Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education

Monterey, CA, 8-10 August 2001

Weapons of mass destruction have been the staple of multilateral disarmament efforts for the last fifty years. 

With the terrorist attacks on the United States in September, fears were reawakened that these weapons, particularly the biological type, could become the weapons of choice in an asymmetrical struggle between terrorists and major powers. Current events are adding urgency to the need for education in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.

Under the auspices of the United Nations, a group of ten governmental experts is preparing a report on ways to promote peace and disarmament education at the primary, secondary, university and graduate levels.


The UN Group of Governmental Experts and assembled educators are addressed on nuclear issues in the Middle East

The expert group held its second session at the Centre for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, Ca., from 8 to 10 August 2001. This Centre serves as a model programme in graduate education in non-proliferation research, offers a Certificate in Nonproliferation Studies. It has a well-developed curriculum of innovative projects and uses advanced technology for its transmission. The experts were particularly keen on experiencing the modern techniques of long-distance learning through the Internet and video-conferencing. 

The experts have been regularly consulting the United Nations and its family of organizations, including its research and teaching institutions like UN University and University for Peace. The are also consulting peace and disarmament educators at the university and high school levels, as well as representatives of academic institutes and non-governmental organizations working in the field. A group of disarmament education practitioners were invited to share their expertise with the group by identifying optimum practices for teaching and training in disarmament and non-proliferation at all levels of education. 

Survey of existing disarmament and non-proliferaton education programmes

The experts examined the preliminary results of a survey of contemporary disarmament and non-proliferation education that will run until 30 October 2001. To date, more than 75 replies have been received from individual governments; the municipalities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the UN family of organizations; academic and other institutions. 

Results showed that few materials have been developed for children at the primary education levels. Overall there is little curriculum development and teaching of disarmament or non-proliferation in most high school-level curriculum on social studies, history or current events. Some high school programmes offer mini-type courses in disarmament education. For example, the experts became high school students in a 40-minute demonstration class on nuclear disarmament taught by Dr. Kathleen Sullivan of Educators for Social Responsibility/Metro Area. Ms. Sue Ann Dobbyn, a high school teacher from Mesilla, New Mexico, explained her group project methodology for a teaching package on nuclear non-proliferation. Mr. Wayne Jacoby of Global Education Motivators (GEM)/Pennsylvania spoke to the participants via video-conferencing about the programmes GEM carries out at the high school level to support the United Nations in its multilateral disarmament efforts.

Significant and in-depth programmes and courses do exist at the tertiary level in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation research and teaching, usually in faculties of political science, international relations or security studies. At the post-graduate level, only two academic institutions that offer degrees or certificates in disarmament and non-proliferation responded to the survey. Overall, the difficulties in introducing disarmament issues in university programmes were addressed by the participants at the second session, and there were expectations that the expert group would be able to make recommendations on ways to rectify this. 

The results of the survey to date also confirm the expected—that the greatest number of educators in the realm of disarmament and non-proliferation were civil society peace organizations. They are enthusiastic partners in the study by the UN experts and will continue to play a prominent role in implementing the experts’ recommendations. 

This study will be submitted to the General Assembly at its fifty-seventh session in the fall of 2002. The Chairman of the Group of Experts is Miguel Marín Bosch, a well-known nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament expert, and currently Under Secretary for Asia, Africa, Europe and Multilateral Affairs, Foreign Ministry of Mexico.

All materials, including the results of the study, are accessible on the Office for Disarmament Affairs website, www.un.org/disaramament/, and may be used with the permission of the authors.