Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
New York, 10 September 1996
  •  Introductory Note 
  •  Procedural History 
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By Thomas Graham, Jr.
Former General Counsel and Acting Director of the
United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Non-Proliferation, and Disarmament
(1994 through 1997)

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More than sixty years ago, the beautiful city of Hiroshima, Japan, was devastated by the explosion of an atomic bomb. The bomb released the explosive equivalent of 12,500 tons of Trinitrotoluene (TNT) and killed, outright, or over time by radiation poisoning, nearly 75 per cent of the population of that city. Three days later similar devastation was brought to the city of Nagasaki, Japan, and a few days after that the Second World War, the bloodiest and most destructive in the history of humanity, came to an end.

Many thought then, and in subsequent years, that the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the harbingers of the future and that nuclear weapons were destined to spread around the world and be part of future wars, threatening the survival of humanity. These views were reinforced by the commencement in a few years of a vast nuclear arms race with both the United States and the Soviet Union rapidly developing the capability to destroy the earth many times over.

President John F. Kennedy was one of those who feared that nuclear weapons would inherit the earth. There were predictions during his Administration that, by the end of the 1970s there could be 15 to 20 nuclear weapon States in the world, with nuclear weapons fully integrated into their national arsenals. If this had happened, likely there would be twice or more than that many today. In 2004, for example, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, asserted that there were more than 40 States in the world that currently could build nuclear weapons if they so chose. Such a development would have placed the world community in a situation where every conflict would have run the risk of going nuclear and it would have been very difficult to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorist organizations, they would have been so widespread. Such an international security situation would have been created as to make today’s time of troubles seem like paradise by comparison.

But such nuclear weapon proliferation did not happen; President Kennedy’s darkest fears were not realized. The principal reason that this did not happen was the entry into force of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970 along with the related extended deterrence polices of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The NPT essentially drew the line where the world was in 1970; it recognized five existing nuclear weapon States: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union (Russian Federation) and China and provided that the rest of the world would agree not to acquire nuclear weapons. And most of the world did agree to that. There are 183 NPT non-nuclear weapon States at present (April 2009). But the NPT did not come as a free gift to the five nuclear weapon States from the rest of the world; rather it is a strategic arrangement founded on a central bargain. That bargain was, and is, non-proliferation in exchange for the sharing of peaceful technology and nuclear disarmament. Nuclear disarmament was perceived by the non-nuclear States as the five nuclear weapon States over the long term agreeing to negotiate away their nuclear arsenals so that ultimately all States would receive equal treatment under the NPT. Since it was recognized that this would take a very long time, the non-nuclear weapon States pressed the nuclear weapon States to agree to interim measures, first and foremost a comprehensive nuclear weapon test-ban treaty, a CTBT. The test ban was included in the preamble of the NPT. NPT Review Conferences several times over the years failed because of disagreement over this issue. The non-nuclear weapon States’ view was, and again, is, that if we are going to give up nuclear weapons, at least the five nuclear weapon States could agree to stop testing their weapons.

And in fact the very first disarmament issue of the nuclear era that was discussed was the effort to halt nuclear explosive testing. As early as 1954, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proposed a “standstill agreement” on nuclear testing. This disarmament effort began in earnest in 1955 just a year after an incident in which a United States thermonuclear device produced a much larger than expected yield and, as a result, Japanese fishermen aboard the fishing vessel Lucky Dragon were struck by fallout outside the area of the central Pacific cordoned off for testing by the United States Government. Fallout from a Soviet test fell on Japan the same year, and later concerns began to be expressed about the byproducts of nuclear explosions entering the food chain – most notably high levels of strontium 90 in milk. During the 1956 United States Presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson suggested a moratorium on nuclear testing. Stevenson’s proposal was denounced during the campaign. In 1957, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a two-year suspension of testing with an inspection system to ensure compliance with such an undertaking. The Soviet Union rejected the conditions and instead announced a unilateral moratorium on testing.

President Eisenhower responded to the Soviet moratorium by proposing a meeting of technical experts to discuss issues related to verifying a test ban. The Conference of Experts met in July and August 1958; it included scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania. On August 21, the Conference issued a report indicating that adherence to a comprehensive test ban treaty could be verified with a network of some 160 to 170 land-based monitoring stations. The following day, President Eisenhower proposed a one-year testing moratorium, and in the fall trilateral test ban negotiations began among the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. While progress was made on numerous issues in the negotiations, concerns about verification emerged.

In 1960, France conducted its first nuclear test in the Sahara Desert, and in 1961 the Soviet Union broke the moratorium begun in 1958 with the largest nuclear explosion of all times (approximately 58 megatons). The United States responded with a vigorous test series. In January 1962, the trilateral negotiations were indefinitely adjourned, and in April 1962 the United States resumed atmospheric testing.

