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GA/12356
8 September 2021
Seventy-fifth Session, 101st Meeting (AM)

Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s Potential Will Not Be Realized until It Enters into Force, Speakers Stress, as General Assembly Marks International Day

The General Assembly commemorated the International Day against Nuclear Tests today, with speakers praising the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as a landmark instrument, while warning that its potential will not be fully realized until it enters into force.

At the outset, Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), outgoing President of the General Assembly, noted that nuclear testing has declined but not stopped, with more than 2,000 nuclear tests conducted since the advent of nuclear disarmament.  Testing has long-lasting health consequences, displaces families and is catastrophic for the environment, he said.

Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, emphasized that the CTBT has the power to protect future generations, but cautioned that, while the Treaty is a powerful barrier to the development of nuclear weapons, its full potential will not be realized until it enters into force.  The eight States that have not yet joined it bear a special responsibility, but all States should commit to a legally binding prohibition, she stressed.

Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), echoed that point, noting that, since the CTBT’s opening for signature 25 years ago, there has been near-universal adherence to the norm against nuclear testing which the Treaty underpins.  However, the only way to place an enduring and verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing is through the Treaty’s entry into force and universalization, he emphasized.

Some speakers recalled the devastation caused by nuclear testing, with a former member of the Marshall Islands Student Association noting that her people endured 67 nuclear and thermonuclear tests conducted by the Government of the United States after the Second World War.  One of them was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and completely obliterated an entire land mass, as well as several islands, she said, adding that fallout burned the hair and skins of many children.  It also contaminated water and food sources, and people continue to be displaced from ancestral lands and to suffer from cancers and contaminated ecosystems.

Fiji’s delegate said the cost of nuclear testing has indeed been very high in the Pacific region, recalling that 300 tests were carried out there between 1946 and 1966, with a combined force of 11,000 Hiroshima bombs.  Relocated communities have yet to return and people have only restricted access to marine livelihoods, while continuing to suffer intergenerational health effects.  Moreover, radioactive waste buried underground has been exposed by rising sea levels, he added.

Mexico’s representative condemned any type of nuclear test anywhere in the world, including critical experiments and those conducted through simulations aimed at improving weapons of mass destruction.  Such experiments are contrary to the purpose of disarmament and non-proliferation and against the spirit of the CTBT, undermining its impact as an instrument of non-proliferation, he said.

Cuba’s representative expressed concern that the United States continues to lead the planet in the possession of nuclear weapons even after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and maintains a position with a narrow threshold for their use.  Cuba was the fifth State to ratify the CTBT in 2021 and is pleased to be part of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the most densely populated part of the world, he said, emphasizing that the only effective way to eradicate the devastating impact of nuclear weapons is to guarantee their non-existence.

Brazil’s representative, observing that the argument by some States that the CTBT’s adoption has led to the emergence of a de facto norm against nuclear testing, cautioned that the international community cannot rely on that de facto situation indefinitely.  There must be a legally binding obligation, she emphasized, calling upon all Annex II States to sign and ratify the CTBT without delay.

Ukraine’s delegate similarly said the voluntary moratorium is important but insufficient, as it will not replace the legally binding nature of the CTBT.

Iran’s representative agreed, stressing that the moratoria against testing are no substitute for a legally binding instrument.

Germany’s representative declared:  “The road to a world without nuclear weapons passes through a world without nuclear testing.”

Also speaking today were representatives of Gabon (on behalf of the African Group), Andorra (on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States), Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Libya (on behalf of the League of Arab States), Kazakhstan, Cuba, Ecuador, Nigeria, China, Indonesia and Austria.

Also addressing the Assembly was the representative of the European Union in its capacity as observer.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 9 September, to continue its work.

Opening Remarks

NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV (Kazakhstan) recalled that his country was the first to sign an order to shut down nuclear testing within its borders, thereby making it the author of the first legal prohibition of nuclear testing.  The ban eventually became global and paved the way for adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), he said.  Pointing out that Kazakhstan is a party to all nuclear‑weapon-related treaties, he said emphasized that it has been instrumental in establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia.  He went on to say that COVID-19 has brought awareness of how fragile the planet is, warning that, as long as nuclear weapons exist, there is no way to ensure they won’t be used.

