Executive Secretary of CTBTO Visits Georgia Tech

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On September 18, 2017, the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP) and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs hosted Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary at the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

During his presentation, Dr. Zerbo explained how the CTBTO, even in its preparatory stages, was used by both member and non-member states to monitor and detect suspected nuclear tests. He discussed the CTBTO and the United States, believing there is not enough information available to policymakers in the US, and that this affects their view of the treaty. The main opposition at the time of the initial signing in the late 1990’s was that the US did not believe the pertinent technology was available. In 2017, with the technology now available, the US does not want to be lumped into similar categories with Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea. He did note that major US rivals are building up verification regimes and implementing the treaty.

Dr. Zerbo reiterated that non-state actors should never have access to nuclear weapons on either a micro or large scale. However, he did concede that non-state actors could play a role in detecting tests if we could develop technology such as smart phone detection or similar devices. He notes that the difficulty in this method lies in the possibility that data collected is easy to alter, whereas CTBTO data is far more difficult to falsify. Regarding organizational collaboration, Dr. Zerbo noted that organizations needed to work together to reduce redundancy and language differences between civil society and diplomats. He stated that civil society wants efficiency, but diplomats realize that when money is taken away from an international organization that it does not normally come back.

Finally, Dr. Zerbo discussed what efforts this generation can do to see the CTBTO ratified in the US. He noted that CTBTO youth groups are bringing fresh looks to the CTBT issues and encouraged students to lobby their decision makers whenever possible.

Lassina Zerbo is the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, a position which he assumed on 1 August 2013. He previously served as Director of the organization’s International Data Centre (IDC). He is a national of Burkina Faso. Zerbo has been instrumental in cementing the CTBTO’s position as the world’s centre of excellence for nuclear test-ban verification, as well as in driving forward efforts towards the entry into force and universalization of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). In November 2016, the Member States of the highest decision-making body of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission re-appointed Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo to a further four year term of office until 31 July 2021. Zerbo obtained a PhD in Geophysics from the Université de Paris XI, France, in 1993. 



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Christopher McDermott
  • Created: 11/13/2017
  • Modified By: Rebecca Keane
  • Modified: 11/17/2017

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