Thereafter, there was a renewed effort to move toward a test ban, with verification and inspection issues remaining the principal stumbling blocks. The United States wanted on-site inspections and unmanned seismic stations on Soviet territory. The Soviets accepted both in principle, but the two sides could not agree on the numbers; at the closest point of the negotiation, the United States wanted the right to seven inspections per year and the Soviets would only agree to three. The same was true for remote sensors – the principle was agreed upon, the numbers were not.

In order to bypass the stalemate and at the same time address the environmental issues associated with atmospheric nuclear testing, President John F. Kennedy, in a June 1963 commencement address at the American University, proposed a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, under water and in outer space. The Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), which was negotiated in ten days in July 1963 and entered into force in October 1963, resolved the most prominent environmental issues, but – except for the United States/Soviet Threshold Test Ban Treaty and Peaceful Nuclear Explosion Treaty in 1974 and 1976, respectively (which established a 150 kiloton limit on nuclear explosions) – it led to more than twenty-five years of inaction on a comprehensive test ban. Ironically, the LTBT eased much of the public pressure to end testing, and with underground tests still allowed, a considerable increase in the number of tests followed.

If the United States and the Soviet Union were inactive on the test ban, however, the rest of the world was not. In the late 1960s the NPT was negotiated based on the aforementioned central bargain. From the beginning, the non-nuclear weapon States viewed the CTBT as the litmus test in judging whether nuclear weapon States were upholding their end of the bargain. For twenty years after the NPT entered into force in 1970, as stated, most of the NPT Review Conferences – held every five years – essentially failed over the issue of the United States and Soviet commitment to completing a CTBT.

But then there began to be movement. In 1990 Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced a Soviet nuclear test moratorium, which was continued by the Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. President Francois Mitterand of France – apparently to the surprise of his military – announced a French moratorium in 1992. In the fall of that year the United States Congress passed the Hatfield-Mitchell-Exon legislation, which called upon the United States to pursue a CTBT and provided for the immediate commencement of a nine-month testing moratorium. The Hatfield-Mitchell-Exon legislation had the effect of forcing the Clinton Administration to make key decisions relating to a CTBT in the spring of 1993.

Accordingly, after a long struggle within the United States Government, on 3 July 1993, President Bill Clinton announced that, looking toward a CTBT, he was continuing the moratorium in the legislation until September 1994 (renewable each year thereafter until a CTBT was achieved). Negotiations began in early 1994 in the Conference on Disarmament, but for a long time progress was slow. Gradually a draft treaty began to take shape. Progress in this regard was significantly aided by a United States decision in January 1995 to extend its testing moratorium and drop its proposal for a right to withdraw from the treaty in ten years after its entry into force, and by an August 1995 decision to support a true zero-yield test ban.

In April/May 1995, the NPT parties came together for the long awaited Review and Extension Conference. In 1968, when the NPT was signed, most of the negotiating parties intended to give the NPT permanent status as was, and is, the custom with multilateral arms control treaties. However, three States objected; Sweden, Germany and Italy, who did not want to forswear nuclear weapons forever because they were uncertain as to whether the NPT would in fact be effective and because they were concerned about the commercial impact of its safeguard system. The compromise reached gave the NPT a twenty-five year life and then on a one-time basis, a decision by majority vote of the parties in a conference as to the length of the remaining life of the treaty – without reference to national legislatures. Thus, in 1995, to secure for the world community the permanent protection of the NPT, it was crucial to achieve a majority at the Conference for an indefinite NPT extension. After a great effort by many countries this was achieved (indeed the NPT was extended indefinitely by a consensus decision), but the principal political price paid for this landmark achievement was the agreement by all the parties to conclude a CTBT in one year – by the end of 1996.

In January 1996, CTBT talks in Geneva were again stalled, this time by an Indian proposal to include a provision in the treaty that the nuclear weapon States agree to a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament and by a Chinese proposal to allow peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) for such things as civil engineering projects. While India’s condition would not be included in the treaty, and India would later refuse to support the agreement, China dropped its demand that PNEs be allowed in June 1996.

For many years, indeed throughout the long history of negotiations toward a CTBT, verification of compliance had been a separate issue. Over time, a broad consensus, based on considerable work by scientific personnel, developed in Geneva on a technical basis as to the means required to provide effective verification for a CTBT. This included improvements to and expansion of the worldwide seismic network, as well as radionuclide, hydroacoustic, and infrasound monitoring. All these systems were agreed to be incorporated into a vast international monitoring system established under the treaty. The primary system would consist of 50 seismic stations worldwide to monitor underground events (earthquakes and explosions) and 120 auxiliary stations, 80 radionuclide laboratories to monitor radioactive particles associated with a nuclear explosion, 11 hydroacoustic stations to listen for explosions under water, and 60 infrasound stations to monitor sound waves in the atmosphere. The data produced by these facilities flow continuously into an international data center, which is part of the technical secretariat of the CTBT Organization (CTBTO), located in Vienna, Austria. The data are stored, analyzed, and disseminated as appropriate and will be used to address compliance concerns, including decisions on requests for on-site inspections. Importantly, the treaty provides for the right of the States parties to use national technical means (e.g., information from United States satellite monitoring – as well as potentially from other States) for verification, particularly to evaluate on-site inspection requests (which after a long negotiation it was agreed would be authorized by an affirmative vote by at least thirty of the fifty-one technical secretariat members).