VOLKAN BOZKIR (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, described the 29 August 1991 closure Kazakhstan’s Semipalatinsk Test Site as a landmark moment, pointing out, however, that nuclear testing has declined but not stopped, with more than 2,000 nuclear tests conducted since the advent of nuclear disarmament.  Testing has long-lasting health consequences, displaces families, and is catastrophic for the environment, he noted, emphasizing that the General Assembly has been committed to nuclear disarmament since its inception, and passed the first resolution addressing the issue.  The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and the Russian Federation was extended until 4 February 2026, he noted, while emphasizing:  “However, there is still much more to be done.”  Encouraging the resumption of postponed meetings, he pointed out that his time as President of the General Assembly ends in a few days, and called upon States that have yet to sign or ratify the CTBT to do so as soon as possible.

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, spoke on behalf of the Secretary-General, noting that more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted in eight States, causing catastrophic human suffering and environmental damage that will take decades to heal.  The Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty has the power to protect future generations, she emphasized, cautioning that, while the Treaty is a powerful barrier to the development of nuclear weapons, its full potential will not be realized until it enters into force.  The eight States that have not joined the Treaty bear a special responsibility, but all States should commit to a legally binding prohibition, she stressed.

ROBERT FLOYD, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), said the CTBT is a success story, even though it has yet to become legally binding.  Since its opening for signature 25 years ago, there has been near-universal adherence to the norm against nuclear testing which the Treaty underpins, he noted.  However, the only way to put an enduring and verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing in place is through the Treaty’s entry into force and universalization, he emphasized.  He went on to urge the international community to ensure that the world never again suffers the disastrous consequences of nuclear testing, reduce nuclear risks and prevent nuclear war, while building a safer and more secure world for future generations by taking concrete actions to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

VIVIAN OKEKE, representative of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), noted the use of nuclear science for peaceful purposes is the organization’s basic pillar.  She noted the Agency’s 60-year history of working towards that goal, especially for developing countries:  for energy, treating diseases, addressing climate change, irradiating foods and analysing water supplies.  “It is essential that nuclear technologies are used safely and securely,” with Member States sharing best practices and employing standards that IAEA has helped to develop, she emphasized.  IAEA is a global platform for strengthening nuclear security, including the prevention of nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists, she said, citing the February 2020 International Conference on Nuclear Security held in Vienna and the low-enriched uranium bank in Kazakhstan as some of the Agency’s efforts.  She went on to report that IAEA has also helped to address COVID-19 by launching action against zoonotic diseases to help countries better prepare for pandemics.  The Agency remains firmly committed to a world free of nuclear weapons and tests, she added.

SUE COLEMAN-HASELDINE, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Australia, recalled that she was two years old when winds brought radiation fallout from nuclear testing under way at Maralinga and Emu Fields to her community.  The contamination caused cancer, thyroid disease and birth defects across the country, she said, adding that the effects continue today.  She urged Australia and all other countries to join the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

DANITY LAUKON, former member, Marshall Islands Student Association, recalled that her people endured 67 nuclear and thermonuclear tests conducted by the Government of the United States after the Second World War, one of which, the Bravo Shot on 1 March 1954, was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and completely obliterated an entire land mass, as well as several islands.  Fallout burned the hair and skins of many children, and contaminated water and food sources, she said, adding that people continue to be displaced from ancestral lands and to suffer from cancers and contaminated ecosystems.  She also expressed concern about radioactive waste, now contained in the Runit Dome on Enewetak Atoll, leaking into the ocean and groundwater, noting the shared nuclear legacies of the neighbouring islands of French Polynesia and Kiribati.  She demanded that nuclear-armed States “right their wrongs and adopt nuclear justice” by demonstrating the utmost regard for those whose lives have been altered forever by nuclear testing.

Statements

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed support for the goals of the CTBT and emphasized that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee against their use.  Urging nuclear-weapon States to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as soon as possible, he expressed regret at the slow pace at which those States are dismantling their nuclear arsenals.  The African Group is committed to keeping the continent free of nuclear weapons, he affirmed.  Expressing regret that the ninth Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference was unable to agree on a final outcome document, he called upon all States to preserve the credibility and sustainability of that Treaty and urged the international community to consider the catastrophic consequences of testing on human health and the environment in all deliberations on nuclear weapons.

