some countries, including Iran and France, retained serious reservations about the way in which the CTBTO was to be constituted, but in the end Selebi managed to forge agreement, enabling work to begin. After much debate, a budget of $28 million was agreed for the first nine months. This will enable the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) to be established at the Vienna International Centre (VIC). The budget is also intended to cover the initial setting up costs for the international monitoring system (IMS) and the international data centre (IDC). However, some of the scientists most closely involved with the verification regime have expressed concern that cuts in investment earmarked for the seismic network could have an adverse effect on the ability of the verification regime to be fully operational by September 1998, as planned.

Hoffmann, who also chaired the Nuclear Test Ban Committee's working group on Verification during the CTBT negotiations in 1994, was appointed Executive Secretary of the PTS. He will sign the Host Country Agreement with Austria on 18 March and take up his new post in Vienna immediately. The directors of the five divisions were agreed as follows:

Administration: William B Davitte (USA)

Legal and External Relations: Masabumi Sato (Japan)

On-site Inspections: Vladimir Kryuchenkov (Russian Federation)

Verification - International Monitoring System: Gerardo Suarez (Mexico)

Verification - International Data Centre: Rashad M Kebeasy (Egypt)

The Administration Division will cover general services, finance, personnel, conference services and procurement. In addition to legal services and external relations, the Legal and External Relations Division will cover public information and international cooperation. The OSI Division will have to be responsible for developing the procedures and equipment for geophysical and radionuclide inspections, drilling, transport, overflights and training. The IDC Division will cover monitoring, scientific methods and data fusion, communications and infrastructure, and training in IDC-related technology and interpretation. The IMS Division will also cover training and the setting up of seismic, hydroacoustic, radionuclide and infrasound monitoring stations as specified in the treaty. In addition to the office of the Executive Secretary, monitoring of progress towards establishing the CTBTO will be overseen by teams responsible for internal auditing and evaluation of the verification regime.

Two working groups were also convened, comprising representatives from countries which have signed the treaty. As of 1 March, 142 countries had signed, including the P-5 nuclear-weapon States (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) and Israel. Of the 44 countries whose ratification is required by article XIV before the Treaty can enter into force, only three have not signed: India, Pakistan and North Korea. In view of India's stated objections to the CTBT, which it had blocked in the CD, a large number of delegates in November queried the urgency of setting up the verification regime, reflecting doubt that the entry into force conditions would be met any time soon. This sentiment was less in evidence in Geneva in March (or at least further below the surface), as CTBT signatories looked forward to moving the test ban treaty out of Geneva and setting up the new organisation in Vienna.

The two working groups are Working Group A on Budgetary and Administrative Matters, chaired by Tibor Toth of Hungary and Working Group B on Verification, chaired by Ola Dahlman of Sweden. Dr Dahlman was formerly the Chair of the Group of Scientific Experts (GSE) which studied seismic verification under the auspices of the CD's NTB Committee, culminating in the third technical test of a provisional worldwide seismic network, known as GSETT-3. According to preliminary assessments, the IMS primary seismic network, some of which is based on GSETT-3, is 64 percent complete, with the auxiliary seismic network covering 32 percent of the stations identified in the CTBT verification protocol. However, there is still a long way to go on the other three technologies which comprise the IMS: the hydroacoustic network is estimated to be 27 percent in place; the radionuclide network about 15 percent complete; but only 2 percent of the proposed infrasound network is set up. Fourteen countries earmarked to host stations in the IMS have not yet signed the treaty. In June 1996, at the height of the battle over the CTBT's entry into force, India withdrew its three stations, which appeared as 'to be determined' in the adopted treaty text. It is understood that there have not yet been any discussion of the implications of this and other gaps due to any country's failure to sign.

It will be the task of Working Group B during 1997 to develop technical specifications, requirements, policies, guidelines, procedures and documentation (including manuals and training) relating to inspections, as well as the IMS, IDC and communications. Working Group A, chaired by Tibor Toth, focused on a programme of work for the rest of 1997, according to which it will prioritise the development of staffing and financial regulations, rules of procedure for the CTBTO and the 1998 draft budget. Smaller expert groups may also be convened to work out details on particular issues.

With these historic decisions, Geneva has now waved farewell to the 'the longest sought, hardest fought prize in arms control history'. The CTBT goes to Vienna, with the hope that all the work and resources put into setting up the verification regime will be justified by its timely implementation and entry into force. However, with India adamantly opposed, and Pakistan waiting on India's decision, the prospect does not look very optimistic. Resolving their altercation over the intended meaning of the term 'anniversary' in the text, signatories have agreed that the entry-into-force conference described in article XIV may be held after September 1999. However, with understandings in the negotiating record that this conference will not be empowered to waive the entry into force conditions nor impose sanctions on any hold-outs, there is considerable cynicism that this 'handwringing conference' will be able to bring the treaty into effect if the political will remains lacking. All in all, the best hope for the CTBT's entry into force is irreversible nuclear arms reduction, further progress on nuclear disarmament, and greater regional security and confidence building in South Asia.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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