One of the most significant challenges to completing the negotiations came in July 1996 in the form of a confrontation with India over article XIV, which establishes the conditions under which the CTBT would enter into force. Essentially, China and the Russian Federation, supported by the United Kingdom, took the position that the three threshold States (India, Pakistan and Israel), particularly India, had to be necessary parties for the CTBT to enter into force. Most notably, the Chinese made it very clear that they would not undertake a legal commitment to stop testing unless India did the same. Accordingly, to avoid singling out India, Pakistan and Israel in the final draft text, Ambassador Jaap Raamaker of the Netherlands, the 1996 Chair of the Conference on Disarmament ad hoc committee for the negotiations, fashioned an entry into force article that made all States that were members of the Conference on Disarmament and that had nuclear facilities on their territory (forty-four, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) necessary parties to entry into force of the CTBT. In addition there would be a conference on entry into force three years after the treaty was opened for signature – and as necessary every year thereafter – to discuss ways of facilitating entry into force. At Chinese insistence, the conference was to have no power to bring the CTBT into force or to make changes to the entry into force requirements, just to discuss how to do it.

By August 1996, most outstanding issues had been resolved (except India agreeing to article XIV). The Indians announced that they would break consensus and block the treaty from being sent to the United Nations to be opened for signature, as was the Conference on Disarmament practice. After several procedural steps, India did just that: it blocked the ad hoc committee from submitting its report to the Conference on Disarmament plenary, and it blocked the forwarding of the completed draft treaty to the United Nations without the report. Clearly, it had become necessary to bypass the Conference on Disarmament and introduce the CTBT into the United Nations General Assembly in New York directly. The United States approached the traditional troika group (Mexico, New Zealand and Australia) that each year for some time had introduced a resolution in the General Assembly calling for a CTBT, to introduce a resolution approving the opening for signature of the attached draft of a CTBT (the Conference on Disarmament draft). Only Australia was willing to take the step introducing such a resolution. The resolution was introduced and after floor debate, it passed by a vote of 158 to 3: India, Bhutan and Iraq voted no and Cuba, Lebanon, Syria, Mauritius and Tanzania abstained.

The treaty was opened for signature on 24 September 1996. The United States was the first to sign, and eventually 179 other nations followed suit. As of April 2009, there were 148 ratifications, including the United Kingdom, France, the Russian Federation and Japan, but only thirty-five of the required forty-four had ratified. Several of the nine remaining States, such as China, Israel, and perhaps India, were waiting for the United States, but the United States Senate rejected ratification of the CTBT in October 1999 and the treaty still languishes in the Senate.

Article I of the CTBT sets forth its basic obligations. A party is not to carry out any nuclear test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, is to prohibit any such explosion at any place under its jurisdiction and control, and is to refrain from causing or participating in the carrying out of any other nuclear explosion. This language is based on the LTBT, but does not specify the four environments (i.e., atmosphere, outer space, under water and underground) set forth in the LTBT. To avoid argument over possible loopholes, the ban on nuclear explosives is universal. The phrase “any other nuclear explosion” is included to make it clear that the ban extends to so-called peaceful nuclear explosions, which explosions the Chinese advocated exempting during the negotiations and are similar to what the Soviets had advocated during the Threshold Test Ban Treaty negotiations of the 1970s.

Article II establishes the CTBTO to ensure the implementation of the treaty and to provide a forum for consultation and cooperation among States parties.

Article IV and the Verification Protocol establish the extensive verification regime to ensure compliance with the basic obligations as described above. The regime is designed to monitor seismic and other events and to detect nuclear explosions anywhere in the world in order to deter possible efforts to evade the ban on testing. The verification regime consists of the International Monitoring System, with global seismological, radionuclide, hydroacoustic, and infrasound sensor networks; on-site inspection, consultation and clarification provisions; and confidence-building measures involving voluntary data exchanges. The treaty allows the States parties to use information gathered through national technical means for verification and as the basis for on-site inspection requests.

The treaty may be amended with the approval of a simple majority of the States parties, but with no State party casting a negative vote (article VII). The treaty will be subject to review by all States parties ten years after entry into force (and may be reviewed every ten years thereafter per article VIII). The treaty is of unlimited duration, although each State party has the right to withdraw from the treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the treaty’s subject matter have jeopardized its “supreme interests” (article IX).

