Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis receives the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization

Press release, 05.11.2019

Switzerland ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) precisely 20 years ago. To mark the occasion, Federal Councillor and Head of the FDFA Ignazio Cassis met with the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, in Bern. During the meeting, Mr Cassis emphasised the CTBT’s indispensable role in building a world without nuclear weapons. The CTBTO works closely with scientific institutions, including the Swiss Seismological Service at ETH Zurich in Davos, to monitor compliance with the ban. These monitoring activities are also an example of how science and diplomacy can work together to solve political problems.

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis and CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo talk about nuclear weapons on a balcony of the Federal Palace.
The Federal Council supports the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and is therefore committed to the CTBT. © Keystone

The CTBT has established a truly unique model of scientific cooperation. It pools member states’ technological expertise through a global network of over 300 monitoring stations, which check that no states are carrying out nuclear tests. The network – which includes the DAVOX station operated by the ETH Swiss Seismological Service in Davos – can pick up on atmospheric, hydroacoustic and seismological variations worldwide and can also detect natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis. Readings from this scientific network proved that nuclear tests had taken place in North Korea. The network is just one example of how science and diplomacy can join forces to boost international security and protect people.

Switzerland actively works to promote nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. This is also the goal of the CTBT: by banning nuclear weapons testing, it prevents nuclear weapons from being developed. However, although the CTBTO successfully monitors compliance with the treaty, the fact that several states have not yet ratified the CTBT arguably shows how difficult it is to adopt effective measures to build a world without nuclear weapons. During his meeting with Mr Zerbo, Mr Cassis highlighted Switzerland’s commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons and expressed Switzerland’s support of the CTBT. The FDFA is working through the appropriate forums to ensure that the CTBT can enter into force quickly. The meeting between Mr Zerbo and Mr Cassis was also attended by Stefan Wiemer, who heads the Swiss Seismological Service at ETH Zurich.

The CTBTO’s pioneering work ties in with Swiss-backed efforts to meet the technological and social challenges of 21st century multilateral diplomacy by innovative and pragmatic means, especially given the worrying developments in international security. As in the work of the CTBTO, scientific data provides a basis for political responses to current challenges. The Federal Council established the necessary cooperation with the ETH Swiss Seismological Service in 1996. Science diplomacy also examines issues arising from new technologies. For example, the Federal Council, together with the City and Canton of Geneva, has set up the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator, a foundation designed to anticipate the social challenges of a digitalised world and create the necessary multilateral framework with the UN.

Address for enquiries:

FDFA Information
Federal Palace West Wing
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E-mail: info@eda.admin.ch
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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs