General Assembly High-level Plenary Meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day against Nuclear Tests

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08-Sep-2021 03:02:08
Nuclear-test-ban treaty’s potential will not be realized until it enters into force, speakers stress, as General Assembly marks international day.

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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.
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