If the CTBT enters into force it will have a profound impact on the international security treaty structure. As said, the CTBT is the single most important element of the obligations of the NPT nuclear weapon States undertaken pursuant to article VI of the NPT. It is the barometer by which the non-nuclear weapon NPT parties judge the health of the NPT basic bargain and the underlying viability of the Treaty. The entry into force of the CTBT will rejuvenate the NPT and make the world a safer place.

Beyond this, a CTBT in force will mean it will no longer be possible to develop new types of sophisticated nuclear weapons and with the strength of the worldwide International Monitoring System behind it will make it impossible for additional States to acquire nuclear weapons except those of the crudest type, too heavy and unwieldy to be mated with a missile system. An operating CTBT regime will be a step toward the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide.


Related Materials

A. Legal Instruments

Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water (Limited Test Ban Treaty), Moscow, 5 August 1963, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 480, p. 43.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, London, Moscow and Washington, 1 July 1968, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 729, p. 161.

Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, Moscow, 3 July 1974, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1714, p.  123.

Treaty between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Underground Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes, Washington, Moscow, 28 May 1976, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1714, p. 387.

B. Documents

Decision 2 of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament (NPT/CONF.1995/32 (Part I), annex).

Decision 3 of the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT/CONF.1995/32 (Part I), annex).

Letter dated 22 August 1996 from the Permanent Representative of Belgium addressed to the President of the Conference transmitting the text of a draft comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty (CD/1427).

Letter dated 22 August 1996 from the Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations addressed to the President of the General Assembly (A/50/1024).

Letter dated 22 August 1996 from the Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (A/50/1027) (containing the draft text of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty).

General Assembly resolution 50/245 of 10 September 1996 (Comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty).


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At its sixth session, the General Assembly adopted resolution 502 (VI) of 11 January 1952 by which it established, under the authority of the Security Council, a Disarmament Commission and directed it to prepare proposals to be embodied in a draft treaty (or treaties) for the regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces and armaments, for the elimination of all major weapons adaptable to mass destruction, and for effective international control of nuclear energy to ensure the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. At the 1954 session of the Disarmament Commission, India submitted a letter to the Commission on the topic of suspension of experimental explosions of nuclear weapons which requested that the Sub-Committee of the Disarmament Commission (established by General Assembly resolution 715 (VIII) of 28 November 1953) consider a “standstill agreement” to suspend experimental explosions (DC/44 and Corr.1). At the ninth session of the General Assembly, India submitted, as revised, a draft resolution to this effect to the First Committee (A/C.1/L.100/Rev.1).

At the same session, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/2729), and having considered the report of the Disarmament Commission (DC/53 and DC/55), the General Assembly adopted resolution 808B (IX) of 4 November 1954 by which it accordingly referred the Indian proposal to the Disarmament Commission for appropriate consideration. At the tenth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/3090), the Assembly adopted resolution 914 (X) of 16 December 1955 by which it suggested inter alia that the Sub-Committee take account of India’s proposal regarding the suspension of experimental explosions of nuclear weapons.

At the 1957 session of the Disarmament Commission, the Soviet Union submitted a proposal to the Sub-Committee which recommended that the discontinuance of nuclear tests should be considered independently of any other disarmament measures (DC/SC.1/49).  At the same session, the Soviet Union submitted another proposal which recommended an immediate cessation of all nuclear weapons tests for a period of two or three years and proposed the establishment of an international monitoring body for that purpose (DC/SC.1/60). By letter to the Secretary-General dated 20 September 1957, the Soviet Union accordingly requested that the item entitled “Discontinuance under international control of atomic and hydrogen weapons” be placed on the agenda of the twelfth session of the General Assembly (A/3674 and Rev.1).

At the twelfth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/3729), the Assembly adopted resolution 1148 (XII) of 14 November 1957 by which it urged that the States concerned, and particularly those which were members of the Sub-Committee, give priority to reaching a disarmament agreement which would inter alia provide for the immediate suspension of testing of nuclear weapons with prompt installation of effective international control. By the same resolution, the General Assembly requested the Disarmament Commission to invite its Sub-Committee to establish a group of technical experts to study inspection systems for disarmament measures on which the Committee may reach agreement.

In 1958, by an exchange of letters between the Soviet Union and the United States, a Conference of Experts to Study the Possibility of Detecting Violations of Possible Agreement on the Suspension of Nuclear Tests was convened in Geneva from 1 July to 21 August of the same year to study the feasibility of detecting violations of a possible agreement on the suspension of nuclear tests (A/3897 and Corr.1).  Following a positive conclusion of the expert conference, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States subsequently agreed to commence negotiations at Geneva on 31 October 1958 to achieve an agreement on a nuclear test discontinuance treaty under effective international control.