JOAN JOSEP LÓPEZ LAVADO (Andorra), speaking on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, emphasized the importance of education for peace, security and non-proliferation.  No stone must be left unturned in ending nuclear tests, as their effects cannot leave anyone indifferent, he said.  Condemning the six nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in contravention of Security Council resolutions, he said that State has an obligation to abandon its nuclear programme and complete peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), speaking on behalf of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), condemned any type of nuclear test anywhere in the world, including critical experiments and those conducted through simulations aimed at improving weapons of mass destruction.  Such experiments are contrary to the purpose of disarmament and non-proliferation and against the spirit of the CTBT, undermining its impact as an instrument of non-proliferation, he added.  He went on to welcome the signature and ratification of the CTBT by Comoros and Cuba in 2021 and urged States that have not yet ratified the Treaty to do so without delay.  The existence, threat of use and use of nuclear weapons constitutes a crime against humanity and is contrary to international law, he emphasized.

NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), expressed alarm about ongoing rivalries between global Powers, the modernization of nuclear arsenals and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.  She called for good faith and mutual understanding in advancing towards a world without nuclear tests or weapons, so that the CTBT’s entry into force may finally be realized.  Noting the dire consequences of the use of nuclear weapons on health and the environment, she called upon all States parties to the NPT, the cornerstone of disarmament efforts, to work for its implementation.  It is also crucial to preserve South-East Asia as a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, she emphasized.  The world remains at risk, she said, warning that, whereas nuclear weapons may enhance the sense of security of a few, they are harmful to the collective security of all.

SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, observed that, while the CTBT provides a pathway towards disarmament and non-proliferation, it has yet to enter into force, and as such, Fiji calls upon all States to sign and ratify the Treaty as soon as possible.  Emphasizing that the cost of nuclear testing has been very high in the Pacific region, he recalled that 300 tests were carried out there between 1946 and 1966, with a combined force of 11,000 Hiroshima bombs.  Communities that were relocated have yet to return, he pointed out, also citing people’s restricted access to marine livelihoods and continuing intergenerational health effects.  Moreover, radioactive waste buried underground has been exposed by rising sea levels, he noted, stressing that protecting the Pacific is essential to the planet in the fight against climate change.

SILVIO GONZATO, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the CTBT remains of vital importance to collective security.  Noting its twenty-fifth anniversary, he urged all States that must still sign or ratify the Treaty to bring it into force.  European Union member States did so years ago, he pointed out, welcoming the signing by Cuba and Comoros while noting that 170 States have ratified it.  He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take the path of denuclearization and engage in meaningful discussions with all relevant parties.  The CTBTO’s verification regime provided reliable data after that State’s recent tests, he said, but since that organization needs financing to carry out its functions, all concerned States should to honour their funding commitments.  The European Union has contributed €29.5 million since 2006, he added.

TAHER M. EL-SONNI (Libya), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, said all nuclear weapons must be eradicated in a verifiable and comprehensive fashion.  The threat of nuclear tests is existential, he added, affirming that the presence of nuclear weapons and failure to comply with pertinent treaties and international obligations constitute a direct threat to international peace and security.  He urged nuclear-weapon States to comply with relevant international obligations and contribute to efforts to address the effects of nuclear tests for which they were responsible.  He went on to state that, despite tensions in the Middle East, Arab States have demonstrated good faith, but the region stands as an example of the challenges faced by non-proliferation regimes, with Israel continuing to violate international resolutions pertaining to nuclear weapons.  He called upon that country to remove the risks posed by nuclear arsenals in the region and help create a zone free of nuclear weapons, in accordance with the NPT Review Conference.

MAGZHAN ILYASSOV (Kazakhstan) said today’s commemoration draws global attention to the urgent need to halt the proliferation of all nuclear weapons and tests.  He recalled that, 30 years ago, Kazakhstan was the first State to close its nuclear testing site at Semipalatinsk, the second largest in the world, and further gave up 110 ballistic missiles with more than 1,000 warheads.  It is important for the CTBT to enter into force in honour of the millions of victims of nuclear testing and atomic bombs, he emphasized.  Citing the fifteenth anniversary of the nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia, he noted that the TPNW entered into force in January 2021, opening a new reality that “makes nuclear weapons illegal”.  The plea for disarmament is compelling, he said, urging the international community to seek new horizons of progress and prosperity for all.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba), associating himself with CELAC, said the vast wealth that some States put towards strengthening nuclear capabilities should be spent on addressing the coronavirus.  Expressing concern that the United States continues to lead the planet in the possession of nuclear weapons even after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he said it also maintains a position with a narrow threshold for using such weapons.  Cuba was the fifth State to ratify the CTBT in 2021 and is pleased to be part of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the most densely populated part of the world, he said.  Emphasizing that his country remains firmly committed to nuclear disarmament and a ban on testing, he said the only effective way to eradicate the devastating impact of nuclear weapons is to guarantee their non-existence.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said “sinister” tests are used as preliminary steps towards the development and even use of nuclear weapons, which would have widespread effects on people and the planet.  Noting that 2,000 tests have been conducted since 1945, 1,054 of them by the United States, he said the international community must not tolerate Israel’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.  Nuclear disarmament must remain the top international priority, as the very survival of humankind depends on it, he emphasized.  However, moratoria against testing are no substitute for a legally binding instrument, he added, urging the international community to seize every opportunity to promote the lofty goal of disarmament.

