6 October 1999


6 October 1999

Press Release



Following is the text of an address by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), delivered this morning in Vienna:

I am very pleased to join you for a conference which holds historic promise for global peace and security. There are few treaties with so immediate a gain, so universal an appeal, and so lasting a utility as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. This is a treaty whose time has come.

The adoption of the CTBT by the General Assembly in September 1996 was a bold act that realized a long-standing objective of the international community. The Treaty's opening for signature on 24 September 1996 crowned more than 40 years of negotiations aimed at bringing an end to nuclear test explosions in all environments.

The Treaty's conclusion marked a milestone in the history of efforts in favour of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. By signing the Treaty in 1996, States showed their determination to put an end to over 50 years of nuclear testing -- a period that witnessed over 2000 nuclear test explosions. The Treaty, it was hoped, would make the world a safer place for generations to come.

Today, more than ever, we recognize that the CTBT will contribute to international peace and security in unmistakable ways. It creates an international norm prohibiting all nuclear test explosions, for military, civilian or any other purpose. It will make a significant contribution towards the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It will give new impetus to the process of nuclear disarmament, with the ultimate aim of eliminating nuclear weapons. And it will establish a global system to monitor and verify compliance with the Treaty.

None of this, however, will come to pass until the international community brings the Treaty into force and adopts it universally. Words of support and statements of intention are simply not enough. What gives me confidence is that the CTBT has made slow, but sure progress. During the three years since its opening for signature, the number of States that have signed the Treaty has grown to an impressive number of 154.

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Today, 46 States have ratified the Treaty. It is important to note that about half of the States whose ratification is required for the Treaty to enter into force have done so.

This Conference will provide you with an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to the Treaty's obligations and undertakings. It should facilitate broad agreement on what further measures could be taken to promote its early entry into force.

I am greatly encouraged by the amount of work that has already been done by the Preparatory Commission for the future Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization since the Treaty's opening for signature. Since its establishment in November 1996, the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO has undertaken the necessary preparations for the effective implementation of the CTBT, and prepared for the first Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Treaty.

At a time when Member States are debating the most effective, most lasting ways to combat war and protect human rights, we remain at a dangerous crossroads between progressive disarmament and a revival of the arms race.

Further delay of the Treaty's entry into force not only postpones much needed progress. It also increases the risk that nuclear testing could resume. Indeed, it may even mean forfeiting a unique opportunity to advance further towards nuclear disarmament.

It is therefore essential that those States which have signed the Treaty observe the undertakings they have given, and that those States which have not yet signed the Treaty at least observe a moratorium on nuclear tests pending their signature and the Treaty's entry into force. This Treaty is too important for international stability and for the security of States to be further delayed by the failure of some States to become parties. I urgently appeal to all States to take the necessary steps to allow the Treaty to fulfil its promise. By doing so, they can foster a climate that will promote further advances in nuclear disarmament in the years ahead.

This is a moment of choice for every State which has committed itself to a world free from the nuclear arms race, but has yet to turn those words into deeds. The developments of the past year should leave no one in doubt that entry into force and implementation of the treaty is of critical importance. They should therefore give this Conference an even stronger sense of the urgency of its task.

Thank you.

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For information media. Not an official record.