At the thirteenth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/3974), the Assembly adopted resolution 1252B (XIII) of 4 November 1958 by which, having welcomed the report of the conference of experts and the decision of States to meet in a conference at Geneva concerning the question of nuclear weapons tests, it requested the parties concerned to report to the General Assembly the agreement that may be the result of their negotiations.

In 1962, an Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 1722 (XVI) of 20 December 1961) was convened in Geneva, and the Committee decided that the question of a treaty on the suspension of nuclear tests, which previously had been considered by the Conference on Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapon Tests, should hereinafter be discussed in a Sub-Committee on a Treaty for the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapon Tests established for this purpose and composed of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States (see Report of the Committee, A/5200).  At the seventeenth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/5303), the Assembly adopted resolution 1767 (XVII) of 21 November 1962 by which, taking note of the reports of the Committee, it requested the Committee to report periodically to the General Assembly on its work.

From 12 February to 1 September 1963, the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee resumed its discussions on the question of a comprehensive nuclear weapon test ban treaty. As a result of these discussions, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water (see Report of the Committee, A/5408). At the eighteenth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/5771/Add.1), the Assembly adopted resolution 1910 (XVIII) of 27 November 1963 by which, noting with approval the entry into force of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, it requested the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee to continue with a sense of urgency its negotiations with the aim of achieving agreement on the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons. From 1964 to 1979, the Committee accordingly continued its consideration of the matter under the auspices of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament without, however, achieving general agreement on the text of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (see Reports of the Committee, A/5731; A/5986; A/6390; A/6951; A/7189; A/7741; A/8059; A/8457; A/8818; A/9141; A/9627; A/10027; A/31/27; A/32/27; A/33/27; A/34/27).

At the thirty-fifth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/35/688), the Assembly adopted resolution 35/145A of 12 December 1980 under an item of its agenda entitled “Cessation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons” by which, reaffirming its conviction that a treaty to achieve the prohibition of all nuclear test explosions was a matter of the highest priority, it urged all States members of the Committee on Disarmament to support the creation of the Committee, at its 1981 session, of an Ad Hoc Working Group on a Nuclear-Test Ban which should begin the multilateral negotiation of a treaty for the prohibition of all nuclear weapon tests.

At the 1981 session of the Committee on Disarmament, States were unable to reach agreement on the establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group.  At the thirty-sixth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/36/744), the Assembly accordingly adopted resolutions 36/84 and 36/85 of 9 December 1981 by which it urged that the Ad Hoc Working Group be established at the 1982 session of the Committee on Disarmament in order that the Committee may transmit the multilaterally negotiated text of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty to the General Assembly at its second special session devoted to disarmament to be held from 7 June to 9 July 1982.

At its 1982 session, the Committee on Disarmament established the Ad Hoc Working Group on a Nuclear-Test Ban to facilitate the multilateral negotiation process and requested it to start with discussing and defining issues relating to verification and compliance for a future draft treaty on a comprehensive prohibition of nuclear-weapon tests. However, no general agreement was reached on the text of a draft treaty on the matter in time for the twelfth special session of the General Assembly (see Report of the Committee, A/37/27). At the thirty-seventh session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/37/654), the Assembly adopted resolutions 37/72 and 37/73 of 9 December 1982 by which, deploring that neither the Committee on Disarmament nor the General Assembly at its twelfth special session was able to elaborate a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, it again urged all States members of the Committee to assign to the Ad Hoc Working Group a mandate which should provide for the multilateral negotiation of a treaty on the matter.

At the 1983 session of the Committee on Disarmament, the Ad Hoc Working Group met to continue its consideration of a future comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty and also discussed a possible revision of the mandate of the Working Group. However, no agreement was reached as to whether a new mandate would result in a more expeditious negotiating process of the treaty (see Report of the Committee, A/38/27).  At the thirty-eighth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/38/622), the Assembly adopted resolutions 38/62, 38/63 and 38/72 of 15 December 1983. By these resolutions, the General Assembly deplored again that the Committee (henceforth designated as the Conference on Disarmament) had been unable to initiate multilateral negotiations and noted that the Conference had already received a number of proposals on the matter, including a complete draft for the eventual text of the treaty as a whole. By the same resolutions, noting further that the Committee on Disarmament had agreed that the mandate of the Ad Hoc Working Group may be revised as decided by the Committee, the General Assembly requested the Conference on Disarmament to resume its negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban, taking into account all existing drafts and proposals and future initiatives, and for that purpose to take up the question of a revised negotiating mandate for the Ad Hoc Working Group. At its 1984 to 1992 sessions, negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty continued under the auspices of the Disarmament Conference, albeit without reaching agreement on a new mandate for the Ad Hoc Working Group (see Reports of the Conference, A/39/27; A/40/27; A/41/27; A/42/27; A/43/27; A/44/27; A/45/27; A/46/27; A/47/27).

