Over the past eighteen months, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) has been building regional academic networks and enhancing institutional knowledge of disarmament educators in Asia and the Pacific on developing and implementing disarmament education programs. As part of its “Strengthening Academic Infrastructures for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education in Asia – Educating the Educators” project, UNODA provided a series of tailored trainings, aimed at strengthening the educators’ substantive knowledge about disarmament and non-proliferation and enhancing their pedagogic methods.
Consisting of three phases, the project offered a suite of disarmament education materials, and included regional roundtable discussions with experts on issues related to international peace and security, as well as an eight-week self-paced online training course on topics linked to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
The participating educators met for a concluding one-hour webinar on 26 November, to hear from an expert panel and to share their key takeaways from the overall project, together with other disarmament educators from universities and various organizations around the globe that were invited for the occasion.
The event, which was moderated by Ms. Elena Sokova, Executive Director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, started with pre-recorded welcoming remarks by Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. She underscored that disarmament education has made considerable progress since the 1980s, and reflected on its role in improving security and promoting sustainable peace and development.
Dr. Martin Senn, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Innsbruck, then shared four pragmatic lessons from his disarmament education career, which had focused specifically on nuclear disarmament for university students. He advised practitioners (1) to present multiple perspectives on disarmament issues, including humanitarian (by for example including testimonials from victims), scientific (such as by watching films about the Manhattan Project) and cultural (through films, books and other cultural expressions); (2) to emphasize human agency over technological determinism, underscoring that people have the power of choice to act and behave differently; (3) to include so-called counterfactuals by stimulating discussions on historic events, looking both at how these had occurred and what would have happened if they had developed differently; and (4) to drive home the awareness that nuclear weapons are not a distant danger or a relic of the past, but pose a present and acute existential threat, much like the climate crisis.
Dr. Niklas Schoernig, Senior Research Fellow at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, followed by introducing the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament eLearning Course, which covers issues such as gender and disarmament, Weapons of Mass Destruction, disarmament law, and emerging technologies. The speaker shared his experience with using the course in an educational setting, drawing on his experience from a seminar he conducted at the Goethe University, in Germany. Through a “flipped classroom concept”, the students first read the course material, and then debated each other on specific topics, thereby enhancing their knowledge as well as stimulating their critical thinking and reasoning skills in an active and participatory way. The speaker reported that the students had responded enthusiastically to this methodology, saying it had increased their motivation to learn about the substance.
The final speaker, Ms. Sabariah Kader Ibrahim, researcher at the Malaysia Nuclear Agency and Project Leader at Women in Nuclear at Southeast Asia, provided an overview of her institute’s various initiatives in the field of non-proliferation education and training, primarily in the area of nuclear safety and security. She also spoke about the “Women in Nuclear at Southeast Asia”, a professional network formed to empower and support women working in nuclear security and non-proliferation in the region through networking, mentorship, and knowledge-sharing.
The presentations were followed by a lively discussion between the experts and the audience, touching on questions such as how to raise the political willingness of governments to invest in disarmament education programs; how to effectively include a disarmament perspective when discussing nuclear weapons in an educational setting; and how to make the topic of disarmament more salient and interesting for students in higher education.
The project was made possible by generous donations from the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Buddhist organization Rissho Kosei-kai.
The recording of the webinar is available on the dedicated event page of the Disarmament Education Dashboard.