GUENTER SAUTTER (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said the international community must remain mindful of the consequences of nuclear testing and compensate victims.  “The road to a world without nuclear weapons passes through a world without nuclear testing.”  Noting that the CBTB was opened 25 years ago, he said only the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has conducted nuclear testing since the beginning of the millennium.  He urged all countries to sign and ratify that Treaty without delay and emphasized that the role of civil society cannot be overestimated in seeking to understand the effects of nuclear testing on human life.

CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) said the best tribute to victims of nuclear testing is to guarantee the CTBT’s entry into force, urging States to sign or ratify the Treaty as soon as possible.  Until then, it is important to observe moratoria on all testing, he added, noting the Latin America and Caribbean was the first densely populated region to be declared a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  Tests cause grave damage to the environment and to people throughout world, he affirmed, adding that Ecuador will maintain its monitoring stations in the Galápagos Islands to bolster the international monitoring system.

PAULA AGUIAR BARBOZA (Brazil) observed that some States argue that the CTBT’s adoption has led to the emergence of a de facto norm against nuclear testing, a practice that has been met with widespread international condemnation.  However, the international community cannot rely on that de facto situation indefinitely, she cautioned, emphasizing that there must be a legally binding obligation and calling on all Annex II States to sign and ratify the CTBT without delay.  Nuclear tests have had detrimental effects on human health and the environment, and will affect generations to come, she said.

MUHAMMAD ZAYYANU BANDIYA (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, expressed regret that, after 25 years, the CTBT has yet to enter into force.  Nigeria ratified it in 2009, he pointed out, emphasizing that the continued existence of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to all humankind.  The development of such weapons is outrageous and inexcusable, he said, noting the slow pace of progress towards disarmament on the art of the nuclear-weapon States.  Stressing the importance of disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he said the total elimination of weapons should be the goal of all such processes.  The international community must seize the opportunity to sign and ratify the CTBT, as nuclear tests not only send a “tense signal” to the world, but also harm the environment, he added.

WU JIANJUN (China), observing that the global strategic landscape is undergoing big shifts, said all countries should stand firm in supporting the CTBT and the nuclear-weapon States must uphold the purposes of the Treaty.  Describing his country’s nuclear policy as the most consistent and predictable of all the nuclear‑weapon States, he emphasized China’s commitment to the “no first use” policy and the pledge not to use the threat of nuclear attack against non‑nuclear‑weapon States.  China has upheld the object and purpose of the CTBT, he said, reporting on its progress relating to International monitoring system stations in the country.

MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), associating himself with ASEAN, said every moment must be used to reject the prospect of nuclear annihilation.  There is no space for miscalculation in the face of myriad challenges, he emphasized, warning against the misuse of resources on the arms race.  Similarly, there is no justification for testing nuclear weapons, and the nuclear security umbrella States bear the same responsibility for promoting safety.  Anti-test efforts do not stop when testing stops since the after-effects must be addressed, he said, adding that it is essential to ensure the CTBT’s entry into force.

DANIEL ANDREAS ROETHLIN (Austria), associating himself with the European Union, warned that existing international nuclear agreements are being undermined as the proliferation of weapons increases.  Expressing concern that another year has passed without the CTBT’s entry into force, he called on remaining countries to sign or ratify the Treaty without delay.  Citing the growing international nuclear threat, he pointed out that weapons similar in size to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are now described as “smaller” and “more useable” than other nuclear weapons.  Nuclear weapons do not increase security, he said, underlining that only through mutual trust can security be realized.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said that, with more than 2,000 nuclear tests since 1945, the voluntary moratorium is important but insufficient, as it will not replace the legally binding nature of the CTBT.  Noting that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the only State to conduct nuclear tests in the twenty-first century, he called upon its Government to take steps towards complete and verifiable denuclearization, and to sign and ratify the CTBT.

For information media. Not an official record.