Introducing the candidates

Posted by Andreas Persbo (andreas.persbo) on Oct 18 2012
VERTIC Blog >> Arms Control and Disarmament

The plenary body of the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO will meet next week, on 22-24 October 2012, to consider, amongst other things, the bids to take over after Ambassador Tibor Toth. Who might be elected?

I have had the pleasure of cooperating with the organization under two Executive Secretaries: Wolfgang Hoffman and Tibor Toth. And since VERTIC and the CTBTO has a close relationship, it has been interesting to see how Ambassador Toth’s leadership style has transformed the organization. Under Mr Hoffman, who assumed office in March 1997, the organization was very much in a build-up phase. Mr Hoffman arrived to the CTBTO with no staff and no organization.

By the time Mr Toth took over, in 2005, the skeleton of the organization was very much in place. The routines were there, much of the staff had been recruited, and the organization was growing. Despite the house being in relative order, I doubt that Ambassador Toth was expecting a smooth ride when he took over.

Consider the challenges he faced. There was opposition to the treaty in the United States, who declined to pay their full due for many years, leaving the organization with serious cash-flow issues. He had to deal with the CTBTO’s response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which had left 230,000 people dead. It should be recalled that some in the media accused the organization, which has access to real-time seismic data, for not warning people in the region. As a matter of urgency, it was later decided to give regional tsunami warning centres access to the CTBTO’s data streams. Ambassador Toth was charged with implementing that.

During his tenure, nuclear testing resumed, with two tests by North Korea. Mr Toth formulated a response to that, highlighting the organization’s readiness to perform the tasks entrusted to it. And in 2011, a tsunami struck again, this time crippling the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. CTBTO radionuclide data, and its sophisticated atmospheric modelling capabilities, kicked into play. Journalists flocked to the CTBTO for briefings on the latest releases, while the IAEA was struggling with antiquated communications channels established by the 1986 Convention of Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident. The CTBTO helped out, sharing data with its neighbour, again under Mr Toth’s leadership.

The Toth legacy will require an article of its own, and I hope to be able to write it one day. But it is clear that the organization, under his leadership, has assumed a higher public profile, and that its position in the family of intergovernmental organizations has been elevated. This is not an easy accomplishment, leaving rather large shoes to fill.

So who has been proposed to take over the top-job?

I am keeping my preferences to myself, so presenting the candidates in no particular order. In addition, I have tried to focus on some of the highlights of the respective candidates’ career, leaving other aspects aside. They are all exceptionally qualified, which makes for a difficult, albeit exciting, choice in the coming week.

Candidate 1: Ambassador Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan (Mongolia).

Mr. Enkhasikhan has a very long diplomatic career behind him, starting in 1974 in the Treaty and Legal Affairs Division of the Mongolian Foreign Ministry. He is presently the Ambassador of his country to international organizations in Vienna, but also to Italy and Croatia. He is the chair of Working Group A of the Preparatory Commission, which deals with administrative matters. Highlights of his career include being the president of the IAEA General Conference, as well as the Governor of Mongolia. He is the focal point and coordinator of Mongolia’s nuclear weapon free status, and has served as an advisor to the Mongolian Foreign Minister.

Rather unusually, Mr Enkhasiakhan has also had experience running an NGO: Blue Banner, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 with the objective of, amongst other things, establishing a North-East Asian nuclear-weapon free zone. He has been the editor of numerous books, covering human rights, public international law, and the law of international organizations.

Candidate 2: Ambassador Alfredo Alejandro Labbe Villa (Chile).

This is another diplomat with a distinguished and long career behind him. Mr Labbe’s journey to the nomination started in 1977. His postings have gravitated around international security, disarmament and arms control since the mid-1990s, when he took up post as head of the Disarmament and International Security Department in the Directorate of Special Policy in the Chilean Foreign Ministry. Since then, he has served as Chair of the Universal Conference on Cluster Munitions and Chair of the second Conference of the States, Parties and Signatories to the Treaties establishing Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones.

As Mr Enkhasiakahn, Mr. Labbe is a lawyer. He studied law at the University of Chile as well as in Ecuador and Peru and graduated from the Diplomatic Academy in Santiago.

Candidate 3: Dr Hein Haak (The Netherlands).

Mr Haak presently heads up the Climate and Seismology Department in the Royal Netherlands Metrological Institute. He is the present chair of Working Group B of the Preparatory Commission, which deals with verification. For those in the CTBT field, Mr Haak is very well known. He was a member of the Group of Scientific Experts, which examined the feasibility of the treaty, and also represented his country during the negotiations of the CTBT. In other words, he knows the treaty inside out.

He has impeccable scientific credentials, and the author of several papers and books on the CTBT and its verification regimes.

Candidate 4: Ambassador Libran Cabactulan (The Philippines).

Mr Cabactulan’s diplomatic career started in 1983. Before then he worked at his country’s National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for nine years as an economist.

He has a Bachelor Degree and Master Degree in Political Science from the University of the Philippines. He also received a Certificate for Development Economics from the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines and a Diploma With Merit on Commercial Policy from the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade (GATT) in Geneva. He has served in various posts throughout his career, and has mostly dealt with trade issues. For instance, he was a member of the Philippine delegation that negotiated the country’s accession to GATT, now known as the World Trade Organization.

Arms controllers will know him as the President of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, where he broke the deadlock lingering since the inconclusive 2005 conference. He is presently serving his country in New York, and remains a frequent writer on arms control and disarmament issues.

Candidate 5: Dr. Lassina Zerbo (Burkina Faso).

Mr Zerbo, like Mr Haak, comes from the technical side of the organization. He is the only candidate of the five that has worked for many years within the organization.

He has degrees in Fundamental and Applied Geology as well as Geophysics from French universitites. He has worked as a geophysicist for various companies in Africa and elsewhere since the late 1980s. His service for the CTBTO has, indeed, been longer that Ambassador Toth’s. He took office as the Director of the International Data Centre Division in the CTBTO in 2004.

As an excellent communicator, he has participated in several events highlighting the operation and effectiveness of the verification system, and the International Data Centre in particular (including at some organized by VERTIC).

Last changed: Oct 18 2012 at 8:39 PM

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