At its 1993 session, the Conference on Disarmament established the Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban with a mandate to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty and requested its Chairman to conduct intersessional consultations on a new negotiating mandate (see Report of the Conference, A/48/27). At the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/48/671), the Assembly adopted resolution 48/70 of 16 December 1993 by which, welcoming the decision taken by the Conference to mandate the Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate a comprehensive test-ban treaty and calling on participants in the Conference to approach the intersessional consultations in a constructive manner, it urged the Conference, at its 1994 session, to re-establish, with an appropriate negotiating mandate, the Ad Hoc Committee.

At its 1994 session, the Conference on Disarmament re-established the Ad Hoc Committee, setting up two working groups, on verification and institutional issues respectively. Following intensive negotiations, the Ad Hoc Committee reached agreement on a rolling text which covered all aspects of a future treaty. The Ad Hoc Committee accordingly recommended to the Conference on Disarmament that the rolling text be used as a basis for further discussion and the Conference adopted this proposal (see Report of the Conference, A/49/27). At the forty-ninth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/49/694), the Assembly adopted resolution 49/70 of 15 December 1994 by which, welcoming the preparation of a rolling text in the Ad Hoc Committee, it called upon the Conference to advance work on the basis of the rolling text during the intersessional period and, at its 1995 session, to re-establish the Ad Hoc Committee with a view to proceeding to a new phase of the negotiation process.

At its 1995 session, the Conference on Disarmament re-established the Ad Hoc Committee. As a result of its discussions, the Ad Hoc Committee introduced a revised version of the rolling text which was approved by the Conference (see Report of the Conference, A/50/27). At the fiftieth session of the General Assembly, following the recommendation of its First Committee (A/50/585 and Corr.1), the Assembly adopted resolution  50/65 of 12 December 1995 by which, welcoming the further elaboration of the rolling text in the Ad Hoc Committee, it called upon the Conference to advance work on the basis of the revised rolling text during the intersessional period and, at its 1996 session, to re-establish the Ad Hoc Committee with a view to proceeding to a final phase of the negotiation process.

At its 1996 session, the Conference on Disarmament again re-established the Ad Hoc Committee which continued the negotiation process on the basis of the revised rolling text. On 28 March 1996, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee submitted a working paper entitled “Outline of a draft comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty”, and later proposed, as revised, a complete draft text of the treaty to the Ad Hoc Committee (see Report of the Conference, A/51/27). On 22 August 1996, although the draft treaty was not transmitted by the Ad Hoc Committee to the Conference on Disarmament, it was nonetheless submitted to the Conference by Belgium (CD/1427). On the same day, Australia requested by letter to the President of the General Assembly (A/50/1024) that the Assembly resume consideration of the question of a comprehensive nuclear test-ban-treaty pursuant to General Assembly resolution 50/65, and for this purpose, submitted a letter to the Secretary-General attaching a document entitled “Draft comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty” which was based on the Belgian proposal (A/50/1027).

At the fiftieth session of the General Assembly, following a debate in the plenary (A/50/PV.123-125) and the introduction of a joint draft resolution sponsored by 128 Member States entitled “Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty” (A/50/L.78), the Assembly adopted resolution 50/245 of 10 September 1996 by a vote of 158 to 3, with 5 abstentions. By this resolution, the General Assembly accordingly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and called upon all States to become parties to the treaty.  It was opened for signature at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 24 September 1996 and it will remain open for signature until its entry into force, in accordance with article XI.


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Text of the Treaty

Selected preparatory documents
(in chronological order)

Disarmament Commission, Letter from India to the Disarmament Commission requesting the Sub-Committee of the Disarmament Commission to consider a “stand-still agreement” to suspend experimental explosions (DC/44 and Corr.1, 8 April 1954)

Report of the Disarmament Commission to the General Assembly (DC/53 and DC/55, 1954)

General Assembly, Revised draft resolution submitted by India to the First Committee (A/C.1/L.100/Rev.1, 1954)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/2729, 1954)

General Assembly resolution 808B (IX) of 4 November 1954 (Regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces and all armaments: report of the Disarmament Commission; Conclusion of an international convention (treaty) on the reduction of armaments and the prohibition of atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/3090, 1955)

General Assembly resolution 914(X) of 16 December 1955 (Regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces and all armaments; conclusion of an international convention (treaty) on the reduction of armaments and the prohibition of atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction)

Disarmament Commission, Proposal submitted by the Soviet Union to the Sub-Committee of the Disarmament Commission on reduction of armaments and armed forces and prohibition of atomic and hydrogen weapons (DC/SC.1/49, 18 March 1957)

Disarmament Commission, Proposal submitted by the Soviet Union to the Sub-Committee of the Disarmament Commission on immediate cessation of nuclear weapon tests (DC/SC.1/60, 14 June 1957)

