On Monday 13 October 2014, on the sidelines of the first day of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, the Permanent Missions of Austria, Japan and Mexico to the United Nations in cooperation with the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the CTBTO PrepCom and the James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, organized a High Level Event to discuss the progress and remaining challenges in promoting, implementing and expanding disarmament and non-proliferation education, entitled ‘Boosting Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education’. The event brought together representatives from governments, international organizations, academia and civil society.
Disarmament and arms control education constitutes an important topic for which cooperation is indispensable among and between different countries and at the United Nations, other international organizations, states and non-governmental organizations. In the words of Ms. Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs: “Young people have an important role to play in raising awareness and developing new strategies to reduce the threats from weapons of mass destruction, small arms and light weapons”. Ms. Kane also pointed out that social media has become increasingly important to spread the message of disarmament and arms control among young people, which the United Nations deems as those between the ages of ten and twenty-four. However, not all the 1.8 billion youth around the world, the largest generation in history, are connected to the digital world. Therefore, the High Representative stressed that we must continue to undertake disarmament and non-proliferation education activities through publications, conferences and workshops, media events and public speaking engagements, in order to reach those nearly 90 per cent of people under twenty-five years in developing countries. The Chair of the event, Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, Director for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Vienna, complimented UNODA for its impressive education website, which contains extensive information on disarmament and arms control education.
Ambassador Toshio Sano, Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva outlined Japan’s efforts such as the Children’s Peace Monument, support for the work of the HibaKusha and the organization of the annual UN/Japan conference on disarmament issues. Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations Office in Geneva applauded the turnout for the High-Level event and elaborated on the recently organized summer course on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for young diplomats in Latin-America, held in cooperation with the James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies and OPANAL. Subsequently, Keegan McGrath of the external relations office of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission in Vienna explained how this organization offers a broad range of courses, going from deep technical training and short-term courses for diplomats to an impressive online array of training opportunities. Lastly, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, Director of the International Organisations and Non-Proliferation Program at James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies in Washington, emphasized a few key points for keeping disarmament education at the forefront, including the need for an expansion of audiences, the deepened collaboration between civil society organizations, governments and international organizations and an increased focus on the scientific aspects of disarmament, the humanitarian dimension of the effects of nuclear weapons and the role of women in disarmament affairs.
Articles and photos by Sanne Verschuren