The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) contains a special mechanism to promote its entry into force: a conference designed to facilitate this objective, which takes place every other year.
While its official designation is the Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the CTBT, it is more commonly known as the “Article XIV Conference” in accordance with the relevant article of the CTBT. Twelve such conferences have taken place every alternate year since 1999 in Vienna, Austria, and New York, United States.
As the depository of the CTBT, the United Nations Secretary-General convenes the Article XIV conferences. While attendance is open, decision-making is limited to Signatory States that have ratified the CTBT. Signatory States, non-signatory States, intergovernmental organizations, specialized agencies, and non-governmental organizations are invited to attend and speak as observers, and also to sign the final declaration.
What happens at the Article XIV Conferences?
The participating States typically negotiate and issue a joint statement urging States that have not yet signed or ratified the Treaty to do so as soon as possible. The significant worldwide support for the CTBT is reflected in the fact that the Article XIV conferences have always succeeded in adopting final documents, while many other international fora in this field have failed over the past decade.
A particular focus is traditionally put on the so-called Annex 2 States, whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force. These were defined as countries that participated in the CTBT’s negotiations and had reached a “nuclear capable” status, i.e. were in possession of nuclear power or research reactors by 1996, the final year of the negotiations. The Treaty identifies 44 of these countries in Annex 2.
Since then, the number of Annex 2 States that have yet to ratify the CTBT has been reduced to eight: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. India, Pakistan, and the DPRK are the only Annex 2 countries not to have signed the CTBT (see interactive map).
Commitment at the highest political level
The success of these conferences is reflected in the fact that nearly every country in the world has now signed the CTBT, of which the vast majority have also ratified. Ratifying States commit themselves to promoting the Treaty at the highest political level and through all available bilateral and multilateral channels.
Delegations also determine concrete measures to accelerate the entry into force and universalization process. Measures adopted at past conferences have included urging States with nuclear weapon research programmes to refrain from developing new types of nuclear devices and to cease activities at former test sites that could raise suspicion. Participants have also developed plans to work with governments, businesses, and other groups in order to promote more decisive reactions to any future explosive nuclear tests.
Article XIV conferences also offer the CTBTO an opportunity to inform participating delegations on the work of the verification regime.