General Assembly, Letter from the Soviet Union containing an explanatory memorandum with a request for inclusion of the item entitled “Discontinuance under international control of tests of atomic and hydrogen weapons” on the agenda of the twelfth session of the General Assembly (A/3674 and Rev.1, 20 September 1957)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/3739, 1957)

General Assembly resolution 1148 (XII) of 14 November 1957 (Regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of all armed forces and all armaments; conclusion of an international convention (treaty) on the reduction of armaments and the prohibition of atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction)

General Assembly, Report of the Conference of Experts to Study the Possibility of Detecting Violations of Possible Agreement on the Suspension of Nuclear Tests (A/3897 and Corr.1, 1957)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/3974, 1958)

General Assembly resolution 1252A (XIII) of 4 November 1958 (Question of disarmament; the discontinuance of atomic and hydrogen weapons tests; the reduction of the military budgets of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and France by 10 to 15 percent and the use of part of the savings so effected for assistance to the under-developed countries)

General Assembly resolution 1252B (XIII) of 4 November 1958 (Question of disarmament; the discontinuance of atomic and hydrogen weapons tests; the reduction of the military budgets of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and France by 10 to 15 percent and the use of part of the savings so effected for assistance to the under-developed countries)

Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/5200, 1962)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/5303, 1962)

General Assembly resolution 1767 (XVII) of 21 November 1962 (Question of General and Complete Disarmament)

Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/5408, 1963)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/5771/Add.1, 1963)

General Assembly resolution 1910 (XVIII) of 27 November 1963 (Urgent need for suspension of nuclear and thermo-nuclear tests)

Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/5731, 1964)

Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/5986, 1965)

Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/6390, 1966)

Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/6951, 1967)

Report of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/7189, 1968)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/7741, 1969)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/8059, 1970)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/8457, 1971)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/8818, 1972)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/9141, 1973)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/9627, 1974)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/10027 and Add.1, 1975)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/31/27, 1976)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/32/27, 1977)

Report of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/33/27, 1978)

Report of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/34/27, 1979)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/35/688, 1980)

General Assembly resolution 35/145A of 12 December 1980 (Implementation of General Assembly resolution 34/73: Cessation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/36/744, 1981)

General Assembly resolution 36/84 of 9 December 1981 (Cessation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons)

General Assembly resolution 36/85 of 9 December 1981 (Implementation of General Assembly resolution 35/145B)

Report of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/37/27, 1982)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/37/654, 1982)

General Assembly resolution 37/72 of 9 December 1982 (Cessation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons)

General Assembly resolution 37/73 of 9 December 1982 (Urgent need for a comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty)

Report of the Committee on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/38/27, 1983)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/38/622, 1983)

General Assembly resolution 38/62 of 15 December 1983 (Cessation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons)

General Assembly resolution 38/63 of 15 December 1983 (Urgent need for a comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty)

General Assembly resolution 38/72 of 15 December 1983 (Immediate cessation and prohibition of nuclear-weapon tests)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/39/27, 1984)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/40/27, 1985)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/41/27 and Add.1, 1986)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/42/27, 1987)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/43/27, 1988)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/44/27, 1989)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/45/27, 1990)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/46/27, 1991)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/47/27, 1992)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/48/27, 1993)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/48/671, 1993)

General Assembly resolution 48/70 of 16 December 1993 (Comprehensive test-ban treaty)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/49/27, 1994)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/49/694, 1994)

General Assembly resolution 49/70 of 15 December 1994 (Comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/50/27, 1995)

Report of the First Committee to the General Assembly (A/50/585 and Corr.1, 1995)

General Assembly resolution 50/65 of 12 December 1995 (Comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty)

Report of the Conference on Disarmament to the General Assembly (A/51/27, 1996)

Letter from Belgium addressed to the President of the Conference on Disarmament transmitting the text of a draft Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, (CD/1427, 22 August 1996)

Letter from Australia addressed to the President of the General Assembly (A/50/1024, 22 August 1996)

Letter from Australia addressed to the Secretary-General (A/50/1027, 22 August 1996)

General Assembly, Verbatim records of plenary meetings Nos. 123, 124 and 125 held on 9 and 10 September 1996 (A/50/PV.123, A/50/PV.124 and A/50/PV.125)

General Assembly, Joint draft resolution submitted by 128 Member States entitled “Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty” submitted to the General Assembly (A/50/L.78, 10 September 1996)

General Assembly resolution 50/245 of 10 September 1996 (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty)


The Treaty has not yet entered into force. For the current participation status of the Convention, as well as information and relevant texts of related treaty actions, such as reservations, declarations, objections, denunciations and notifications, see:

The Status of Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General
Statements
Sixteenth Session of the General Assembly, 1063th Plenary Meeting, 24 November 1961: Continuation of suspension of nuclear and thermo-nuclear tests and obligations of States to refrain from their renewal, and the urgent need for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons tests under effective international control
Video (15 minutes, Full version)
Play Explanation of vote by Mr. Burns (Canada)
Video (1 minute, English)
Play Explanation of vote by Mr. Dean (USA)
Video (3 minutes, English)
Play Explanation of vote by Mr. Mendelevich (USSR)
Video (2 minutes, Русский)
Play Explanation of vote by Mr. Quaison (Ghana)
Video (2 minutes, English)
Play Explanation of vote by Mr. Godber (United Kingdom)
Video (2 minutes, English)
Play Explanation of vote by Mr. Ifeagwu (Nigeria)
Video (1 minute, English) 
Play Statement by Mr. Slim (Tunisia), President of the General Assembly.
Draft resolution I (A/4942/Add.3) is put to the vote. A vote is taken by roll call. The draft is adopted by 55 votes to none, with 44 abstentions, as resolution 1652 (XVI) (Consideration of Africa as a denuclearized zone).

Video (2 minutes, Français)
Play Vote by roll call on draft resolution II (A/4942/Add.3) and proclamation of the results of the vote by Mr. Slim (Tunisia), President of the General Assembly. The draft is adopted by 55 votes to 20, with 26 abstentions, as resolution 1653 (XVI) (Declaration on the prohibition of the use of nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons).
Video (1 minute, Français)
Fiftieth session of the General Assembly, 125th Plenary Meeting, 10 September 1996: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
Video (1 hour, 13 minutes, Full version)
Play Statement by the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Freitas do Amaral (Portugal)
Introduction of the agenda item

Video (2 minutes, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Mwakawago (United Republic of Tanzania)
Explanation of vote

Video (6 minutes, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Mesdoua (Algeria)
Explanation of vote

Video (2 minutes, Français)
Play Statement by Ms. Ghose (India)
Explanation of vote

Video (8 minutes, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Hallak (Syrian Arab Republic)
Explanation of vote
Video (7 minutes, العربية)

Play Statement by Mr. Moubarak (Lebanon)
Explanation of vote
Video (3 minutes, العربية)
Play Statement by Mr. Nayeck (Mauritius)
Explanation of vote

Video (1 minute, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Abdulai (Ghana)
Explanation of vote

Video (6 minutes, English)
Play Statement by the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Freitas do Amaral (Portugal)
Adoption of the draft resolution entitled "Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty"

Video (2 minutes, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Akram (Pakistan)
Explanation of vote

Video (10 minutes, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Phan Quang Vinh (Viet Nam)
Explanation of vote

Video (3 minutes, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Nasseri (Islamic Republic of Iran)
Explanation of vote
Video (3 minutes, العربية)
Play Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang (China)
Explanation of vote

Video (6 minutes, 中文)
Play Statement by Mr. Bakhit (Sudan)
Explanation of vote
Video
(2 minutes, العربية)
Play Statement by Mr. Muntasser (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)
Explanation of vote
Video (2 minutes, العربية)
Play Statement by Mrs. Albright (United States of America)
Explanation of vote

Video (5 minutes, English)
Signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, United Nations Headquarters, New York, 24 September 1996
Video (25 minutes, Full version)
Play Opening statement by the Secretary-General, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Video (6 minutes, English)
Play Statement by Mr. Hans Corell, United Nations Legal Counsel, inviting representatives to sign the Convention
Video (18 minutes, English)
     
17 October 1961, First Committee, United Nations Headquarters, New York:  Mr. Krishna Menon (India) delivering a statement to the Committee on the importance of a nuclear test ban. 10 October 1962, First Committee, United Nations Headquarters, New York: The Committee begins its discussion of the agenda item entitled “The urgent need for cessation of nuclear and thermonuclear tests and conclusion of a treaty designed to achieve a comprehensive test ban.” Mr. Adlai Stevenson (United States), at left, conversing with Sir Michael Wright (United Kingdom), to his right. 5 August 1963, Signing Ceremony of the Partial Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, Moscow: a general view of the gathering at which the Treaty was signed earlier today. Secretary-General U Thant is standing at center. Beside him, at right, is Soviet Premier Nikita S. Krushchev. 16 October 1995, First Committee, United Nations Headquarters, New York: Mr. Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun (Mongolia), Chairman of the Committee, delivering the opening statement on the importance of concluding a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty by 1996.

17 October 1961
First Committee, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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10 October 1962
First Committee, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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5 August 1963
Signing Ceremony of the Partial Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, Moscow
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16 October 1995
First Committee, United Nations Headquarters,
New York
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13 July 1998, Signing of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty, Brasilia, Brazil: Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of Brazil, signing the Treaty; to his left, Secretary-General Kofi Annan.      

13 July 1998
Signing of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test
Ban Treaty,
Brasilia, Brazil
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